Lining Up The Rotation Against Texas In The World Series
When looking at the Cardinals and the Rangers, one can easily see how evenly-matched they are offensively, defensively, and in their bullpens. Both teams are the best hitting clubs in their respective leagues, and they both feature passable defense. So expect to see lots of runs and, if either team panics, lots of errors.
The Series might very well be determined on the performances of each team’s starting pitching. Neither club has a truly dominant starter, although the Cardinals’ Chris Carpenter comes close. To counter Carpenter’s influence, the Rangers will employ three lefthanders against the Cardinals in order to take advantage of a widely-held belief that the Cardinals have trouble with southpaws.
Additionally, The Cardinals are facing a Rangers team that hits extremely well at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington (.504 slugging percentage/homer every 22.5 at bats) and had the second-best winning percentage at home this year (behind recently-vanquished Milwaukee). Despite having home-field advantage, the starters will need to keep the ball way down during those three games in Texas for the Cards to have a chance.
Here are the options facing Tony LaRussa and Dave Duncan as they line up the rotation for maximum benefit:
GAME ONE: There isn’t much doubt about this one. Chris Carpenter will drag his weary-but-competitive self to the mound at Busch Stadium to set a tone for the Series. With a recent (and hushed) bout with inflammation in his right elbow subsiding, what can we expect from Carp at this point in a very long season? So far, he’s had two ineffective outings in this postseason (one on short rest against Philly, and one against Milwaukee) sandwiching one of the best starts of his life in game five of the NLDS. Trust me, Carpenter is far from done this year.
GAME TWO: The temptation is to pitch Jaime Garcia in the second game at Busch Stadium given his drastic home/away splits (2.55 ERA at home vs. 4.61 away). However, my suggestion would be to pitch Edwin Jackson in this spot. Jackson has given up fewer home runs at home than on the road, although that’s like saying HIV is slightly less transmissible if you slather on some spermicidal jelly – Jackson’s going to give up home runs regardless. Busch Stadium is slightly more forgiving of the home run, however, which might help Jackson’s chances. His ERA at home (2.94) is radically better than it is on the road (4.76). His “start” on Sunday (2 innings pitched) shouldn’t be much of a problem, given that Jackson has only pitched 12 innings since the end of the season.
GAME THREE: Given Garcia’s ability to induce ground balls (54% in 2011), as well as his generally nasty stuff and ability to go more than thee innings, he might be the best option to start game three.
GAME FOUR: Carpenter again. You ride that horse until he breaks a leg. Then you shoot him.
GAME FIVE: It looks like Jake Westbrook is being brought out of carbon freeze to pitch against the Rangers in Texas. Westbrook has an excellent ground ball rate of 59%. The problem with Westbrook is that the other 41% of the contact against him results in 460-foot home runs that dent stadium support beams and/or kill innocent fans in the stands. Still, Westbrook is well rested (to put it mildly) and is the only starter on the staff with any experience pitching at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. Unfortunately, his experience was brutal there – 15 innings pitched, 12 earned runs, and three home runs.
GAME SIX: I would bring in Kyle Lohse to face the Rangers at Busch Stadum (yes, a five man rotation). First of all, the Rangers are professional hitters, so switching up looks with different pitchers might be a good strategy. Also, Lohse has pretty good stats at Busch Stadium (3.67 ERA), the one glaring problem being Lohse’s weakness for the home run there (11 in 2011 – OMEN!!!). This gives you the chance to bring in Garcia to relieve Lohse is he gets into trouble (and benefitting from Garcia’s excellent Busch Stadium mojo).
GAME SEVEN: Please tell me we aren’t going seven! I’m not sure Carpenter has three starts in this Series unless “Jesus Christ” shows up and starts performing “miracles” again (“Yo, J.C.! You think I could get this water turned into something a bit mo’ tasty? These beer prices are killin’ a nigga!”). If we get this far and we need an arm, you just know Carpenter will claw through concrete to get out there and do his best.