Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Rangers Over Cards In Fall Classic

If you’ve been following my World Series predictions throughout the postseason, you’ll recognize that I haven’t exactly succeeded in correctly forecasting the results of the divisional and championship rounds.

But that’s the trouble with picking baseball. Unlike other sports — where the best teams have overwhelmingly strong winning records — the best baseball teams still lose around 60 games a year, and every team has its ups and downs when it streaks and struggles.

Like in college basketball’s March Madness, anything can happen when so few games determine the final results of a long season. The self-proclaimed experts still struggle to pick anything close to a successful tournament bracket, even though it’s their job to know everything about college basketball. Even though the specialists know much more than the common fan, someone who knows nothing about the teams can do better by chance; that’s just how it works.

In regards to my playoff picks, I’ve correctly chosen exactly half of the series (and thus incorrectly predicted the same). I have no excuses — it’s the nature of the game, and in the following column I’ll continue to put forth my best effort to preview and forecast the Fall Classic. Here’s my take on baseball’s final series of the year, the 2011 World Series.

American League Champion: Texas Rangers vs. National League Champion: St. Louis Cardinals (Pick: Rangers in 7)

Thus far, I’ve picked the Rangers to win each of their series and have been against the Cardinals in theirs, so it’s no surprise that I feel the same way now.

Texas has performed as expected in the postseason based on their strengths and weaknesses as a club. More specifically, the offense and bullpen have picked up the slack for a struggling starting pitching staff. There were two big stories for the Rangers in the ALCS: the explosion of outfielder Nelson Cruz, who hit six home runs in the six games series, and the inability of the Rangers’ starting pitchers to earn a win or even to post a single quality start. The team relied on the bullpen to pick up all four victories.

It’s encouraging, therefore, that the team’s calling cards — offense and bullpen — have performed to expectations, while the starting staff has struggled mightily. It’s quite possible to imagine that the offense and ‘pen will continue to perform, and it’s hard to imagine that C.J. Wilson, Derek Holland and company will continue to be mediocre.

But it is one series, and there is a sense of magic and mystique about St. Louis. The Cardinals emerged, seemingly out of nowhere, to make the playoffs in the final game of the regular season, overcoming the Atlanta Braves to snag the National League’s wild card spot.

The underdog Cards were able to make good on their momentum, defeating NL champion Philadelphia in a thrilling five-game divisional series before beating divisional rival Milwaukee in the championship series.

St. Louis does have one unbeatable advantage: the best hitter in the game. Albert Pujols’s World Series appearance with the Cardinals this year may be his last with the franchise, since his contract expires this season. Protecting him in the lineup are left fielder Matt Holliday and the resurgent first baseman Lance Berkman, as well as other solid contributors such as NLCS MVP third baseman David Freese and catcher Yadier Molina.

However, like the Rangers, the Cardinals’ starting pitching staff has struggled in the postseason. Chris Carpenter anchors a group that includes Jaime Garcia, Kyle Lohse and Edwin Jackson. But other than Carpenter’s complete-game victory against the Phillies in game five of the NLDS, the quartet has underperformed.

The bullpen has played well above expectations in the postseason, thanks to its midseason retooling by Tony La Russa. Closer Jason Motte, who took over the ninth inning job mid-year, has been lights-out in the playoffs, surrendering just one hit and no walks in eight innings. Arthur Rhodes, Lance Lynn, Fernando Salas and Octavio Dotel have also been spectacular.

At the end of the day, the series is a toss-up; the teams are similar inall facets of the game. Ultimately, though, Texas’s experience in last year’s fall classic and their spectacular depth and improvement over last year’s team lead me to believe that they will get it done this year. It will be a great series, and only time will tell who will hoist this year’s World Series trophy.

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