Riding the Pine…World Series Preview

Half the equation here wasn’t to be expected. The road here for both wasn’t either. At the begining of the season, no one expected the Tigers to be playing in October; and no one expected the Cardinals to be the underdogs. This series, and how we got here, pretty much sums up what baseball has become. (Please note: All stats listed below are career stats vs. their opponent)

St. Louis Cardinals
Record: 83-78
Pythagorean Record: 83-79 (781 RS, 762 RA)
Minor League System: 18th overall

The Road to the Series
Defeated Padres 3-1 in NLDS
Defeated Mets 4-3 in NLCS

The Players
C – Yadier Molina (.444, 0 HR, 3 RBI)
1B – Albert Pujols (.400, 2 HR, 3 RBI)
2B – Ronnie Belliard (.247, 2 HR, 12 RBI)
3B – Scott Rolen (.382, 1 HR, 9 RBI)
SS – David Eckstein (.294, 2 HR, 11 RBI)
LF – Preston Wilson (.349, 5 HR, 9 RBI)
CF – Jim Edmonds (.263, 15 HR, 44 RBI)
RF – Juan Encarnacion (.143, 0 HR, 2 RBI)
DH – Chris Duncan (.000, 0 HR, 0 RBI)

Bench: Gary Bennett (C), Aaron Miles (2B/SS), John Rodriguez (LF), Scott Spiezio (3B/LF), So Taguchi (LF/CF) – .290, 12 HR, 49 RBI.

Game 1 – Anthony Reyes (0-0, 0.00 in 0 starts)
Game 2 – Jeff Weaver (1-2, 2.53 in 3 starts)
Game 3 – Chris Carpenter (3-4, 7.03 in 11 starts)
Game 4 – Jeff Suppan (8-6, 4.63 in 20 starts)

Bullpen: Adam Wainwright (CL), Randy Flores, Josh Hancock, Tyler Johnson, Josh Kinney, Braden Looper, Brad Thompson. (2-1, 0 saves, 6.75 in 9.1 innings).

The Background
To most observers, this team shouldn’t have made it this far. After nearly completing the biggest choke job in Major League history, the team has started to play like everyone thought. The starting pitching has shown some life, while the hitters prove they can still get the clutch hits. The bullpen is still shaky at times, but the emergence of Wainwright as closer has helped at the end of the games.

Most players on the team are playing for new contracts next season: Belliard, Wilson, Edmonds (the team has a $10 million option), Bennett, Spiezio, Weaver, and Suppan (Jason Marquis and Mark Mulder are also free agents). As with previous seasons, a strong post-season can get a player a nice payday (i.e. Carlos Beltran).

Detroit Tigers
Record: 95-67
Pythagorean Record: 97-65 (822 RS, 675 RA)
Minor League System: 16th overall

The Road to the Series
Defeated Yankees 3-1 in ALDS
Defeated Athletics 4-0 in ALCS

The Players
C – Ivan Rodriguez (.360, 1 HR, 3 RBI)
1B – Sean Casey (.291, 9 HR, 52 RBI)
2B – Placido Polanco (.200, 0 HR, 7 RBI)
3B – Brandon Inge (.333, 1 HR, 3 RBI)
SS – Carlos Guillen (.294, 0 HR, 0 RBI)
LF – Marcus Thames (.333, 1 HR, 3 RBI)
CF – Curtis Granderson (.538, 1 HR, 4 RBI)
RF – Magglio Ordonez (.375, 5 HR, 17 RBI)
DH – Craig Monroe (.125, 0 HR, 1 RBI)

Bench: Alex Gomez (LF), Omar Infante (2B/SS), Neifi Perez (SS), Ramon Santiago (2B), Vance Wilson (C) – .276, 6 HR, 35 RBI.

Game 1 – Justin Verlander (1-0, 6.00 in 1 start)
Game 2 – Kenny Rogers (0-0, 9.72 in 2 starts)
Game 3 – Nate Robertson (0-0, 0.00 in 0 starts)
Game 4 – Jeremy Bonderman (0-0, 1.29 in 1 start)

Bullpen: Todd Jones (CL), Jason Grilli, Wilfredo Ledezma, Zach Miner, Fernando Rodney, Jamie Walker, Joel Zumaya (6-0, 8 saves, 4.55 in 55.1 innings)

The Background
The Tigers were the biggest surprise in baseball. No one expected them to place in the top 3 in the division, let alone lead it for most of the season. After a late slump, the team made it to the post season as the AL Wild Card.

The biggest factor for the Tigers is the pitching. Lead by veteran Kenny Rogers, the rotation is full of young flamethrowers. The pen also has some guys that can bring the heat: Zumaya and Rodney both hit triple digits on the radar gun.

World Series Facts
– This is the first time that both teams have sub .500 records after the All Star break.
– The Cardinals are the 5th team to make it to the World Series 15 games or fewer above .500. 2 of the 4 have won it all: 2000 Yankees and 1987 Twins.
– The Tigers are the 6th team to play a World Series after having at least 6 days off. 4 of the 5 have won it all: 1910 Athletics, 1911 Athletics, 1995 Braves, 1996 Yankees.
– Jeff Weaver and Juan Encarnacion face their former team; Weaver was traded to the Yankees, then to the Dodgers. He signed as a free agent before the season with Anaheim and was traded to the Cardinals mid-season. Encarnacion also came up in the organization. He was traded to the Reds for Dmitri Young. He also played for the Marlins and Dodgers.
– Placido Polanco also faces his original team; he was traded to the Phillies for Scott Rolen, and then to the Tigers last season. He signed a contract extension last season.
– Jim Leyland and Tony Larussa were both coaches with the White Sox early in their careers. Both have remained close friends. Leyland actually was a coach and scout for the Cardinals before joining the Tigers this season.
– Leyland and Larussa have each won 1 championship in the opposite league. Who ever wins will be the second manage in MLB history to win a championship in each league; the other is Sparky Anderson (Reds, Tigers).
– St. Louis and Detroit have played in the World Series 2 previous times: 1934 and 1968. St. Louis won in ’34 (4-3) and Detroit won in ’68 (4-3).

I’ve been hit or miss in my picks (ask my friends), but I’m sticking with what I’ve done the whole time. The underdogs of the playoffs have continued to surprise everyone. They are coming in with momentum. The Cardinals in 6.