The six-month saga that has been the 2011 Major League Baseball season begins to write its final chapter on Wednesday as the World Series gets underway in St. Louis where the National League Champion Cardinals host the American League Champion Texas Rangers in the best of seven series.
Both teams needed just six games to advance to the Fall Classic with Texas defeating Detroit at home on Saturday night and the Cardinals winning on the road in Milwaukee 24 hours later.
By winning the All Star game this past summer the National League earned the right for its champion to host the first two and potentially final two games of this 2-3-2 formatter series.
Texas becomes the first American League team to play in back to back World Series since the New York Yankees made it to four straight from 1998 through 2001. Last season the Rangers lost to San Francisco in five games.
St Louis was last in the World Series in 2006 when the defeated Detroit in five games.
Neither team made it through the League Championship series as a result of strong starting pitching. In fact, the percentage of innings (46) worked by St. Louis starting pitchers in defeating Milwaukee was the lowest ever in a best of seven post season series. Texas was not far behind as Rangers starters pitched just 51% of the series innings pitched by Texas.
There is virtually no history to reflect upon between the Rangers and the Cardinals. The teams have played only one series against one another and that was in Interleague play back in 2004.
St. Louis holds its spring training in Florida while Texas trains in Arizona so the teams have very little knowledge about one another other than what can be gleaned from scouting reports and players on each team who may have played in the other league.
On its surface this handicaps as a high scoring series, especially for games played in Texas. For the season, the Rangers played 54 OVERS, just 29 UNDERS and 3 pushes at home this season with an average total runs of 11.1 per game.
On the road St. Louis was involved in 52 OVERS, just 32 UNDERs and 3 pushes with an average total runs of 9.7 per game.
At home St. Louis was involved in just one more UNDER than OVER while on the road Texas played 8 more UNDERS than OVERS.
From an individual starting pitcher perspective two St Louis starters, Jaime Garcia and Jake Westbrook, were involved in at least 6 more OVERS than UNDERS in their regular season starts. No other starter had more than three additional UNDERS than OVERS.
For Texas, one starter (Matt Harrison) was involved in significantly more UNDERS (17) than OVERS (11). Other likely starters in the World Series were involved in more UNDERS than OVERS with the most results produced by lefty Derek Holland (21-9 to the OVER) during the regular season.
On Monday morning Texas opened as solid favorites to win the 2011 World Series despite St Louis having home field advantage. Around Las Vegas and offshore Texas generally ranged from a -150 to-160 favorite with the takeback on St. Louis in the range of +130 to +140.
St. Louis has plenty of tradition and experience with 18 pennants and 11 National League pennants with their most recent World Series appearance and triumph rather recently, in 2006. Texas is in the World Series for only the second time in franchise history but the first appearance was last season.
St. Louis skipper Tony LaRussa is managing in his sixth World Series. Texas manager Ron Washington is in his second, the first, again, being last season.
Texas had a better regular season record, winning 95 games, compared to St. Louis taking 90. Texas won the AL West and was 9-9 in Interleague play. St Louis won the National League Wild Card, finishing second in the NL Central, six games behind Milwaukee, the team the Cardinals just vanquished in the NLCS. St. Louis was 8-7 in Interleague play.
Overall in 2011 American League teams had a 10 game edge in Interleague play, winning 131 of 252 games, or 52 percent. Overall there were just 106 Interleague games that went OVER as compared to 125 that stayed UNDER in addition to 20 pushes.
St. Louis played 7 OVERS, 7 UNDERS and 1 push in its five Interleague series. Texas was involved in 8 OVERs, 8 UNDERs and two pushes in its six Interleague series.
In approaching this World Series, the hitters are likely to have the edges against the starting pitching. Texas has the overall better lineup although the Cards’ bats did perform well in the playoffs thus far.
We see Texas winning at least one of the opening two games in St. Louis and thus making a play on the Rangers as a small underdog in Game 1, when they will send lefty CJ Wilson to the mound to face Chris Carpenter.
The loser of is worth backing in Thursday’s Game 2, provided you do not have to lay more than -140.
When the series shifts to Texas the expectation is that the Rangers, especially with the DH, will be well positioned to win two of three games. Look to play the Rangers if favored by -140 or less in any matchup.
St. Louis would be worth a play when trailing in the Series if made underdogs of +140 or more.
The OVER should be a more attractive play throughout the Series. In St. Louis, the total for Game 1 is 7½. Although Carpenter has pitched some outstanding baseball, he has also been vulnerable. His stats, though decent, are not of “ace” caliber, especially recently. He can be hit and the Rangers have a lineup that can do damage.
The guidelines for playing the total are to play OVER 8 or lower in games at St. Louis and OVER 9 or lower in games at Texas.
Forecast: Texas in 6.
That means winning the World Series on the road in. St Louis. Barring rainouts four games will have been played when our next column will be prepared.
Unless there is a four game sweep the final baseball column for 2011 will be coming your way next week. And unless the Series end next Monday in a Game 4 or 5, there will be a chance to end the season with some baseball plays in Games 6 or 7.