Future Hall Of Famer, Tony LaRussa

World Series 2011 (Preview): The Greatest Show on Earth

Future Hall Of Famer, Tony LaRussa

On Wednesday, October 19th, the World Series 2011 commences. This is sports’ most important event. Each year, the two best performing teams meet to determine the best of the MLB championships. There is the Super Bowl, the Kentucky Derby, the Indy 500, even soccer’s World Cup, and many other superb sports championships. Still, there is nothing quite like baseball’s World Series.

It is the most important cultural icon we have in the United States. It is the only sport that when you study its history, you know America’s history. America may not be perfect but it is certainly the most successful culture yet produced.

The National League will be represented by the St. Louis Cardinals, the most storied postseason team in its league. They have won 18 pennants and 10 World Series, an accomplishment second only to the American League’s New York Yankees. And, they are managed by the future Hall Of Famer, Tony LaRussa. He may not win the 2011 NL Manager Of the Year, but a strong case could be made for his candidacy. After all, this is not the Cardinals of Rogers Hornsby, Dizzy Dean, Stan Musial or Bob Gibson, just to name a few of their All-Time greats. With all of LaRussa’s career success, 2011 may well be his best managing job yet.

The American League will have a superb representative in Nolan Ryan’s Texas Rangers, a team with very little postseason pedigree. Yet, The Ryan Express did put together a group that repeated as AL champs, the first team to do so since the 2001 Yankees. They are guided by manager Ron Washington (see end of this post for bonus material), a career baseball man with a versatile baseball IQ. He believes in a thorough preparation with a strong dose of “old school” fundamentals. He takes good care of his players and believes in a clubhouse of comfortable camaraderie and high character.

New Orleans native, Ron Washington

To that end, the Rangers are also led by the best on-the-field leader in the game today, Michael Young, a legitimate contender for 2011 AL MVP honors. Surrounded by very capable ballplayers, Young has been called the heart and soul of the Rangers.

The Texas club may be the most balanced team in the sport. They hit for average, hit for power, catch the ball and throw the ball. They possess the deepest pitching in baseball, though many are not too familiar with their starting rotation. C. J. Wilson is their ace, a lefty, as are Derek Holland and Matt Harrison, both young and improving. Then, there is the veteran, Colby Lewis, a pitcher forgotten by the Major Leagues who went to Japan to stay in the game, and learned to pitch while there. He has been an integral part of the Rangers’ rotation since his return to the Big Leagues.

Their bullpen is strong, headlined by Alexi Ogando (an All-Star and Ranger starting pitcher during the season), Mike Adams, lefties Mike Gonzalez and veteran Darren Oliver, and the amazing young closer, Neftali Feliz. He throws what they call a “comfortable” 100 mph.

Now, the Cardinals are a good hitting team, though not quite so deep as the Rangers. Albert Pujols, Matt Holliday and Lance Berkman can bang with anyone, and the emerging David Freese (MVP of the NLCS) is right in there with them. Also, others such as Yadier Molina and Ryan Theriot are viable offensive threats.

The Rangers counter with Ian Kinsler, the remarkable Josh Hamilton (2010 AL MVP), the indispensable Michael Young, Adrian Beltre, Mike Napoli, David Murphy, and the ALCS MVP, the amazing Nelson Cruz. Neither team has prototypical lead-off batters, but the Rangers have more base-running speed with Kinsler, Elvis Andrus, Endy Chavez, Craig Gentry and others who have the know-how to use it.

Defensively, neither team is that good, though the Rangers are above average and the Cardinals somewhat below that mark.

Interestingly, the Cardinals’ Chris Carpenter is the best starting pitcher on either team, and Yadier Molina, Cards’ All-Star catcher, is the best defensive player in the series. The Rangers’ third baseman, Adrian Beltre, is on Molina’s level as a top defensive performer.

It would, therefore, appear that the Rangers have the edge in overall offense, base-running, pitching depth and defense, but don’t forget that the Cardinals’ situational hitting is excellent, and they also have home field advantage, an important equalizer.

Give an edge to the Rangers to win in 5 games.

Can’t wait ’til Wednesday!

BONUS MATERIAL: A series of interview soundbites from the great Ron Washington, courtesy of @TicketRadio and @BTreotch. Thanks gentlemen!

  • TimCubFan

    Regarding the point about the connection between baseball and American culture, I have long felt that Yankee Stadium (even as it adopts its new form) is one of the most cherished architectural icons in the world…especially if you exclude icons having association with military conquest and violence.  Can you think of another architectural monument that so pervasively serves (via media as well as in person) as a symbol of family fun and entertainment, with virtually no direct political or military connections, overflowing with memories of legendary figures and events not only throughout America, but extending to much of the rest of the world?  The Disney metaphor might be a distant second.  The house that Ruth built is, indeed, more than a building.  Maybe fodder for a future blog topic?

    • http://fromdeeprightfield.com/ Paul Gillespie

      Very strong data…I concur with your viewpoint. Thanks for the suggestion.

    • http://fromdeeprightfield.com/ Paul Gillespie

      You are, of course, correct. There is no more recognizable American icon than Yankee Stadium.

  • CubsForever31

    Good preview.  I would add that the bullpens of both teams will likely decide the series.  Remember that no Rangers starter has recorded an out in the seventh inning during the playoffs, and the rotations of both teams are averaging fewer than 5.0 innings in the postseason.  No team has won the World Series without having at least one starter record an out in the seventh inning.  Of course, weather (rain delay) has contributed to this, but I still say that the series comes down to the bullpens where the Rangers have an edge.  Another advantage for the Rangers is that the Cardinals were only 20-20 against southpaws this season and the Rangers have three left-handed starters in their postseason rotation.  The Cardinals, however, have managed to maximize their offensive opportunities when needed and will not be a pushover.  Rangers in 6 games. 

    • http://fromdeeprightfield.com/ Paul Gillespie

      Thanks for your comments. I agree with you 100%, but the Cardinals are a hot team and that tends to be an equalizer.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jason.hatchell Jason Hatchell

    Esteemed Blogger –
     
    While I relish your posts, I’ve taken umbrage to what I see as a slight bent towards the Rangers prospects of winning the WS – in 5 games no less!  (And I won’t even mention what a horrid pic that is of La Russa!)  While I take no issue with your belief in the WS being the penultimate event in sports, I would be remiss not to quantify the qualities that make teams great, and thus worthy of winning the Fall Classic.  In the humble of opinion of this writer, it is not enough to point out offense and defense, as well as player to player comparisons, as the key factors in ‘greatness’ and as a result declaring one side the winner.  Rather, I would examine the key factors of greatness to be ‘poise’ and ‘clutch’ as a TEAM.  I would then limit myself to measuring these items based on post-season performance thus far this year, as I think it stands to reason that the hot hand at the right time tends to win all the marbles. 

    Please understand that in choosing my stats, I have looked for items which are controlled as much as possible by only one side of the diamond.  With that in mind, I believe that ‘poise’ and ‘clutch’  can in large part be measured by examining the following stats:
     
    Pitching – what are the only items that a pitcher and ‘basically’ no one else on his team can control?
    *HR against
    *HBP committed
    *Walks allowed
     
    Fielding –
    *Errors
    *Fielding Percentage
     
    Batting –
    *RISP (not a perfect measurement, but it’s what we’ve got)
     
    Note how things stack up when we look at the teams side by side:
     
    *HR against (per game average) TEX 1.3, STL 0.91
    *HBP committed (per game average) TEX 0.3, STL 0.6
    *Walks allowed (per game average) TEX 3.6, STL 2
     
    Anyway one looks at this, STL has the advantage
     
    Fielding –
    *Errors per game TEX 0.4, STL 0.36
    *Fielding percentage TEX 0.989, STL 0.99
     
    Pretty much a dead heat, but I would give STL the nod
     
    Batting –
    *RISP
    ***TEX .276
    ***STL .303
     
    And as I’m sure you’ll agree, pretty much every other statistical category is either a dead heat or not worth pointing out.
     
    Thus – if I’m looking at what I see are the key indicators of greatness, all signs are actually pointing to the Cardinals, which at the very least renders your ‘Rangers in 5’ prediction completely untenable.
     
    Then again, it is Mark Twain who is oft quoted, “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.”  And it is for that reason that, regardless of analysis, we’ll have to rely on the old maxim, “…and that’s why they play the game.”
     
    Cards in 6.

    • http://fromdeeprightfield.com/ Paul Gillespie

      Always glad to hear from a fellow baseball fan Your stats are correct regarding post-season performance, and at this point the Cardinals are the hot team. Yet, over 162 games, stats tend to level out. Plus, the post-season thus far has been intra-league, so it is difficult to not use some curve in evaluation. It all comes down to pitching, and it would appear that the Rangers have the edge in both starting and relief pitcher depth. This, with the understanding that Carpenter is the best pitcher on either roster. Since the Cards are the home team, I expect the games to be close, with the Rangers winning out. As you know, sometimes a 4-game series can be more exciting and competitive than a 7-game series.

      Tonight should be a very close game, with the Cards a slight favorite. Thanks for your comments..

      • http://www.facebook.com/jason.hatchell Jason Hatchell

        I hear you on the different leagues and stats, which would explain the higher walks and HRs against by TEX, but it sure doesn’t explain RISP…  and of course, like you say, 162 games does average things out, bu then again – we’re not talking 162 games.  we’re talking about the hot hand.

        I’m looking forward to checking out my poist and clutch indicators when all is said and done!

    • CubsForever31

      @ Jason: great stats, and I agree that 5 games may not be enough for either team.  Since I’m a National League guy, and I’m a Pujols fan, I would prefer the NL team to win, but Texas has never won and it will be good for baseball if they win.  As I mention in my previous comment here, I predict Texas in 6 games, but if it goes 7, St. Louis will probably win since they’ll be at home. So, I’m going with the overall stats I cite, though your stats should be considered equally.  Of course, all predictions are subjective and that’s why, as you say, “they play the game.” :)

  • CubsForever31

    Well, I came within one strike (twice!) of having half of my prediction come true.  I said in a previous comment that the Rangers would win in 6.  If they didn’t, the Cards would win in 7.  Of course, a couple of late hits by the Cards in game 6 came within feet or even inches of the final out of the series (Oliver really didn’t pitch badly).  Since the Rangers had trouble closing out game 6, it will be a challenge for them to regroup and win game 7, but we’ll have to wait and see. :)

    • http://fromdeeprightfield.com/ Paul Gillespie

      I agree! If the Rangers could’nt close out game 6, game 7 was going to present greater challenges..starting with Carpenter…and, that proved to be the case. Well, ther’s always next year!