I have to be up front and say, I don't know that I expected to write a World Series preview again so soon. I did have high hopes for this season following the greatest season we had ever seen. I suspected the Rangers would return to the Postseason again this year. I believed throughout the summer that the Rangers would win the West. So, it shouldn't be too much of a surprise. And yet, the Rangers returning to the World Series seems like such an enormous feat. There's a heck of a lot of validation in this World Series appearance.
Before the season began, I bought into the Red Sox. During the season, as always, I worried about the Yankees. As we approached watching playoff baseball again, I noticed the runs the Rays and Tigers were on. While I did believe in these Rangers, I've never stopped believing that the Postseason is something of a crapshoot, only for the reasons you've read now dozens of times: Short series against very good teams. So while I believed in these Rangers, there was always the probability that they wouldn't get this second chance. It's just so historically difficult to do. But that's why this one feels so special. There were plenty of opportunities for it to go wrong. There was every opportunity to say, "Well, they did make it once in my lifetime."
When should we have expected 2010's other shoe to drop?
- Was it December 13 when T.R. Sullivan leaked info that Cliff Lee was signing with the Phillies instead of on a private jet to Texas?
- Was it when Michael Young wanted off the ride?
- Was it when the season began on April Fools' Day?
- Was that day a few days later in Detroit when AL MVP Josh Hamilton broke his arm?
- Was it May when the Rangers slipped into third place following a loss to Trevor Cahill?
- Was it when the Rangers' bullpen consisted of the likes of Dave Bush, Mason Tobin, Arthur Rhodes, Michael Kirkman, Ryan Tucker, Brett Tomko, and Cody Eppley?
- Was it when the Mavs were hoisting their trophy while the Rangers were going 2-9 against the Tigers, Twins, and Yankees?
- Was it that time a Major League umpire allowed the opponent's manager to select a player from the Rangers to be ejected from the game?
- Was it that time Derek Holland couldn't get through an inning against the Florida Marlins and was looking likely to return to the bullpen or Round Rock?
- Was it when Adrian Beltre strained his hamstring and then strained it again?
- Was it when the Angels "fired a warning shot"?
- Was it when the West would be a fight to the finish?
- Was it when the Rangers drew Cinderella in the first round?
- Was it when Justin Verlander and Miguel Cabrera stood in the way of a return?
It could have been any of these moments. And yet, the Rangers are back in the World Series just one year from when it was so amazing that they had finally made it. It's not any less amazing this time. But it is different. Last year was about being relevant and creating memories for a franchise that had none. Last year was about being happy to be on baseball's biggest stage. But, as Josh Hamilton so aptly put it, "We expect to win it this year."
One last thing: I don't know if the Rangers will win this World Series. But I do know that this is the greatest Rangers team we have ever had the privilege of watching. Yes, even better than the 2010 Texas Rangers which is part of what makes reaching the same peak as a team we held so dearly last year so special. So, win or not, this has been one hell of a sandwich.
NOTE: All games on ESPN 103.3 FM on Radio and Fox on TV.
Wednesday, October 19 7:05 @ Busch Stadium: LHP C.J. Wilson vs. RHP Chris Carpenter
Saturday, October 22 7:05 @ The Ballpark in Arlington: RHP Kyle Lohse vs. LHP Matt Harrison
Sunday, October 23 7:05 @ The Ballpark in Arlington: RHP Edwin Jackson vs. LHP Derek Holland
*Monday, October 24 7:05 @ The Ballpark in Arlington: RHP Chris Carpenter vs. LHP C.J. Wilson
*Thursday, October 27 7:05 @ Busch Stadium: LHP Matt Harrison vs. RHP Kyle Lohse
For information on available tickets for this series, visit the LSB/TiqIQ page.
Here's a breakdown of the pitching match-ups for the Rangers vs. Cardinals in the 2011 World Series:
- Chris Carpenter: 11-9, 7.24 K/9, 2.09 BB/9, .312 BABIP, 73.2% LOB, 3.06 FIP, 3.31 xFIP, 5.0 WAR - Postseason starts: 7 runs allowed in 17.0 innings
- C.J. Wilson: 16-7, 8.30 K/9, 2.98 BB/9, .287 BABIP, 73.6% LOB, 3.24 FIP, 3.41 xFIP, 5.9 WAR - Postseason starts: 14 runs allowed in 15.2 innings
Advantage: C.J. Wilson bouncing back to be the Rangers' ace over Chris Carpenter's inflamed expectations
- Jaime Garcia: 13-7, 7.21 K/9, 2.31 BB/9, .318 BABIP, 66.8% LOB, 3.23 FIP, 3.31 xFIP, 3.6 WAR - Postseason starts: 10 runs allowed in 15.2 innings
- Colby Lewis: 14-10, 7.59 K/9, 2.52 BB/9, .265 BABIP, 73.0% LOB, 4.54 FIP, 4.10 xFIP, 2.3 WAR - Postseason starts: 5 runs allowed in 11.2 innings
Advantage: Jaime Garcia being stealthily pretty good over maybe Busch Stadium will keep the ball in the park for Colby Lewis
- Kyle Lohse: 14-8, 5.30 K/9, 2.01 BB/9, .269 BABIP, 71.3% LOB, 3.67 FIP, 4.04 xFIP, 2.5 WAR - Postseason starts: 8 runs allowed in 9.2 innings
- Matt Harrison: 14-9, 6.11 K/9, 2.76 BB/9, .290 BABIP, 72.3% LOB, 3.52 FIP, 3.85 xFIP, 4.2 WAR - Postseason starts: 5 runs allowed in 10.2 innings
Advantage: Matt Harrison's LeapFrog: Learn to Read at the Storybook Factory over Lohse Soul Patch
- Edwin Jackson: 12-9, 6.67 K/9, 2.79 BB/9, .330 BABIP, 73.9% LOB, 3.55 FIP, 3.73 xFIP, 3.8 WAR - Postseason starts: 8 runs allowed in 12.1 innings
- Derek Holland: 16-5, 7.36 K/9, 3.05 BB/9, .305 BABIP, 72.8% LOB, 3.94 FIP, 3.76 xFIP, 3.6 WAR - Postseason starts: 8 runs allowed in 13.2 innings
Advantage: Dutch Stache over Edwin Jackson looking forward to whichever team he plays for next year
Why The Rangers Won't Win: Because, with their ability to score runs, the Cardinals actually play baseball the most like an American League team of the National League teams and they do it in a grotesque run suppressing environment at Busch Stadium. If it seemed like Miguel Cabrera had gotten into the Rangers head, what's going to happen with Albert Pujols comes up to the plate for what will feel like dozens of times per game? Also, let's not forget that because that one counted, the All-Star game awarded a Wild Card team home field in the World Series.
Why The Rangers Will Win: Because, as I've said every round now (how fun!), the Rangers are the better team. It's possibly closer this time than it has been all postseason, but the Rangers are still better. The Rangers finished with a 96-66 record with a run differential of +178 which means they played like a 98-64 team. The Cardinals went 90-72 with a +70 run differential which was good for a pythagorean W-L of 88-74. Essentially, the Rangers were about ten wins better than the Cardinals over 162 games. Now the Rangers just have to be better four times out of seven.
(P.S. The Rangers will win.)
St. Louis Cardinals (90-72, 2nd Place NL Central, Wild Card)
Rangers 2011 Record vs. St. Louis: World Series, homies!
St. Louis' Recent Results: Defeating the Brewers 4-2 in the NLCS
St. Louis' Road Record: 45-36
St. Louis' Home Record: 45-36
Rangers Ballpark in Arlington Park Factors (LHB/RHB): HR: 119/114 - wOBA: 103/107
Busch Stadium III Park Factors (LHB/RHB): HR: 82/74 - wOBA: 97/96
SB Nation Cardinals Blog: Viva El Birdos
134.3 Rangers (Rangers also led 18.5 to 9.3 over the season)
Match-up: (as of 10/19)
Base Running (RAR)
Bullpen (From Aug-Oct)
Overall RAR + UZR
(Rangers also led 18.5 to 9.3 over the season)
Questions to Answer:
- Who is your pick to lead the Rangers in OPS in this series? (I'm going with Josh Hamilton.)
- Over/Under: 3.5 runs allowed on average per game by Ranger starters in this series?
- Yay or Nay: By series end, does Ron Washington dispel the notion that other skippers can manage circles around him?
- What is your prediction for this series? (I'm going Rangers in an ulcer-forming six games.)
- Who wins the 2011 World Series MVP? (It's going to be C.J. Wilson.)