St. Louis Cardinals: Thomas McWaters
Most people can say that the St. Louis Cardinals are the best team in Major League Baseball right now. They are simply one series against the defending runner-up Texas Rangers from proving that too. The Cardinals do not have the highest payroll, thanks to the large pockets of the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox. But this Cardinals line up has come on as of late and fought to be where they are.
The Cardinals have four major offensive players who are going to help push them to victory against the Rangers. The most known of these is the machine, Albert Pujols. Pujols is one of the most consistent power hitters in Major League Baseball and if he is on in the World Series, they will have a tough time losing. Also, the Cardinals have Matt Holliday, who consistently puts the ball in play, gets on base and score runs, while he also has the potential to hit for power. Lance Berkman, who came on late in the season, especially in the playoffs for the Cardinals, is known as a power hitter and could have possibly been the biggest offensive threat for the Cardinals in the playoffs.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the postseason for the Cardinals is the emergence of David Freese as a power hitter, who did not have impressive number during the regular season but always showed potential. If three of these four hitters are on at any given time, like during the National League Championship Series, then the Cardinals should have no problem winning this series.
Then you have to look at the defensive side of the ball for the Cardinals, which is equally as stellar, if not better. Perhaps the strongest part of their defense is their outfield. They have so many players who can play multiple positions for them. Jon Jay, who can play center or right field, is quick, can cover a lot of ground and has an big arm too. Then, you have Skip Schumaker, who is normally the second baseman for the Cardinals, but late in the season started playing some center field, and his glove skills are absolutely immaculate. Schumaker playing in the outfield also allows for Holliday or Berkman to get a rest in the field and just be a designated hitter for a game. Switching either Berkman or Holliday out of the field has statistically improved their hitting.
Then you have to talk about the Cardinals pitching. Chris Carpenter is one of the best pitchers in the league, and the Cardinals get to have him as their number one guy. Then there is Jaime Garcia as their number two, who has pitched fantastic during the playoffs thus far. The addition of Edwin Jackson, who they picked up from the Chicago White Sox at the All-Star Break, is huge to their rotation. They needed to pick up a good pitcher to be number three in their rotation since their number one, Adam Wainwright, was lost during spring training.
The Cardinals have all the tools to win the World Series, and they will capitalize. They have all the momentum from the playoffs and especially the NLCS. If manager Tony La Russa can make the right calls like he has for the majority of the second half of the season, they will not have a problem winning.
Texas Rangers: Dargan Southard
A matchup that very few baseball forecasters would have picked once the playoffs began has now taken center stage in the baseball world. The Texas Rangers versus the extremely surprising St. Louis Cardinals has the potential to be one of the most entertaining and thrilling World Series of late. Texas is hungry for their first title in franchise history, while St. Louis is looking to add number 11.
You can never put enough importance into experience when it comes to postseason baseball, and that is what this Rangers squad has over St. Louis. All but eight players from last year's team are currently on this year's American League Champion team, making the sometimes overwhelming stage of the World Series a little more manageable.
The cliché statement is "timely hitting wins championships", and Texas is following this baseball ideology quite well. However, the Rangers have just done it the unconventional way, scoring runs in bunches early to set the tone for the entire game. In all but three postseason contests, the Rangers have had a lead at some point in the first three innings, and have only gone on to lose once. Timely hitting is timely hitting no matter when or where it occurs in the game. Most people believe clutch offense has to happen in the latter stages of the game, but by no means is that true. Getting a runner in from third with less than two outs in the top of the second inning can be just as important as hitting a walk off home run, and the Rangers' offense has done an outstanding job of capitalizing early. Oh yeah, Nelson Cruz, Josh Hamilton and Mike Napoli are tearing the cover off the ball, which is not a bad thing to have going for you at the most important time of the season.
The second part of that particular statement is "good pitching wins championships", and although the Rangers' starters have somewhat struggled (5.35 ERA so far through the postseason), Texas still have been able to win close games. Six out of seven of their postseason wins have been by four runs or less with two of those victories coming in extra innings. Texas' ability to pull out close contests even though their starters have had some issues directly relates to the good pitching of their bullpen. The team has been able to have a lead in the latter innings and rarely have they surrendered it. Take out reliever Koji Uehara's stats who simply just had one bad inning, and the Rangers' bullpen has posted a ridiculous 1.02 ERA so far in the postseason. Closer Neftali Feliz is also a perfect 4-4 in save opportunities.
One final reason the Texas Rangers will raise their first World Series trophy in franchise history is they are extremely comfortable playing away from The Ballpark in Arlington. During the regular season, Texas tied for the third best road record in Major League Baseball, and they have carried that over into the postseason as well. The Rangers have won just under half of their 2011 playoff games on the road, which is crucial considering the Cardinals have home field advantage.