Monday, October 17, 2011

2011 World Series Preview

2011 World Series...St Louis Cardinals vs Texas Rangers

How did we get here?!?!

For the Rangers this has been an unreal season...The dizzying highs of a return trip to the World Series, and the devastating lows of having Shannon Stone try to catch a throw into the stands from Texas LF Josh Hamilton only to lose his balance against the railing and plummet to his death (right in front of his 6 year old son...I do not want to just write a piece that is a downer, but the Shannon Stone story about what happened that night is unbelievable...I will spare you the details here, as you know we are together on blogspot, or Sports Talk because we want to have fun talking sports, but I would encourage you to look into the story of Stone's death...I personally have not looked at life the same way since that July 8 fateful day)

More lows were in-store for the 2011 Rangers as their leader and Team President Nolan Ryan was hospitalized for a recurring heart condition...This was all on the heels of losing 2010 star Cliff Lee out of nowhere to the Phillies...

The off-season did produce a big move though...The Rangers had a built-in upgrade at SS as stud-in-the-making SS Elvis Andrus was about to enter his 3rd season and big things were expected (big things produced too...career high Hits/Doubles/Runs/RBI's/SB's/Batting Avg) but the player to Andrus' right (3B) was going to be new as Texas added slugger Adrian Beltre...AB had a monster season (.296...32 HR's...105 RBI's) and the assumption was that Mike Young would be traded to make room for Beltre...Young was kept by Texas, and as a result the Rangers had the ol' "cake and eat it too" as Young (a career .300 hitter) had career highs in Batting Avg/RBI's, and career low for Strikeouts...The Rangers also made a trade with YOUR TORONTO BLUE JAYS to add another bat in Mike Napoli...Nap played 1B/C/DH and he hit like crazy (career highs in '11 for Batting Avg/Hits/Doubles/HR's/RBI's/Runs/BB's)...A fantastic line-up (that featured the defending MVP in Josh Hamilton) got even deeper...

The Starting Pitching lost Lee, but sure did its part to help the Rangers repeat as AL West Champs...73-39 record, plus a Bullpen already skilled with the likes of veteran LH Darren Oliver, plus stud-in-the-making Closer Neftali Perez added 'pen studs Mike Adams and Koji Uehara (only 2 hurlers on the Rangers with WHIP below 1.00)

The Rangers used all of the above to earn a 96 W campaign...In the Play-Offs it has sure been all of the above, plus Nelson Cruz has entered his name into Post-Season lore...Cruz has 2 HR's and 7 RBI's in the 11th Inning alone in the Post-Season!  How many players will not have that kind of production for an entire series/Play-Off run?!?! As twitter would say #impressive...Cruz is setting Play-Off records for HR's/RBI's/Drama...This Rangers line-up was shut down by San Fran in the 2010 World Series, but this 2011 line-up looks drought-proof (waaaay too much talent and depth)

For St Louis the path was different...Like on a historic level different...The only other team to make the sort of comeback to get into the Play-Offs as the 2011 Cards did was the...well ironically enough 2011 Rays...The difference is that the step-up Pitching (especially in the bullpen) and the timely (and volume) hitting for St Louis has continued in the Play-Offs, while the Rays were dispatched in 4 games by Texas...

Tony LaRussa is (again) in the World Series, and he (again) brings an impressive O (remember the Bash Brothers O's Tony had in the early 90's in Oakland)...Star Albert Pujols had career low's in Batting Avg (.299) and RBI's (99) but still we see those aren't exactly embarrassing #'s...Phat Albert was joined in St Louis by Matt Holliday a few months back, and in 2011 he was joined by Lance Berkman (NL 2011 Comeback Player Of The Year), and later at Trade Deadline the Cards made a move to get Rafael Furcal to be their SS...At the end of August St Louis was a DOA (as far as making the Play-Offs) 10.5 games back of Hotlanta...but...while the Braves had a September swoon for the ages the Cards continued to get better and better while bats like Jason Jay, David Freese, Yadier Molina, Allen Craig, and guys like Pujols and Berkman were en fuego the last several weeks of the season...All of that even masked the fact that slugger Matt Holliday missed 35+ games with nagging hand injuries...This added up to put the Cardinals (despite playing in the NL where the #8 and #9 hitters are punchlines) as the #5 O in MLB (#1 O in NL...Only NL club in MLB Top 6)

St Louis' starting rotation features 4 SP's with era's in the 3's (Chris Carpenter, Jamie Garcia, Kyle Lohse, and Edwin Jackson)...The club was roundly criticized outside of Missouri for their Trade Deadline move of sending CF Colby Rasmus to the Jays for RP's Octavio Dotel, Mark Rzepczynski, and the a fore mention Edwin Jackson, but those close to the club knew that was a trade of "good riddance" as Rasmus and his peeps had become an irritant with a bad attitude instead of the stud-in-the-making they thought he was...Hindsight being what it is we see now that the Cards made a mega-Don move with that trade...As good (actually great) as the Cards O has been, it is the pitching, in particular RP, that has guided the team back to the World Series for their first trip to the Fall Classic since they won it all in 2006 (eerily similar by the way as that 2006 team got hot at the right time and rode LaRussa's managerial brilliance to the Championship) 

What a match-up...2 Managers with now multiple World Series appearances...2 teams making return trips to the WS...

2 teams using O first, with a definite assist from the Pitchers each game...2 teams who used Aug trades to bolster their Pitching, and shore up a bat off the bench...

2 teams who each could have made a huge trade (Texas could have traded Mike Young after signing Beltre, and when St Lou failed in Spring Training to re-up long-term with Phat Albert they could have made a big deal too) but decided to make a run without trading a (big) bat...

2 teams who each solidified their O with Off-Season additions (Beltre for Texas, Berkman for St Louis)...

2 teams getting guys other than their stars to carry the O through the Championship Series (Rangers rode Cruz, while Freese led the Cardinals)...

Ironically it was All-Star MVP Prince Fielder (Brewers) who set up the fact that St Louis will have Home Field for the World Series (PLEASE do not get me started on how redonkulous it is to have an Exhibition game decided anything, much less Home Field for a Championship series) and further irony is the Cards Round 1 victim was the Phillies who swept the Braves on the final weekend of the Regular Season to allow St Louis to complete their historic comeback

Texas is the only team of the 2 that utilizes the Running Game...

St Louis is the team with the better eye at the plate (will Walk waaaay more that Texas)...

The only team in MLB that had batters strikeout at the plate less than St Louis was...Texas!

Both clubs are Extra-Base Hit machines...

0.05 is the amount that separates these 2 teams as far as Team ERA (wow, about as close as you can get)...

Despite using about 5 different Closers in 2011 the St Louis Cardinals had waaay more Saves than did the Rangers...

Starting Pitching - although St Louis' SP's have surely been hot for several weeks, on the whole it was Texas who had (by far) the most Quality Starts from their SP's...Waaaay more Shutouts for this Texas Staff too...

C-L-O-S-E series here folks...If you watch Sports Talk then A) thank you for watching...B) then you know I have handing out Game Balls to various Cardinals for over a month now as they have been wonderful for several weeks...you also know that C) I have been predicting that the 2011 World Series Champs would be the Texas Rangers for several months now so no sense in changing that now that we actually are at the World Series and Texas is playing!

I see the tiniest bit more in the O for Texas...I see the tiniest bit more RP for Texas...I see a lot more SP for Texas...Bottom line is I see the Rangers winning the 2011 World Series


Thursday, October 13, 2011

Sports Talk Oct 6


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1st Segment = Game Balls/Lame Ball
2nd Segment = NFL Week 5 picks/tidbits
3rd Segment = Final 2011 season Good/Bad/Ugly Jays talk


Sports Talk Sep 29


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13:50 mark Sportsnet Hockey Central Producer Paul Bromby with some great NHL talk


Sports Talk Sep 22


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1st Segment = Game Balls/Lame Balls
2nd Segment = NFL Week 3 picks/tidbits
3rd Segment = Jays talk


Sports Talk Sep 15


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16:00 mark mlb.com Jays writer Gregor Chisolm (Jays talk at its finest!)


Sports Talk Sep 8


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Segment #1 = Week that was
Segment #2 = NFL Week 1 picks/tidbits
Segment #3 = Jays talk