This will be all the data you don’t need to know in order to determine who will win the 2011 Fall Classic.
Cy Young and MVP Awards
Current roster only. Chris Carpenter owns the lone Cy Young Award, which he won in 2005 (as you know). Did you know that, for as good a pitcher he was Nolan Ryan never won the Award? It’s true. Closest he got was 1973, when he finished second to Jim Palmer.
Albert Pujols has three MVP awards by himself. Texas has the reigning MVP Award winner in Josh Hamilton. Adrian Beltre did not win the MVP in 2004; he was runner-up to Barry ‘Big Head’ Bonds.
Books about the team that I’ve read
The number of books on Cardinal history is long and distinguished – from Three Nights in August by Bissinger to the Stan Musial’s Stance-recommended Spirit of St Louis by Peter Golenbock. Texas? I’m limited to Seasons in Hell by Mike Shropshire. It’s funny, but not as funny as the excerpt of the book which appeared in Sports Illustrated was. Good read though.
No, enough ink will be spilled talking about LaRussa and Washington. Did you know they both worked for the Oakland A’s? Wow! Not at the same time though. Nope – this is about who has managed the team throughout their history.
St Louis has had multiple great managers, as befits a team with 10 World Titles. Four of them are in the Hall of Fame. Texas doesn’t have anyone that esteemed as a tactician; the club has employed characters (Whitey Herzog got his start there; Billy Martin and Bobby Valentine also did stints), and also-rans. They do, however, have Ted Williams in their managerial history. For this analysis, that’s a trump card.
Advantage – Senators/Rangers
Cardinal fans pride themselves on being called ‘Baseball’s Best Fans’. They also pride themselves on their beer. St Louis has a proud tradition of brewing, starting with Anheuser Busch and rolling through Schafly, Falstaff, Griesedieck Brothers, and on and on. Texas has Lone Star Beer. The difference here is, rarely have Cardinal fans needed beer in order to enjoy watching their baseball team. For most of their history, at least through the mid-90s, Rangers fans needed ENORMOUS quantities of beer in order to sit through a game in Arlington. The hot Texas summers made sitting outdoors to watch baseball a test of strength and endurance. Oh, it gets hot and humid in St Louis, but nothing like Texas. They had, what, 90+ days in a row of 100 degree heat this summer?
Advantage – Rangers
Being serious for a moment, the big difference between these two teams is defense. The St Louis and Texas teams stack up fairly evenly. Both have a pretty good rotation with a stud at the top. Both can pulverize a baseball. Both have decent options off the bench, and both have hard throwing, shut-down bullpens. Defensively Texas is better. By Bill James’ Team Runs Saved metric, Texas was the third-best defensive team in the American League in 2011. By the same metric, St Louis was the sixth-worst team in the NL. Put another way, Texas was the fourth-best defensive team in baseball; St Louis was 20th.
Here’s how they compare by that metric, position-by-position:
Now, a caveat – the lousy St Louis defense is mostly driven by their play at short. Note that their numbers combine all the defense played by the men who’ve manned shortstop for the Cardinals this year, which has mostly been Ryan Theriot and Rafael Furcal. Theriot was -12 in runs saved at short; Furcal was -4 (with two teams; Bill James does not break it out individual stats by team).
Texas was strong across the board, their weakest position being first base. They will throw Michael Young at first during the games played at Busch; he has played some first this season, but was below average putting up a -3 in runs saved. Not a surprise considering he’s played the majority of his ML time at short and third.
For a series that is as evenly matched as this one appears to be, defense is the free radical. If both teams play to their regular season form Texas will win.
Series Prediction: A team wearing Red will win.
All kidding aside, I had a good feeling about the Cardinals prospects to beat Philadelphia and a REAL good feeling about them being able to beat Milwaukee. Sadly I don’t have that same feeling for the World Series. I won’t pick St Louis in a fit of bravado but I’m unable to bring myself to pick Texas.
Let’s just say a worthy Champion will be crowned over the next 9 days and leave it at that.