After eighth months of preparation, the pomp and circumstance of the World Series begins this evening on the other side of Missouri as the St. Louis Cardinals play host to the Texas Rangers. Texas won the second most home games in baseball on their way to 96 wins and taking their division by 10 games. Meanwhile St. Louis faded down the stretch and did just enough to hang on and win the National League wild card. On paper, this should be a mismatch.
However, like in any other playoffs, you have to prove it on the field when it counts the most. The Cardinals have received clutch hitting from Albert Pujols and David Freese, while the bullpen has been outstanding as they defeated both the the Phillies and Brewers on their way to the World Series.
Baseball primarily can be broken down into four parts: hitting, pitching, baserunning, and defense. To this writer, the Rangers have the advantage in three of those categories, which leads me to believe that Texas will be winning their first World Series title.
At the moment, any lineup with Nelson Cruz and his six post season home runs is flat out scary. When you find out Cruz is batting seventh in that lineup, it seems even more intimidating. While the Cardinals have had a potent offense that lead the National League statistically for much of the season, the Rangers have the deeper offensive bench. Featuring a lineup that saw five batters hit 25 or more home runs during the regular season, Texas has a power advantage.
Moving in the direction of pitching, it's no question the Cardinals staff was stellar in their defeat of Milwaukee, but the fact is still that Cardinals starters weren't able to go very deep in games. C.J. Wilson is clearly the best starter on either side, but as Chris Carpenter proved in the clinching game against Philadelphia, big pitchers step up in the post season. I'll give the pitching a wash as both teams had nearly identical ERA's during the season. You could actually make the case the Rangers' ERA was more impressive playing not only in the American League but also because of how much the ball seems to fly out of the park in Texas.
Lastly we have the intangibles where the Rangers have an advantage in both baserunning and defense. Unlike both pitching and hitting were they were very similar comparisons, Texas ranks sixth in fielding WAR while the Cardinals were only infront of the Mets, Orioles, and Indians in the same category.
While the Rangers had 142 stolen bases in the regular season, the Cardinals ranked last in the National League with just 57. Elvis Andrus had 37 by himself. If this series comes down to advancing runners or needing a stolen base in a key moment, the Rangers are a much safer bet to provide such dramatics.
I will say the Cardinals continue to grind it out as they have done all post season, in fact they will likely make it more of a series than many people nationaly expect, but I like the Rangers in six games.