Skip to content

Your Official HardballTalk World Series Preview

Oct 18, 2011, 9:22 AM EDT

Ron Washington

Boston beats Philly in six games. Mark it down.

Oh, wait.  The accepted narrative was upset weeks ago. None of the 45 ESPN experts — and to be honest, none of us here — picked the Rangers to face the Cardinals back in the spring. It made some amount of sense to pick against the Cards given Adam Wainwright‘s injury.  We probably all need to think hard about why we picked against the defending AL Champions. I suppose it was because we all thought Cliff Lee was God and that without him Texas was toast. Or maybe we should just fall back on the old “you can’t predict baseball” thing and call it a day, hmmm?

But even if we can’t predict baseball, we can at least lay out the parameters. So let’s take a look at what the Rangers and the Cardinals have in store for us during the World Series.

The Teams

Texas Rangers vs. St. Louis Cardinals

The Matchups

Game 1 Wednesday in St. Louis: C.J. Wilson vs. Chris Carpenter
Game 2 Thursday in St. Louis: Colby Lewis vs. Jaime Garcia
Game 3 Saturday in Texas: Edwin Jackson vs. Derek Holland
Game 4 Sunday in Texas: Kyle Lohse vs. Matt Harrison
Game 5 (if necessary) Monday in Texas: TBA vs. TBA
Game 6 (if necessary) next Wednesday in St. Louis: TBA vs. TBA
Game 7 (if necessary) next Thursday in St. Louis: TBA vs. TBA

That’s all sort of up in the air, of course. At least beyond Game 1.  And if we’ve learned anything in the playoffs so far it’s that the starting pitching with these guys is anyone’s guess, both in terms of who will be doing it what we can expect from them. Both the Rangers (6.59 ERA)  and Cardinals (7.03 ERA) starters were awful, and both managers had quick hooks and relied more heavily on their bullpens than any successful playoff teams I can recall. So it would seem that if someone — anyone — can actually come through and pitch a solid seven inning game for once, their team would have a distinct advantage.

Another thing we know: the Rangers are lefty-heavy and the Cardinals hit pretty well against lefties. That could be the difference maker.  Or we could simply have six or seven games in which the pens pitch 80% of the innings. Which would be all kinds of ugly fun.

The Lineups

We’ll get new ones every day, of course, but you know all the players by now: Nelson Cruz, Mike Napoli, Adrian Beltre, Josh Hamilton and their friends lead the Rangers attack. The Cardinals are led by Albert Pujols, Matt Holliday, Lance Berkman David Freese, Jon Jay and Rafael Furcal. Each team is capable of knocking the cover clean off the ball. Each team has a guy who, when he’s on, makes opposing pitchers reach for a clean pair of BVDs.  There aren’t a ton of holes in either lineup, and even the Nick Puntos of the world are capable of an annoying hit in a key situation, it seems.  The upshot: it doesn’t look like either team is capable of simply going to sleep on offense en masse, because there are just too many good hitters here.

The Bullpens

This is where the magic happens. Both Tony La Russa and Ron Washington has gotten outstanding bullpen work this postseason. I mean, neither manager got a single quality start out of their rotation, and that’s just nutso. But while each has been fantastic, if I had to bet on one of these pens continuing to be fantastic going forward, it’s the Rangers’ pen.

La Russa has been a wizard, mixing and matching guys, gambling and winning with almost every call to the pen.  But Washington — while also being quite savvy with his bullpen use — simply has more horses he can call on.  In the middle of a game in which a starter creates a hot mess, La Russa can go to Marc Rzepczynski for a situational matchup or Octavio Dotel, which is great as long as they keep forgetting that they’re Marc Rzepczynski and  Octavio Dotel and shouldn’t be as effective as they’ve been. Washington, in contrast, has Alexi Ogando for those middle innings. The same Alexi Ogando who was a starter on the All-Star team this year and deserved it. At the back end it’s the same story. Jason Motte has been fantastic, but if you had to bet your life on someone saving the next 100 games, would you bet on Motte or Neftali Feliz?

The Cards’ bullpen has been great and anything can happen in a short series. There is nothing at all which demands that the Cards’ pen turn into pumpkins or that the Rangers pen play up to its superior potential over the course of the next week.  But if you have to grab onto something, don’t you grab on to the superior talents?  If so, I think you have to go with Texas.

Miscellaneous

  • The TV narrative is probably going to be all about Tony La Russa. Which I understand. But let’s not fall into the “La Russa is a genius and Ron Washington is overmatched” pattern here. La Russa has been on a good run lately, but as everyone knows, sometimes he’s too smart by half and things backfire. It’s high-risk, high-reward stuff that usually breaks his way, but not always. Meanwhile Washington — who has always been a great clubhouse guy who gets the best out of his players — has improved a good deal in the tactical department compared to where he was last postseason. Barring some absolutely historic brain lock, it seems silly to say that a series with two teams as talented as these two will be decided by some wily bit of managerial brilliance.
  • Someone — probably several someones — will write the “no one cares about this World Series matchup” column in the next 48 hours. Please feel free to ignore them. In any other sport the unexpected championship matchup would be heralded as awesome. In baseball for some reason everyone without a stake yawns when the Big Boys of the East Coast are out of it.  And of course if they were in it everyone would complain about baseball not being fair to the have-nots.  And all of that is before you realize that neither the Cards nor the Rangers can be described as “have-nots.”  Each team has a healthy payroll, great attendance, good marketing and local television deals and, in the Cardinals case, a nearly unparalleled historic tradition.
  • If the pattern of poor starting pitching and heavy bullpen use holds, these are gonna be loooong games.
  • We rarely talk about defense with these two teams, what with all of the bashing they’ve been doing.  Each team has several good defensive players but the Rangers are the overall better defensive team in my view and in the view of some advanced defensive metrics I don’t really understand too well.  Upshot: unlike the case with the Brewers or the Tigers, it’s not a great bet that a game will really turn on a defensive blunder.  Unless, of course, it does. (see above verbiage about being unable to predict baseball).

Prediction

This is a great matchup, and let no one tell you differently. Similar strengths, similar weaknesses. All kinds of moving parts due to some players who can play multiple positions, the DH and the likelihood that the bullpens are going to play a major role. Anyone who says that there is some obvious favorite here is smokin’ banana peels.  That said, in a close matchup, I think the Rangers have slight advantages in terms of bullpen talent and depth and offensive firepower.

RANGERS WIN THE SERIES 4-3

Latest Posts
  1. Home plate umpire Mike Winters criticized A.J. Ellis’ framing ability

    May 30, 2015, 11:06 AM EDT

    ST. LOUIS, MO - MAY 29: Manager Don Mattingly #8 of the Los Angeles Dodgers argues with umpire Mike Winters #33 after being ejected in the seventh inning against the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium on May 29, 2015 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Dodgers manager Don Mattingly and catcher A.J. Ellis were ejected from Friday’s game against the Cardinals for arguing about the strike zone with home plate umpire Mike Winters.

  2. Jerry Dior, designer of MLB’s iconic logo, has passed away

    May 30, 2015, 10:06 AM EDT

    mlb logo square

    Dior designed the “silhouetted batter” logo in 1968, but didn’t receive official credit until 2009.

  3. Video: Derek Norris hit a walk-off grand slam against the Pirates

    May 30, 2015, 9:27 AM EDT

    Derek Norris Getty Getty Images

    Derek Norris struck out in his first four at-bats Friday night against the Pirates, but made up for it with a walk-off grand slam.

  4. Settling the Score: Friday’s results

    May 30, 2015, 8:55 AM EDT

    ST. LOUIS, MO - MAY 29: Starter John Lackey #41 of the St. Louis Cardinals pitches against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the second inning at Busch Stadium on May 29, 2015 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images) Getty Images

    A quick recap of a busy Friday around MLB, including a sterling performance from one of the best bargains in baseball.

  5. Brewers rescind DFA of Brandon Kintzler, put him on the disabled list instead

    May 29, 2015, 11:59 PM EDT

    Brandon Kintzler Getty Images

    The Brewers designated reliever Brandon Kintzler for assignment on Friday afternoon but rescinded it and put him on the 15-day disabled list instead.

  6. Tony Cingrani hits Bryce Harper in the back with a pitch, then complains he was too slow getting to first base

    May 29, 2015, 11:41 PM EDT

    Bryce Harper Bryce Harper

    Bryce Harper was hit square in the back with a fastball and had the gall not to sprint immediately to first base. What nerve!

  7. Rangers to call up prospect Alex “Chi Chi” Gonzalez to start Saturday

    May 29, 2015, 11:00 PM EDT

    Texas Rangers pitcher Alex Gonzalez works against the New York Mets in exhibition action at Globe Life Park in Arlington on Saturday, April 4, 2015, in Arlington, Texas. The teams tied, 4-4. (Ron Jenkins/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/TNS via Getty Images) Getty Images

    Alex “Chi Chi” Gonzalez will make his major league debut on Saturday against the Red Sox.

  8. Rafael Soriano, still a free agent, gets rid of agent Scott Boras

    May 29, 2015, 10:10 PM EDT

    Rafael Soriano Rafael Soriano

    Rafael Soriano still wants to pitch and has fired agent Scott Boras in an effort to find work.

  9. Video: Josh Hamilton hits his first home run of the season

    May 29, 2015, 9:18 PM EDT

    Josh Hamilton Getty Images

    Josh Hamilton hit his first home run of the season on Friday night against the Red Sox.

  10. Rockies starter Chad Bettis loses his no-hitter in the eighth inning

    May 29, 2015, 8:52 PM EDT

    Chad Bettis Chad Bettis

    Rockies starter Chad Bettis is trying to throw a no-hitter against the Phillies.

  11. Travis d’Arnaud’s return delayed due to a bone bruise in his wrist

    May 29, 2015, 8:35 PM EDT

    Travis d'Arnaud Travis d'Arnaud

    The Mets will be without catcher Travis d’Arnaud a little while longer due to a bone bruise in his wrist.

  12. Mariners place James Paxton on the disabled list, recall Dominic Leone

    May 29, 2015, 8:08 PM EDT

    James Paxton James Paxton

    The Mariners will lose starter James Paxton for a couple of weeks due to strained finger tendon.

  13. Stephen Strasburg exits start in the second inning with an apparent injury

    May 29, 2015, 7:42 PM EDT

    Stephen Strasburg Stephen Strasburg

    Stephen Strasburg came out of Friday’s start after facing one batter in the second inning against the Reds.

  14. More than half of polled baseball fans prefer having the pitcher hit

    May 29, 2015, 6:55 PM EDT

    Noah Syndergaard Noah Syndergaard

    More than one in two fans of major league baseball prefer having the pitcher hit as opposed to a designated hitter.

  15. Tuffy Gosewisch likely dealing with a torn ACL

    May 29, 2015, 6:05 PM EDT

    Tuffy Gosewisch Tuffy Gosewisch

    Tuffy Gosewisch may be dealing with a torn ACL, which would likely end his season.

  16. Orioles expect Matt Wieters to return from Tommy John surgery next week

    May 29, 2015, 4:50 PM EDT

    Pittsburgh Pirates v Baltimore Orioles - Game Two Getty Images

    Wieters hasn’t played in the majors in nearly 13 months.

  17. Curt Schilling dishes on Ruben Amaro. As usual, cognitive dissonance reigns.

    May 29, 2015, 4:33 PM EDT

    schilling press

    Schilling says Amaro lacks self awareness, is elitist and has not been successful as a manager.

  18. Scott Feldman undergoes knee surgery, out six weeks

    May 29, 2015, 3:30 PM EDT

    Scott Feldman AP

    Feldman is in the second season of a three-year, $30 million deal.

Top 10 MLB Player Searches
  1. J. Hamilton (3874)
  2. A. Garcia (3050)
  3. J. Cueto (2892)
  4. Y. Puig (2845)
  5. J. Lucroy (2738)
  1. M. Adams (2731)
  2. D. Wright (2680)
  3. E. Rodriguez (2647)
  4. T. d'Arnaud (2641)
  5. R. Castillo (2586)