Editor’s Note: The Fall Classic. Of the 30 teams to begin the 2011 MLB season, only two are left: the Texas Rangers and the St. Louis Cardinals. After six-and-a-half months of baseball, only seven games remain. As this year’s playoffs have already shown, anything can happen in such a short series. (Even, perhaps, the predictions made by the Tech’s Sports Staff below). With bragging rights and a dinner on the line, will we be able to shed our reputation for making horribly inaccurate picks?
This World Series matches the “Team of Destiny” against the defending American League Champions. The Cardinals were 10 games behind the Braves at the end of August, and were such a long shot that their run can only be described as miraculous. After dominating their National League playoff opponents, they are not to be taken lightly. They beat the Phillies in 5 thanks to incredibly pitching by Chris Carpenter, and went on to beat the Brewers in 6 by their ability to crank out home runs.
The Rangers came into this postseason much differently. They won their last six games of the regular season to earn home-field advantage, which helped them win Game 6 against the Tigers. Texas showed off some of the most powerful hitters in baseball today with Adrian Beltre, who hit three home runs in one game against the Rays, and Nelson Cruz, who set a postseason record by hitting six home runs and batting in 13 runs in a single series.
Texas relied heavily on their bullpen, which is arguably the deepest bullpen in baseball. For only the second time in postseason history, relievers won all four games. This gives Texas more flexibility if their starters need to be pulled early from a game.
The Cardinals and Rangers are equivalent in almost every area. Both teams have incredible depth in their batting and everyone is a threat to hit a home run. Both struggle with their starting pitchers, but have reliable bullpens. Chris Carpenter is the best pitcher coming into the game but he has been inconsistent in recent starts. C.J. Wilson is the Rangers’ ace, but has been unimpressive in the postseason.
Overall, the edge belongs to the Rangers. Beltre and Cruz have shown how potent they can be, and in Game 6 Michael Young’s bat was starting to heat up. Albert Pujols is the best hitter coming in, but the Rangers learned how to handle strong hitters after a series against Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera.
Expect the Rangers’ starting pitcher Wilson to have an excellent series since this is his last series before entering free agency. With the power hitting of the Cardinals, these games will likely show off the Rangers’ bullpen that will shut them down.
Expect each game to be close and high-scoring.
Prediction: Rangers in 7
The World Series is going to be a battle of the offenses as the Rangers and the Cardinals are two of the highest scoring teams in baseball this year. That said, the matchup really comes down the performance of Rangers pitcher C.J. Wilson versus that of Cardinals pitcher Chris Carpenter. Wilson and the Rangers bullpen lack the depth of last year’s World Series team, and Wilson’s postseason performances have been subpar. Wilson has his work cut out for him trying to stop the Cardinals offense, led by big-hitters Pujols and Lance Berkman. On the other hand, the Rangers offense may just score enough points to render worries about Wilson completely moot. In any case, look for some high scoring games this series, and if Wilson can hold his own, look for the Rangers to be holding the trophy by the end. Also, if you know anything about Texas baseball, know that the worse Lance Berkman performs, the happier I will be (*cough*, *cough*, traitor …).
Prediction: Rangers in 7
After falling short of winning it all last year against the San Francisco Giants, the Texas Rangers hope to do better in this year’s World Series — and they should. During the regular season, the Rangers posted the best batting average and the second best slugging percentage in baseball. From what they’ve shown thus far in the playoffs, Texas should not have trouble putting runs on the board, even against a pitcher like Chris Carpenter. If the St. Louis Cardinals want to have a chance at competing against the offensive firepower of Texas, they will need to rely a lot more on some quality pitching from relievers like Octavio Dotel.
On the defensive side, the question is: “How good will the Rangers pitching be against Albert Pujols, Lance Berkman, and Matt Holliday?” These Cardinal sluggers pose problems for the Rangers, especially when hitters like Rafael Furcal get on base and give them RBI opportunities. But watch out for an improved Colby Lewis to break out of his recent slump and a dominant C.J. Wilson, who should now be comfortable with the big stage after going through last year’s World Series.
The Cardinals will have home-field advantage, but the Rangers, with their hot bats, will win on the road. It should still be an exciting series marked by close, hard-fought games, but the Rangers will come out on top.
Prediction: Rangers in 6
Considering that the three other writers are all from Texas and thus may or may not be biased, I’ll argue for the Cardinals here. It’s true the Rangers were a better team in the regular season while the Cardinals shouldn’t really still be playing now, but regular season records don’t matter in October (as St. Louis demonstrated five years ago, when they won the World Series after finishing only five games above .500). The Cards seemed hopeless in spring training, when they lost ace Adam Wainwright for the season — but they survived without him. They seemed hopeless in early September, when simulations predicted they had under a two percent chance of even making the playoffs — but they made it. They seemed hopeless in the Divisional Series, when they faced the Phillies and perhaps the best starting rotation in history — but they won. They seemed hopeless in the Championship Series, when they faced a Milwaukee Brewers team that was next to unbeatable at home — but they won two out of the three games at Miller Park to advance again. They’re still underdogs to the Rangers, but the Cardinals simply were, and are, the hottest team in the playoffs, and the most motivated.
The Rangers have Nelson Cruz and his six ALCS home runs, as well as a full-time designated hitter. The Cards, however, have three elite power-hitters in Pujols, Holliday, and Berkman; if David Freese, the NLCS MVP, can continue his hot hitting, this offense will be hard to stop.
The Cardinals have home-field advantage, thanks the National League’s victory in the All-Star Game in July; they’ll also want to make the most of potentially their last games with Albert Pujols in the lineup before he departs in free agency.
Regardless, this Fall Classic should be highly entertaining. Both teams have high-powered offenses and managers willing to make unconventional decisions. Combining these factors with both teams’ deep bullpens, perhaps a better prediction for our sports staff is the number of starters who will pitch past the fifth inning …
Prediction: Cardinals in 7