|Now that's a really big key. |
starts tonight, kids. Exciting stuff, any time you can watch your team playing for the title. Plenty of ink has been spilled analyzing the two sides nearly to death, and plenty more will be spilled between now and the day the series ends.
Let me boil it down for you. The Rangers and Cardinals both have spectacular offenses. The raw numbers for Texas look a bit better, but when you adjust for park and league it's nearly a wash.
The bullpens are both brilliant, with Texas probably having the better end of the game guys in Mike Adams, Alexi Ogando, and Neftali Feliz, but the Cards may arguably be able to go deeper than the Rangers in terms of quality 'pen arms. Honestly, I'd be okay calling it a wash as well.
Which, of course, really only leaves the starting rotations. And that, for better or for worse, is where the series will be decided.
Neither team's rotation has been at all effective 'til now in the playoffs. In fact, the starting pitching of all four LCS teams were just historically terrible. Why that may be is really impossible to say; it's just one of those things that happens sometimes.
Both the Cardinals and Rangers have managed to survive to this point in spite of the awfulness of their respective starters, but I don't see that lasting much longer. At some point in time running your bullpen out for five innings a night is going to catch up with you.
The Rangers have a very talented rotation, with both Derek Holland and Matt Harrison having huge stuff from the left side. C.J. Wilson has good stuff, though not quite in the category of those other two. Colby Lewis is kind of an enigma, in a Jeff Suppan-y sort of way. I'm never impressed when I see him pitch, but damned if he doesn't put up some unreal numbers in October. Even with all that talent, though, there's plenty of inconsistency.
The Cards' rotation, on the other hand, doesn't feature the same kind of arms Texas has, but may have the better pitchers. Chris Carpenter is now a health question mark again, but he's still Chris Carpenter, damn it. Jaime Garcia is ridiculously talented, but prone to hiccups. Edwin Jackson is solid, but not in the way a guy with his raw stuff should be. Kyle Lohse is, well, Kyle Lohse. You just hope you're not relying on him in a do-or-die game.
Which of these two units performs better will go a long way toward determining the outcome of the series. And of all the pitchers on that list, I'm choosing Jaime Garcia as my single biggest swing player. If Jaime comes out and is the dominant performer we've seen him be at times in his young career, he could very well steal two games for the Cards all by himself, even against that offense. If, on the other hand, he continues to be the frustrating blowup waiting to happen he has so often been this year, I don't honestly think the Cardinals have a real chance.
The Rangers are the favourites to win this series, and they should be. The gulf between the two teams isn't nearly as large as many are trying to make it, though; I keep waiting to read a, "Rangers in three," prediction from somebody. It's all going to come down to which team gets better pitching, particularly from their starters. Whichever team's rotation can hold them in the games on a consistent basis is going to win. Recent history is not really on either team's side.