I'm so glad that we've been able to continue this recurring feature through yet another round of playoffs! This time, I pigeonholed Steve from World Series 41, Rangers Fan 1
(yeah, that title is going to have to be modified now!) and asked him some questions about the American League entry in the World Series. You can follow Steve on Twitter at RangersBlogger
if you want to get the perspective from the other side after this series. You should find my answers to his questions up on his site soon and, after the jump, he'll give us the scoop.
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C70: Going into this World Series, what has you bullish on the Rangers? What has you concerned?
WS: It's very easy to be bullish about the 2011 Rangers. After all the off-season moves by Jon Daniels, I knew this line-up was as deep and as versatile as I've ever seen with a Rangers (or Senators) team. Nothing that's happened this season has swayed me from that. The Rangers have had Nelson Cruz with two DL stints, Josh Hamilton and Adrian Beltre with one DL trip each and they've never skipped a beat. I don't have the actual stats in front of me, but I read where the Rangers, when Hamilton, Beltre and Cruz are all in the line-up are playing close to .800 baseball.
Offense aside, the way Daniels remade the bullpen at mid-season has been phenomenal, even though Koji Uehara has been a bust. And adding Alexi Ogando to the bullpen for the playoffs has been a genius move.
That lessens any concern I have about the starting pitching.
The only real concern I have at this point is Josh Hamilton's groin and Adrian Beltre's hamstring. Both are somewhat hobbled right now. They're good to go for the Series, but I sure don't want to see them aggravate those injuries.
C70: The lack of a DH doesn't seem to be an issue, as reports indicate Michael Young will take over at first for Mitch Moreland in the NL games. Do you think that playing without a DH and the moves that come with that (especially pinch-hitting for the pitcher) will affect the Rangers in any way?
WS: No DH? No problem for the Rangers. Mr. Super Utility Man Michael Young is pleased to oblige. A year ago, Vlad Guerrero was the Rangers' DH and his bat was essential to the line-up, so much so that at San Francisco, Texas was forced to play him in right field. The defensive liability was evident. This year, Michael Young has mostly been the DH, but has also played every infield position. He'll be playing first at St. Louis. No problem offensively as Mitch Moreland has slumped badly the last two plus months of the season. Defensively Young won't be winning any Gold Gloves at first, but he won't be the liability Vlad was either.
As for the pinch hitting, I'm not sure what the fall-out will be. Right now, I imagine our first pinch-hitters will be Moreland and Esteban German, as neither one is expected to be much in the field, at least not in St. Louis. After that it would be Yorvit Torrealba, Endy Chavez and Craig Gentry. If the Rangers go with one less bullpen arm, Matt Treanor would be added as a third catcher. So no, I think Texas has pinch-hitting covered pretty well.
C70: I'm sure there was some "happy to be there" thoughts last year as the Rangers made their first-ever World Series. Now that they are back, does losing the Series make for a disappointing year or is there still a sense of achievement in getting this far?
WS: I know the Rangers themselves will be disappointed not to win it all. They made finishing the job the singular purpose of their season this year. Personally, this fan might be a little pragmatic about it, as I felt from Day One that this might not be the year but next year definitely would be (a lot of players will be in contract years next year). On the other hand, the way this team has performed since Beltre returned from the DL has been incredible and I think a loss in the last game of the season would be quite the bummer!
C70: Which CJ Wilson do you think will show up? The staff ace or the guy with the high postseason ERA?
WS: Honestly, which starting pitching staff will show up. Not just the Rangers, but I can't recall so many teams getting such little production out of the starters as I've seen this year.
Wilson's due to show up. His first start against the Tigers was actually pretty good, but rain ended it early. His second start was also pretty good, up until that double play grounder to third hit the bag and took an incredibly fortuitous bounce for the Tigers. That seemed to ruin CJ's concentration and it was downhill from there.
Looking at it that way, one could argue CJ only stunk up the joint the one time in the ALDS against the Rays. I think CJ will be fine and I think the Rangers starters as a whole will perform better in the Series. That is in in no way meant to disrespect the Cards offense, just that our starters are better than they've shown so far.
C70: What has to go right for the Rangers to win the Series? What has to go wrong for the Rangers to lose it? And what do you think will actually happen?
WS: Start with the negative first. For the Rangers to lose it, the Cardinals pitching has to do what the Giants pitching did a year ago: stop the offense of the Rangers. St. Louis probably faces a taller task than the Giants did a year ago in that regard.
A key component of this is how Jaime Garcia does against them. The Rangers do have a tendency of doing poorly against a starter they've never seen before, especially one who's more of a finesse pitcher. Garcia (who, incidentally, is a graduate of Sharyland High School here in the Rio Grande Valley where I reside) could give Texas fits. At least some of the Rangers have faced Carpenter, Lohse and Jackson at some time in their careers, but I think Yorvit Torrealba is about the only Ranger who's faced Garcia.
Another factor could be Josh Hamilton's groin and Adrian Beltre's hamstring. Both are not running as well as they could be and if they aggravate their injuries enough to warrant being out of the line-up, it could have an impact throughout the batting order.
For the Rangers to win, they simply have to keep doing what they've been doing. Let their deep, balanced line-up put five runs on the board, play good defense and have the bullpen continue to do the solid job they've been doing (they even outperformed the Cards bullpen in their LCS series). If they do those things, then the starting pitchers have to merely be adequate to get the job done.
What will actually happen: Obviously I won't pick against my Rangers. I think Texas will pull it out in six, mainly because I think the Rangers have more experience against Cardinals pitching than the Cardinals have experience against Rangers pitching. I see CJ and Derek Holland in particular performing better than they've shown so far. I don't think Nelson Cruz will be as hot as he was in the LCS, but any one or more of Adrian Beltre, Michael Young, Josh Hamilton and Mike Napoli will more than make up for it. After 41 years of following this team, I think I'll finally see a World Championship banner unfurled at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington to begin the 2012 season.
My thanks to Steve for his insights into the opposition. It really sets up to be a very interesting World Series!