Cheap Seats

The Good and the Bad for the Cardinals this October

That's it. Turn in your uniforms, Cardinals. You might as well save the air fare. According to the experts, you have no chance to beat the Rangers in the World Series.

Or at least that's what the national media would have you believe.

Of course, the Redbirds have made their living this season as being the triumphant underdogs. And before they concede the World Series trophy to their competitor to the south, maybe they should at least show the so called experts their resume.

After all, I have to wonder if the Phillies -- with their ridiculously good starting pitching and offense build around Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard and Chase Utley -- were in the World Series if Texas would be the favorite of the match-up. And Cardinals fans know how the NLDS turned out. The Cardinals didn't waltz their way through a couple of patsies to make the big show. They beat some pretty darn powerful teams.

One problem the national media -- or the local media, for that matter when it hasn't seen the other team much in person -- has is the fact that there is often a story that isn't told by the numbers on paper.

I read a report this morning that said the defensive metrics about St. Louis catcher Yadier Molina were mixed while the stats for Rangers backstop Mike Napoli were surprisingly good. Anyone who has seen Molina play on any sort of a consistent basis realizes what a special defensive player he is. If his percentage of catching base thieves is down, could it be that his reputation prevents runners from taking unnecessary chances? He rarely performs his signature play anymore, the pickoff behind the runner at first base. Did he forget how to do it? Or maybe the opposition wised up to it and runners don't stray too far off the bag any longer... And maybe Napoli's numbers are better than usual because the Rangers have three lefthanded starters and it's much harder to steal a base off a lefty because it's so much easier for him to throw to first when pitching from the stretch... There's an awful lot more to catching than defensive metrics. Like how the receiver manages his pitching staff, for example. And Yadi is a pro at that.

So here are a few things to worry about -- and to be excited about -- when it comes to the Redbirds' chances of winning an 11th World Series trophy:

GOOD: The best pitcher on either team wears a Cardinals uniform and his name is Chris Carpenter. The St. Louis ace, who pitched a complete game shut out against the Phillies to win the NLDS has a ton of big game success to his credit and could set the tone for the World Series early.

BAD: Carpenter's elbow has been bothering him lately. But the Cardinals insist he's ready and willing to pitch in the World Series opener. Carpenter will need his full arsenal to beat Texas' deep and powerful lineup which feasts on fastballs. And his biggest problem this year has been harnessing his curve. If Carp has the hook working, he'll be a force. If it's hanging, he's going to have big problems.

Good: Texas' starting rotation struggled in the post season to a 5.94, the worst in history for a team to reach the World Series. First game starter C.J. Wilson is sporting an 8.04 ERA with 21 hits and 14 runs allowed in 15 2/3 innings. 

Bad: Wilson -- and fellow Rangers starters Derek Holland and Mark Harrison -- are left-handed. And southpaws are typically poison for St. Louis' batsmen. Particularly troublesome is the fact that Lance Berkman, who has batted clean-up for most of the post-season, is a switch hitter who bats much better against righties than lefties.

Good: The Cardinals have the second highest-ranked offense in baseball this season. It's hard to match Albert Pujols, Lance Berkman and Matt Holliday batting 3-4-5 in the middle of the order. All three have excellent power and are high average hitters. With a strong supporting cast that includes 2006 post-season hero Molina and the emerging bat of 2011 NLCS MVP David Freese, the Birds can score runs in bunches.

Bad: Do I have to say who the number one-ranked offense belongs to? Texas has a team built for their offense oriented ballpark. Just about everyone in the batting order -- save shortstop Elvis Andrus, is a legitimate threat to hit the ball out of the park every time they step to the plate. But, a mitigating factor is the designated hitter. The difference between the higher batting average and production numbers is easily explained by the fact that the Cardinals numbers are drug down by pitchers. 

Good: The Cardinals have the home field advantage in the World Series for the first time since 1982. With it they have the advantage of playing National League style baseball for most of the Fall Classic. That's an advantage because the Rangers don't have a single pitcher who managed as many as 10 plate appearances during the regular season. If the games are tight, the Redbirds' ability to manufacture runs could be a distinct advantage.

Bad: There is no evidence to suggest that these are going to be 2-1 games. The Rangers and Cardinals both score in bunches and, during the post-season, pitchers on neither side have lasted deep into games. That mean's the pitchers' at bats will be minimized and an American League style of playing for big innings instead of a run here and a run there.

In summary...

Good: The Redbirds and the Rangers are two very good baseball teams. Either is capable of winning the World Series, and they are certainly both deserving. The games should be exciting, high-scoring affair and the games won't be decided until the home team bats in the bottom of the ninth.

Bad: Is there anything bad that can come from that?