The Rangers have the deepest lineup in baseball, and they’ve needed it. Texas has gotten this far by relying on their lineup to out-slug everyone. It’s no surprise that a unit that ranked top 5 in every major hitting statistic would continue their play into the playoffs. It is, however, surprising that the offense can essentially carry the rest of the team. Especially since strong postseason teams usually have great pitching.
Right fielder Nelson Cruz set the postseason record for most home runs (6) and RBI (13) in a series. The middle of the Rangers order – Michael Young, Adrian Beltre, Mike Napoli, and Nelson Cruz – is almost impossible to get through unscathed.
Josh Hamilton’s health has to be a huge concern for the Rangers. They’re still very good without him close to 100%, but if he can get healthy he will add a lot of power to an already very good lineup.
Rangers starting pitching has not just been bad, but historically bad. Texas hasn’t had a starting pitcher throw more than 6 innings the entire postseason. No pennant winning team has ever done that. Their starters also have the 2nd highest ALCS ERA of any World Series team – behind the 1977 Yankees.
Number one starter C.J. Wilson has to get better. His postseason ERA is an abysmal 8.04. Texas can’t keep relying on their bullpen to be nearly flawless. At some point the starters will have to step up and go deep into games. The problem is that the Rangers lack a traditional ace that they can rely on for 3 starts in a series. If Wilson can rebound, it will give their bullpen a much needed rest.
While their starting pitching has been woeful, the Rangers’ bullpen has been near flawless this postseason. Against Detroit, the bullpen had a only a 1.31 ERA. Neftali Feliz and Alexi Ogando give them a nice combination of power arms. 41 year old Darren Oliver has been lights out against lefties, posting a 2.25 ERA and .75 WHIP.
St. Louis Cardinals
The Cardinals aren’t as deep as the Rangers, but this offense is still very potent. It all starts with the best player in the game – Albert Pujols. Pujols has been on fire this postseason, hitting .419 with 10 RBIs. If not for Matt Holiday, David Freese, and Lance Berkman, Pujols would likely see the Barry Bonds treatment.
It will be interesting to see how the Cardinals handle the DH spot when they play in Texas. We could see Allen Craig get the start in the outfield with Lance Berkman shifting to DH. Craig hit .315 during the season, so he would be the obvious addition to the lineup.
The starting rotations for both the Rangers and Cardinals have been terrible. Chris Carpenter has been the lone bright spot with a 3.71 postseason ERA and a huge 1-0 win against Roy Halladay. None of St. Louis’s other starters have a postseason ERA below 5.7. Carpenter could be the key to this series. The matchup between him and C.J. Wilson could decide games one, four, and seven.
It seems like half of St. Louis’s bullpen has struggled while the other half has been virtually unhittable. Octavio Dotel (1.35 ERA) and Jason Motte (0.00 ERA) have been almost perfect in the playoffs. Closer Fernando Salas has been almost as good with a 1.86 ERA in 9.2 innings.
The Cardinals have a strong bullpen, but they have to be worried about how many innings they will have to pitch. Other than Carpenter, their starters have been abysmal. St. Louis may have to go to their relievers early and often.
Cardinals in 7
Don’t forget to submit your picks for Game 1 tonight: World Series 2011 – GAME 1