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October 19, 2011

World Series Prospectus

The Midwest Showdown

by Baseball Prospectus

The Breakdown

 


The Lineups: Jason Parks

First Base
Cardinals: Albert Pujols
The Case For: Well, he’s a beast, the best first baseman in baseball since his first day in baseball. He’s a middle-of-the-order nightmare that can change the game if you decide to challenge him. Plus, his name is very close to Puyol, which makes Pujols’ status as a legend grow. Pujols can hit any type of pitch in any count, so whatever you do, he will probably find a way to exploit it.
2011 Slash: .299/.366/.541

Rangers: Michael Young
TCF:   Mikey Baseball, the face of the franchise, Mr. 200 hits per season. Aging and the subject of trade fodder throughout the winter, Young rebounded at the plate to solidify his presence in the middle of Texas’ order. While his bat speed has slowed in recent years, his ability to use all fields and work with the pitch make him a tough out, as he can slap the ball to the opposite field better than anyone in the game. To beat Young, you have to either challenge that bat speed with heat inside, or you have to throw 60-footers and get him off-balance and eager to chase.
2011 Slash: .338/.380/.474

Advantage: Cardinals
TCF: Despite a solid year at the plate for Young and a slightly depressed year at the plate for Pujols, the choice here is clear. Pujols is still the most feared hitter in this series, and the Rangers must tread lightly around the future Hall of Famer, especially when ducks are on the pond.

Second Base
Cardinals: Skip Schumaker
TCF: He doesn’t have one; Schumaker is a scrapper-type with versatility and some contact ability. The name “Skip” enhances his good face and his on-field grit and hustle.
2011 Slash: .283/.333/.351

Rangers: Ian Kinsler
TCF: Kinsler, the team’s most valuable player during the regular season, can do it all; he hits for power, plays above-average defense, steals bases at a high clip, and brings fan-approved grit thanks in part to his anachronistic aesthetic qualities and playful demeanor.
2011 Slash: .255/.355/.477

Advantage: Rangers
TCF: Look for Kinsler to be a key catalyst in the Rangers’ offensive production, just like he was during the regular season. Because of his ultra-quick hands, strong wrists, and explosive hips, pitchers struggle to bust Kinsler inside; he can jump inside pitches thrown behind him, tapping into plus power to the pull side. He’s an all-around first-division player, and he crushes Skip and Skip’s good face in that regard.

Shortstop
Cardinals: Rafael Furcal
TCF: Furcal has lots of experience playing in the middle of the diamond, with diminished flash at the position, but still shows some pop with the stick. I’ll be honest: I can’t make a very good case.
2011 Slash: .231/.298/.348

Rangers: Elvis Andrus
TCF: Aside from the somewhat annoying Lincolnian facial hair design, Elvis is developing into a more mature all-around player, with well-above average speed and contact ability that goes beyond slap and extends to spank. He has kept his weight back better this season, showing better barrel awareness to off-speed offerings, although he can still get a little greedy in fastball counts and can be beat by sequencing.
2011 Slash: .279/.347/.361

Advantage: Rangers
TCF: The Furcal of old would get the nod, but the old Furcal falls short of the mark. The new king of the middle of the diamond is Elvis, and if he ever decides to finish his beard, he could emerge as a superstar in the league. Look for Elvis to use his barreling ability to spray singles and doubles in the outfield, and then use his legs to influence the pitcher’s approach while he’s on base.

Third Base
Cardinals: David Freese
TCF: The NLCS MVP has a potent bat, with a sound approach and contact ability. Right now, he’s seeing beach balls at the plate, and if the Rangers challenge him with fastballs, Freese can barrel velocity with the best of them.
2011 Slash: .297/.350/.441

Rangers: Adrian Beltre
TCF: While a little dinged up, Beltre remains a middle-of-the-order force; and though he’s streaky, when he is able lock in, he can hit pitches of all varities in all quadrants of the zone, making him nearly impossible to pitch to. If you touch Beltre’s head, he develops 90-grade power on the 20-80 scale.
2011 Slash: .296/.331/.561

Advantage: Push
TCF: Because Beltre is a little banged up and Freese is riding the majestic white horse that accompanied his NCLS MVP award, it’s hard to give the overall nod to the better all-round player, which is Beltre. Freese is a dangerous hitter right now, and Beltre is a sleeping bear waiting for someone to touch his head. It’s a push.

Left Field
Cardinals: Matt Holliday
TCF: Holliday can flat-out rake, with premium strength and bat speed to go along with a sound approach. Despite being from Oklahoma, Holliday can do just about anything with a bat, making his pairing with Albert Pujols one of the most dangerous combos to face in baseball.
2011 Slash: .296/.388/.525

Rangers: David Murphy
TCF: He’s a white guy from the state of Texas who shows grit and hustle, and fans just love white guys from Texas with grit and hustle. Murphy is a very good fourth outfielder who often masquerades as a solid-average regular, showing a good bat against right-handed pitching, and some additional grit when the moment calls for it. His hands can get slow, as his path to the zone isn’t always fluid and quick. You can get Murphy to chase and you can bust him inside and high, but he has the power to punish you if you miss your marks.
2011 Slash: .275/.328/.401

Advantage: Cardinals
TCF: In the battle of Texas vs. Oklahoma, unfortunately Oklahoma emerges with a crushing victory (sound familiar?). Holliday is a superior hitter to Murphy in every way, except maybe the good face, but even that is too close to definitively give to Murphy. This is Holliday in a slam. He is going to be a menace this series, despite his struggles against left-handed pitching this season.

Center Field
Cardinals: John Jay
TCF: Remember that scene in First Blood in which the mean-spirited deputy reads Rambo’s name from his file with a mischievous smirk as he looks up and says, “Rambo, John J?” Anyway, I like that scene and I like that movie, and as a result, I like John Jay. While certainly not Rambo-esque at the plate (I’m just assuming Rambo could rake), Jay isn’t just an empty contact bat, with some gap-to-gap pop and shows quality extension on balls out over the plate.
2011 Slash: .297/.344/.424

Rangers: Josh Hamilton
TCF: One of the most feared hitters in the game, Hamilton treats right-handed pitching like Ike Turner treated anyone not named Ike Turner. With behemoth power and explosively fast hands, Hamilton has the balance and the trigger to catch up to velocity and to recognize and adjust to off-speed offerings. He shows the ability to use all fields, and if you try to blow him up inside, you raise the risk of watching the ball travel 450 feet into the sweet jet stream of Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.
2011 Slash: .298/.346/.536

Advantage: Rangers
TCF: Hamilton can run a bit hot and cold, and lefties find his puzzle easier to solve than righties. But if he sees the ball well and stays in a sound mechanical rhythm, there isn’t much a pitcher can do to stop him. If you can trick him with secondary stuff, you might be able to get him to roll over on a ball or two, but eventually he will adjust. When he does, it’s over. Jay is a quality hitter with some contact and doubles ability, but Hamilton can affect game philosophy, making him the easy choice in this category.

Right Field
Cardinals: Lance Berkman
TCF: Berkman’s Texas roots and his savvy salt-and-pepper beard will always have a place in my heart, and his bat currently has a place in the middle of St. Louis’ order. Berkman has superior pitch-recognition skills, and as a result works himself into favorable hitting conditions, finding balls he can handle and driving them with authority. He can change his swing based on the location of the pitch, slapping a single to the opposite field or tapping into his still-impressive power by turning on fastballs to the pull side. He’s a very tough out.
2011 Slash: .301/.412/.547

Rangers: Nelson Cruz
TCF: Cruz put on the most impressive ALCS offensive performance I have ever seen, launching ball after ball after ball into the outfield seats, showing legit 80-grade power to all fields. He’s an absolute beast when he is locked in and healthy, and he appears to be locked in and healthy heading into the series. He prefers heat, as he likes to start his hands a bit early as he fires his hips, so the sequencing of quality breaking stuff is vital to keep him off the fastball. If you are forced to groove him a strike, he is going to hurt you.
2011 Slash: .263/.312/.509

Advantage: Cardinals
TCF: Look, I love Cruz and I would probably have his love child. But Berkman is a more dangerous all-around threat, with the bat to punish mistakes and the patience to avoid making mistakes. He’s multi-faceted at the plate, giving the Cards an on-base threat even if the bat happens to go cold. Cruz could hit a 900-foot home run to win the World Series, but he’s more susceptible to sequencing and stuff than Berkman, and if you can keep him off-balance at the plate, especially with sharp stuff outside of the zone, you can get him to chase and keep him off his power swing.

Catcher
Cardinals: Yadier Molina
TCF: Molina is an above-average hitter for the position, with a mature approach, a propensity to make a pitcher work to beat him, and a contact-friendly swing that isn’t immune to putting balls over the fence. You can beat him on the black, but if you drift too far in or out, Molina has a swing capable of driving balls into the gaps with good strength and extension.
2011 Slash: .305/.349/.465

Rangers: Mike Napoli
TCF: With a beer league softball appearance and the power of a grizzly bear on angel dust, Napoli has near-elite power to all-fields. There are not many weaknesses in his offensive game, as his platoon splits have vanished and he has shown the ability to work with pitches, taking a more mature approach to the plate. He’s not a guy you can make mistakes to, and if you try to pitch around him, he has the patience and maturity to allow you to do so.

Advantage: Rangers
TCF: Napoli’s offensive potential is too violent to ignore, even though Molina brings a balanced approach and contact ability to the Cardinals’ order. Napoli and his Hungry Man appearance will force the St. Louis staff—particularly the lefties—to solve his stroke by staying down and away, either trying to fool him with the sequence or catch quadrants of the zone that will limit his power upon contact. As much as I enjoy watching Molina play, I would much rather face him with runners on base than Napoli, who can turn the lights out on a game with one swing of the bat. 


The Benches: Jay Jaffe

Cardinals Bench
[This assumes a lineup involving the following in Game 1 vs. LH Wilson]

POS

Player

AVG/OBP/SLG

TAv

FRAA

BWARP

SS-S

Rafael Furcal

.231/.298/.348

.244

3.0

1.5

CF-L

Jon Jay

.297/.344/.424

.271

4.4

2.4

1B-R

Albert Pujols

.299/.366/.541

.312

13.5

5.6

RF-S

Lance Berkman

.301/.412/.547

.340

-11.0

4.6

LF-R

Matt Holliday

.296/.3880.525

.315

-8.0

3.2

3B-R

David Freese

.297/.350/.441

.275

0.3

1.4

C-R

Yadier Molina

.305/.349/.465

.282

0.1

3.1

2B-R

Ryan Theriot

.271/.321/.342

.237

-5.3

0.0

 

POS

Name

AVG/OBP/SLG

TAv

FRAA

BWARP

C--R

Gerald Laird

.232/.302/.358

.230

0.5

0.0

2B-L

Skip Schumaker

.283/.333/.351

.250

1.5

0.7

IF-S

Nick Punto

.278/.388/.421

.290

2.3

1.5

3B-L

Daniel Descalso

.264/.334/.353

.262

-9.2

0.3

OF-R

Allen Craig

.315/.362/.555

.321

-0.2

2.0

Craig is the key player here, a legitimate extra bat to add to the lineup when the series moves to Texas, whether he's DHing or (more likely) playing right field while Berkman DHs. Potent against both righties (.316/.372/.504) and lefties (.313/.343/.657) this year, Craig could even steal a start from Berkman against a southpaw. Schumaker is back on the roster after a strained oblique forced his removal from Game Five of the Division Series; he’ll likely start against Colby Lewis in Game Two, and could see time as Berkman’s defensive replacement given Adron Chambers’ removal from the roster. Schumaker’s return could cut into Punto’s time in the field as well; he served as the long half of a platoon with Theriot, though his platoon differential is basically nonexistent. Descalso is primarily used as a defensive caddy for Freese these days; of his eight post-season appearances, seven have been at third, one at second. With Molina likely to start every game of the World Series—as he has thus far in the postseason—Laird is merely insurance, a defense-minded backstop who nonetheless threw out just 20 percent of thieves.  

Rangers Bench
[This assumes a lineup involving the following in Game 1]

POS

Player

AVG/OBP/SLG

TAv

FRAA

BWARP

2B-R

Ian Kinsler

.255/.355/.477

.296

8.7

6.7

SS-R

Elvis Andrus

.279/.347/.361

.264

2.7

4.1

CF-L

Josh Hamilton

.298/.346/.536

.314

3.4

4.5

1B-R

Michael Young

.338/.380/.474

.303

-5.4

3.8

3B-R

Adrian Beltre

.296/.331/.561

.321

3.1

5.4

C-R

Mike Napoli

.320/.414/.631

.371

-0.9

6.1

RF-R

Nelson Cruz

.263/.312/.509

.289

9.1

3.2

LF-L

David Murphy

.275/.328/.401

.261

1.9

1.0

 

POS

Name

AVG/OBP/SLG

TAv

FRAA

BWARP

C-R

Yorvit Torrealba

.273/.306/.399

.249

0.1

0.7

1B-L

Mitch Moreland

.259/.320/.414

.265

-2.2

0.7

IF-R

Esteban German

.455/.462/.818

.564

0.1

0.5

OF-R

Craig Gentry

.271/.347/.346

.251

4.5

1.1

OF-L

Endy Chavez

.301/.323/.426

.276

-3.9

1.0

Reduced to a backup role due to Napoli's emergence as a key offensive cog as well as a competent defender, Torrealba has just three starts in the postseason, only one of them behind the plate. While he'd normally be the choice to get the call against lefty Jaime Garcia in Games Two and Six, both will be in the NL park, where the loss of the DH almost certainly means Napoli will catch. Moreland is affected by the NL rules as well, as Michael Young will start at first base in St. Louis; for pinch-hitting purposes, note that he hit .266/.326/.456 against righties, making him the top power threat off the bench. German is a utility infielder who can hit (.280/.359/.386 career) and run (44-for-53 in steals at Triple-A this year), though his presence on the post-season roster has been entirely ornamental thus far; the astronomical stats above came in 13 PA worth of big-league time. Chavez is an outstanding defender who's coming off a relatively strong year with the bat (.301/.323/.426); when he's played—all of two games this postseason—it's been in left field, something of a waste of his range. Gentry provides a skill set similar to Chavez from the other side of the plate; both outhit Murphy against lefties, albeit in smaller sample sizes, and either could poach a start against Garcia.

Edge: St. Louis. Whether it’s Moreland or Torrealba, the Rangers can’t add a ninth man to their lineup who is as good a hitter as Craig, who could be an impact bat in this series.


The Starting Rotations: Kevin Goldstein and Ben Lindbergh

Scouting the Rotations: Kevin Goldstein
Starting pitching has hardly been the story of the playoffs, but here's a look at each team's rotation, each pitcher’s repertoire, and what an advance scout had to say about each starter.

Matt Harrison
Primary Pitches: Fastball, curveball, changeup
Scouting Report: Harrison has power stuff; he uses a hard and heavy fastball that goes from 92-96 mph early in the count. He'll mix in a mid-80s cutter as a change of pace, and uses a changeup versus righties. He'll throw about 10 curveballs per game, and at times just doesn't seem to have much confidence in his breaking ball. He's a fastball/location pitcher who needs his primary pitch to succeed.
Scout Quote: “He comes at you with that hard fastball. The curve is inconsistent—always has been—but it's an average curveball and works when it's 76 mph versus 95 on the fastball. The changeup is key with him. When it's good and down, he's good because he's changing eye levels. Success for him is a function of him getting the ball down. When he's up in the zone, he gets pretty erratic.”

Derek Holland
Primary Pitches: Fastball, changeup, curveball, slider
Scouting Report: Holland has outstanding velocity from the left side, sitting at 93-96 mph with his fastball. His heater remains his best pitch, as his secondary pitches and command are inconsistent. He has both a mid-70s curveball and low-80s slider, and while both flash plus, one never seems to know how good they'll be on any given night. Holland has become more comfortable with his changeup, especially against righties.
Scout Quote: “Obviously, it's a great arm, but he's not using his changeup at all right now. The curveball has been good in the playoffs. He struggles to get the ball on the glove side of the plate. Freese, Pujols, and Holiday are all away guys, so it could be a problem. If he can just get the fastball in, he changes everything.”

Colby Lewis
Primary Pitches: Fastball, slider, curveball, changeup
Scouting Report: Lewis is more of a battler than a stuff guy. His fastball generally ranges from 87-91 mph, with him taking a bit off of the pitch at times to add some cutting action. He throws a good slider against righties, and mixes in a curveball equally against left-handed hitters. Lewis uses a solid changeup to attack lefties when ahead in the count.
Scout Quote: “He's always better on more rest. His fastball is up in the zone, but he's one of the few right-handers who gets away with it, as there is some deception. When the slider and curveball are on and low, he's good. When he's locating the breaking ball, he's pretty tough and good for six or seven innings and two or three runs, but that isn't always the case.”

C.J. Wilson
Primary Pitches: Fastball, cutter, slider, curveball, changeup
Scouting Report: Wilson has a deep arsenal, with fastball variations representing two-thirds of the pitches he throws. He's not overpowering at 89-93 mph, but his success comes from location and the ability to sink and cut. He'll throw both a slider and a curve, but the former is the better pitch, even against left-handed batters. Wilson’s changeup exists, and is solid but rarely seen, as he averages just seven changeups per start.
Scout Quote: “It's time for him to step up. He's gotten a bit flat with his cutter and slider, and that's been the problem lately. If that continues, he'll still be in trouble. When he's good, he's using the other side of the plate and getting the ball hit the other way. Everything is coming in on right-handers, and he needs that fastball and changeup going the other way.”

Chris Carpenter
Primary Pitches: Sinker, cutter, curveball, slider
Scouting Report: Carpenter is a unique starting pitcher in that he doesn't have a true changeup. He's all about changing speeds on his fastball, generally sitting in the 90-94 range on his two-seamer with natural sink, and then altering grips at the cutter, which qualifies as an off-speed pitch when he throws it in the low 80s, but doubles as a power pitch that he can throw in the upper 80s. Carpenter’s slow, mid-70s curveball has heavy break, but his command of it comes and goes.
Scout Quote: “When he's good, he's got good life on the fastball and good sink in the zone, and he's coming off rest, so I think he'll be strong on Wednesday.”

Jaime Garcia
Primary Pitches: Sinker, fastball, slider, changeup
Scouting Report: Garcia's bread-and-butter is a 87-91 mph sinker than he can dial up to 93, the same velocity he'll get on a more true fastball that he uses to change the batter’s eye level. He throws a changeup against right-handed batters and a slider against lefties, although neither pitch is a weapon. He's either throwing strikes and getting ground balls, or he's not having a good night.
Scout Quote: “He'll occasionally turn a fastball over, but what can make him tough is that changeup that goes away, because it keeps you from sitting on all of his other pitches that move in. It's the key to him being good.”

Edwin Jackson
Primary Pitches: Fastball, slider, changeup
Scouting Report: Jackson is the most traditional power arm in the Cardinals’ rotation with a classic three-pitch mix. Jackson works primarily off his 93-97 mph fastball that can feature good life, while his slider is a plus offering with heavy two-plane break. Those two offerings constituted more than 90 percent of his pitches as a Cardinal, although he does throw 8-10 so-so changeups per game against left-handed hitters. It's not about stuff for Jackson as much as it is about command; he can dominate the game or get hammered when he works up and is inefficient.
Scout Quote: “The problem is just consistency. He can't repeat consistently and can't execute a game plan. There's a limited amount of feel to what he's doing. When everything is in sync, he's great, but when he doesn't, guys make him throw the fastball for strikes and he gets knocked around.”

Kyle Lohse
Primary Pitches: Sinker, slider, curve, changeup
Scouting Report: Lohse hardly overwhelms on a stuff level, but he throws strikes and keeps his team in the game with aplomb by mixing his offerings well, and using both sides of the plate. His fastball has average velocity at 88-91 mph, but the slider he uses against righties is solid, while the changeup against lefties is a true plus pitch, giving him very even splits against lefties and righties. In a post-season environment, all that the Cardinals are asking from Lohse is the minimum quality start; six innings, three runs.
Scout Quote: “He doesn't throw as many sliders as he used to; the changeup is more his primary secondary pitch. I don't think I saw a slider in his last start, and I don't know if that's his elbow or what.”

Game Match-ups: Ben Lindbergh
Much was made of the shoddy starting pitching that plagued both the Cardinals and (to a slightly lesser extent) the Rangers in the NLCS, and not without reason: as Jay observes below, the Cardinals’ bullpen actually shouldered the majority of the team’s innings in the NLCS. In light of the positive results he received, Tony La Russa’s incessant pitching changes provoked less frustration than usual; in fact, this postseason might be remembered as the one that convinced front offices and fans alike that teams are often better off relying on a reliever than a starter who has already made it through the order multiple times. However, since La Russa and Ron Washington have elected not to go with a bullpen-by-committee approach to their World Series rotations, their starters still matter. Here’s how the Rangers’ three-lefty rotation and the Cardinals’ three-righty staff stack up:

Rangers Rotation

POS

Name

Total IP

Reg. Season ERA

Playoff ERA

FIP

WARP

LHS

C.J. Wilson

239.0

2.94

8.04

3.28

4.3

RHS

Colby Lewis

212.0

4.40

3.86

4.57

2.6

LHS

Matt Harrison

196.1

3.39

4.22

3.55

3.8

LHS

Derek Holland

211.2

3.95

5.27

3.98

3.0


Cardinals Rotation

POS

Name

Total IP

Reg. Season ERA

Playoff ERA

FIP

WARP

RHS

Chris Carpenter

254.1

3.45

3.71

3.03

4.1

LHS

Jaime Garcia

210.1

3.56

5.74

3.19

1.7

RHS

Kyle Lohse

198.0

3.39

7.45

3.39

2.8

RHS

Edwin Jackson

212.0

3.79

5.84

3.56

2.9

Games One and Five: Chris Carpenter vs. C.J. Wilson
Carpenter has looked every bit the ace at a time when number-one starters are expected to be at their ace-iest. He famously shut down the Astros on the final day of the regular season, overshadowing some of the other strong work he did down the stretch, which wasn’t limited to any clubhouse cred he might earned by calling the proverbial closed-door meeting when the team was at its lowest ebb. The start that sank the U.S.S. Atlanta was just his second shutout and third scoreless start of the month, and his previous September successes came againstteams that were actually capable of scoring. (Carpenter also blanked the Brewers on the 7th and kept the Phillies off the scoreboard for eight innings on the 18th.)

He lasted only three innings in Game Two of the NLDS, a game the Cardinals won in spite of his efforts, but in the decisive Game Five, he hurled another shutout, this one a three-hitter marked by only three strikeouts but a whopping 18 groundballs. Thanks to Carpenter and Roy Halladay, who came close to matching the Cardinals starter for eight innings, we were treated to the spectacle of a postseason game that ran its course in under two and a half hours, roughly the time that Tony La Russa spent making pitching changes in some of the team’s subsequent contests. His lone NLCS start was an inning short of “quality,” though he got credit for the victory nonetheless. It’s worth noting that Carpenter has now struck out only eight and walked six in his 17 October innings; in light of Elbowgate and the righty’s NL-leading innings total, that is a cause for concern. Then again, Carpenter promised that he’s fine, and no professional athlete has ever been known to conceal an injury.

Wilson has struggled in October—maybe it means nothing (he’s still getting strikeouts, and his velocity is actually slightly up since the regular season), maybe he’s experimenting to see how poorly he’d have to pitch in the playoffs to prevent some team from paying him too much in a weak market for starters this winter (more poorly than this), or maybe he’s fatigued (having already exceeded his single-season innings high by about 10). Regardless of the reason, the Rangers need the struggles to stop.

Games Two and Six: Jaime Garcia vs. Colby Lewis
Garcia was far more successful at home this season (2.55 ERA vs. 4.61 ERA on the road), which is why La Russa has lined him up to be the only Cardinals starter who could get two starts in St. Louis. Although Garcia showed a similarly large home/road ERA differential in 2010, there probably isn’t much to it—his FIP split this season was almost nonexistent, and the ERA gap stemmed almost entirely from a BABIP mismatch (.271 home, .374 away). Still, there’s no harm in setting things up as La Russa did on the off chance that the Gateway Arch gives Garcia warm and fuzzy feelings. For what it’s worth, Lewis had an ERA roughly two runs lower on the road, though Washington denied that that had anything to do with his decision to bump him up from the Game Two slot he occupied in the last two rounds.

Games Three and Seven: Kyle Lohse vs. Matt Harrison
The thought of Lohse returning to the DH league could be a scary one for Cardinals fans, but it’s not like he was way worse there than he has been in the NL (career 93 AL ERA+ versus 95 NL ERA+). Wait, that was supposed to be reassuring! It’s already been a week since Harrison last pitched, so Washington wants to get him work as soon as possible. Harrison and Holland are lesser versions of Wilson, but a lesser version of Wilson isn't the worst thing to have rounding out your rotation.

Game Four: Edwin Jackson vs. Derek Holland
The only match-up featuring two hard throwers, Game Four also two pitchers with reputations for inconsistency and frequent fluctuations between brilliance and disaster. For what it’s worth—probably not much, incidentally—Holland has a 1.95 ERA in wins and a 9.53 ERA in losses this season, the kind of differential that can frustrate fans. Fortunately for him, the wins far outnumbered the losses, and Holland has also done his best work in the second half.

Edge: Texas, but only by the slightest of margins, and keeping in mind the more difficult park and league in which they’ve had to work. The 0.23-run advantage Carpenter has over Wilson is actually the largest differential in Fair Run Average in any of these head-to-head match-ups, so it’s almost impossible to call any of them anything but even.


The Bullpens: Jay Jaffe

Cardinals Bullpen

Role

Pitcher

IP

ERA

FRA

WARP

K%

RHP

Jason Motte

68.0

2.25

4.11

0.5

24%

RHP

Fernando Salas

75.0

2.28

3.79

0.8

25%

RHP

Octavio Dotel

24.7

3.28

2.98

0.5

33%

RHP

Lance Lynn

34.7

3.12

3.75

0.4

29%

LHP

Marc Rzepczynski

62.0

3.34

3.88

0.7

24%

LHP

Arthur Rhodes

33.0

4.64

6.64

-0.6

15%

RHP

Jake Westbrook

183.3

4.66

4.53

2.3

13%

RHP

Mitchell Boggs

60.7

3.56

4.06

0.3

18%

A much different unit than the one that nearly derailed the club earlier in the season, the Cardinals’ bullpen is a major reason the team made it through the LCS. While his starters were pitching to a 7.03 ERA and averaging just over four innings per turn thanks to a quick hook—only twice in six games did a starter allow more than three runs—Tony La Russa set a post-season record with 28 pitching changes. His relievers rewarded his faith, posting a 1.88 ERA and a 20/7 K/BB ratio in 28 2/3 innings, a whopping 54 percent of the team's total, with only one reliever (Boggs) allowing more than one run.

Role-wise, Motte is a high-velocity closer who's especially hell on righties (.162/.220/.234 this year); he's allowed just one hit and no walks in nine post-season innings, using his ability to miss bats to collect a couple of four-out saves in the LCS. Everyone else is mix-and-match as far as the timing of their entries. Salas, who led the team with 24 saves before being deposed in August, struck out a man per inning this year but was the first man out of the bullpen twice against Milwaukee. Dotel whiffed 10.3 per nine for the season (11.7 after coming to St. Louis) and held righties to a .154/.198/.211 line. Given the righty-heavy nature of Texas' lineup, he'll likely get a middle-inning appearance against one big bat or another; his history against Beltre (.227/.217/.409 in 23 PA) is something La Russa will bear in mind as he did Dotel’s favorable stats against Ryan Braun. Lynn posted a high strikeout rate (10.4 per nine) and a high ground-ball rate (58.2 percent), making him an ideal entrant with men on base. The going-on-42-year-old Rhodes, who spent the first four months of the season with the Rangers, is guaranteed the first World Series ring of his 20-year career, though his effectiveness as a LOOGY is debatable at this stage, as he was hit at a .245/.344/.528 clip by same-siders this season. Rzepczynski, who tossed 4 2/3 innings of one-hit ball in the LCS, is the much-preferred lefty option; he held same-siders to a .163/.256/.221 line in 118 PA this year. Westbrook, who made 33 starts for the Cardinals, will serve as the long man, though his high ground-ball rate (60.5 percent) could come in handy, particularly in Texas, where keeping the ball on the ground is at a premium. Boggs is the low man on the totem pole, leverage-wise.

Rangers Bullpen

Role

Pitcher

IP

ERA

FRA

WARP

K%

RHP

Neftali Feliz

62.3

2.74

4.33

0.5

21%

RHP

Mike Adams

73.7

1.47

2.80

1.5

27%

RHP

Alexi Ogando

169.0

3.51

4.05

3.4

18%

RHP

Scott Feldman

32.0

3.94

4.44

0.3

17%

RHP

Yoshinori Tateyama

44.0

4.50

6.02

-0.2

24%

RHP

Koji Uehara

65.0

2.35

3.39

1.2

35%

LHP

Darren Oliver

51.0

2.29

3.84

0.7

20%

LHP

Michael Gonzalez

53.3

4.39

4.60

0.2

22%

RHP*

Mark Lowe

45.0

3.80

4.86

0.2

21%

*Lowe could replace Uehara on the roster

Like the Cardinals' bullpen, the Rangers' unit was substantially remade late in the year thanks to deadline acquisitions, and like La Russa's bunch, Washington rode his bullpen heavily in the LCS, calling upon eight relievers for a total of 27 1/3 innings in 25 appearances. The pen rewarded him with a 1.31 ERA and a 22/6 K/BB ratio. The roles of the Rangers' relievers are somewhat more defined than those of the Cardinals, particularly with regards to Texas’ late-inning crew.

Feliz struggled with his command early in the season amid shoulder woes, but he's been much more dominant since the All-Star break (2.22 ERA, 2.6 K/BB, .172/.261/.242 batting against) than before. While Washington has become somewhat less rigid in his usage pattern, the 23-year-old righty is likely to get more than three outs only in an extra-inning situation. Adams, acquired from the Padres at the July 31 deadline, is the designated Eighth Inning Guy, blessed with outstanding command (5.3 K/BB ratio split between the two teams) and hell on both righties (.143/.171/.268 and lefties (.189/.241/.297). Ogando, who ran out of gas as a starter, has recovered his velocity and command by returning to the multi-inning role in which he was so effective last year. Generally used for the sixth and seventh innings, he has thrown 10 1/3 innings of four-hit, one run ball while striking out 12 thus far in the postseason. Feldman has done outstanding post-season work, primarily as a long man, totaling 8 2/3 innings of scoreless ball while allowing just three baserunners and striking out nine. Not only is he the team's top ground-baller (63.2 percent), he's also their only righty reliever with a GB% above 40 percent. Tateyama is a low-leverage guy whose vulnerability to the longball (1.6 HR/9) will limit his use, though he may now be ahead of former high school teammate Uehara. Despite posting an eye-popping 9.4 K/BB ratio and 11.8 strikeouts per nine split between Baltimore and Texas, the latter served up 1.5 homers per nine in the regular season and surrendered three in three post-season appearances totaling 1 1/3 innings thus far. The 41-year-old Oliver is the lefty reliever more likely to toss full innings, as he's shown almost no platoon split in 2011 (.227/.269/.318 vs. LHB, .243/.288/.306 vs. RHB). Gonzalez is an oft-injured former closer who has been reduced to situational duty; tattooed by righties this year (.287/.375/.525), he can still get lefties out (.214/.264/.311).

Edge: Even. The Rangers may have an edge in raw talent, but La Russa is more adept at getting the matchups he wants, and at managing his bullpen on the fly. With eight relievers apiece, expect both managers to empty their clown cars on a nightly basis. 


The Defenses: R.J. Anderson
Gaudy lineup and all, the Rangers can catch the ball too; Texas finished the season with the second-best defensive efficiency, and fifth-best when park-adjusted. The infield is spectacular, with three players who are at or near the top of their respective positions—Adrian Beltre, Elvis Andrus, and Ian Kinsler. First base is the only issue most nights, as Mitch Moreland is nothing special defensively, and Michael Young is still learning the ropes. In the outfield, Nelson Cruz packs a strong arm, and Josh Hamilton has improved from his early days. The Rangers’ best outfield defender is probably Craig Gentry, who tends to sit on the bench against righties.

Even with Lance Berkman’s execrable play in right field, the Cardinals still manage to field an acceptable defense. Park-adjusted defensive efficiency held their gloves in higher regard than raw defensive efficiency (13th versus 20th), and the case can be made that the current squad is better than those rankings indicate thanks to the midseason addition of Rafael Furcal. Injuries have cut into Furcal’s playing time in recent years, but he still grades as an above-average shortstop with a cannon for an arm. Speaking of upholding sterling defensive reputations, Albert Pujols and Yadier Molina are still worthy of theirs.
Edge: Rangers


The Managers: R.J. Anderson
Ron Washington vs. Tony La Russa: Evaluating managers is a tricky task, but it feels safe to label La Russa the more hands-on tactician. The numbers back this up, as La Russa authored more intentional walks (44 to 21) and sacrifice hits by non-pitchers (48 to 38) than Washington did. One small-ball area in which Washington proves to be more active is on the basepaths. Rangers baserunners had the perpetual green light in 2011, a contrast given La Russa’s station-to-station preferences (143 steals to 57).

Consider this for some additional perspective: Washington used Koji Uehara like a specialist during the regular season, with 59 percent of his pitching plate appearances coming versus right-handed batters. Conversely, La Russa used five relievers on his playoff roster at an equal or higher rate against their same-handed foes—Mitchell Boggs, Octavio Dotel, Lance Lynn, Jason Motte, and Kyle McClellan. Some of the difference can be explained by the presence of more right-handed batters in the National League Central, but Washington appears to be the more passive of the two in his bullpen usage.

Expect plenty of talk about La Russa’s experience edge, but Washington does seem like the nicer fellow to be around, though, and his team is superior and mostly guides itself. If one of the two over-manages, don’t count on it being Washington.
Edge: Cardinals 


The Prediction: Steven Goldman

These are two closely matched teams, but some subtle differences give one of them a clear edge. As measured by True Average, the Rangers tied for the best offense in the American League, while the Cardinals were the best in the National League. Give them a solid designated hitter instead of pitchers hitting .156 and St. Louis would have been right there with their AL competition. As Jay pointed out above, this Series will give them that in Allen Craig when the games shift back to Texas.

Both sides have good starting rotations that lack the kind of Hall of Fame-bound supermen that the Phillies featured. Chris Carpenter has been close to that kind of pitcher in his career, but he’s older now, and banged up. Neither rotation was at its best so far in the postseason, showing how good-not-great pitchers can sometimes see their magic vanish against the toughest opponents.

Even so, you can’t call the rotations a wash—the Cards have to roll out Kyle Lohse in Game Three, a pitcher whose AL ERA was 4.88, while the Rangers can tab Derek Holland, a hard-throwing options that fills one with more confidence than the righty slider-changeup guy. The Rangers have the deeper pen, and adeptly as Tony La Russa utilized his cadre of minor operatives in the NLCS, he just doesn’t have the weapons to call upon that Ron Washington does, particularly a middle man with the stuff of Alexi Ogando. More importantly, the Rangers lineup lacks the soft spots of the Brewers, while the defense won’t be undermining the hurlers by giving away three or four extra outs a game. Once the Cardinals get behind, they are going to stay behind, and that is going to be the ultimate difference in these final games of the 2011 season.
The Prediction: Rangers in six.

Related Content:  St. Louis Cardinals,  St Louis Cardinals,  Run Differential,  Texas Rangers,  Baseball Between The Numbers 2,  Extra Innings,  Edwin Jackson,  Left-handed Pitcher,  Right-handed Pitcher,  Righty,  Elvis Andrus,  2011,  Matt Adams,  Matt Carpenter,  A's,  Out Of My League,  Michael Choice,  The Platoon Advantage,  Right Field,  Chris Carpenter,  Lance Berkman,  Tony La Russa,  Rangers,  Designated Hitter,  J.r. Murphy,  Best Season,  Starting Pitching,  Skip Schumaker,  Craig Gentry,  Starting Rotation,  C.j. Wilson,  The Who,  The Hall Of Very Good,  Minor League Player Of The Year,  Work,  Hit By Pitch,  Benches Clear,  Game 1,  Ian Kinsler,  Colby Lewis,  Daniel Murphy,  Innings Limit,  Slider,  Power,  Changeup,  David Freese,  Inside The Park,  Pitch Recognition,  One-hitter,  John Jay,  Era,  Pitches Per At Bat,  Derek Holland,  Slow Start,  Texas,  Pitch Grips,  Alexi Ogando,  David Murphy,  Managers Of The Year,  Jaime Garcia,  Off-season,  AT&T Park,  World Series Home-field Advantage,  Lance Lynn,  Mitch Moreland,  Power Rankings,  Right,  Year Of The Injury,  When Life Throws You A Curveball,  Washington,  Sequencing,  Head-to-head Stats,  Fourth Of July,  Best Games,  The Call-up,  This Time It Counts,  Pitches,  Best Pitches,  D.j. Mitchell,  Rafael Furcal,  Warm-up Pitches,  3-0 Count,  Call-up,  Two Strikes,  Pitch Grades,  Base 3,  Playoff Rotations,  Intentional Hit By Pitches,  Throwing At Batters,  Three-plus Run Games,  Fastball,  Pitch Speed,  Inning Limit,  Matt Harrison,  Cardinals,  Fans' Scouting Report

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