World Series Preview 2006:
It's the Fall Classic - 2006 version. And, really, honestly, I couldn't be more excited coming off that classic Cards-Mets game 7. The Cardinals have their worst team in four years going in this series, and the Tigers have the hardest throwing pitching staff of all time.
Honestly, history will judge this Tigers staff better than we can now. Currently, because most of the pitchers are so young, they really don't have the history or consistency behind them to be accurately judged.
If you ask me, Verlander's a future Cy Young winner, Robertson will go to 5 All Star games, Bonderman will be an All Star. Zumaya will probably be the next Eric Gagne (but who can predict the health of a guy who throws that hard), and Rodney will be making 8 million a year a s a closer. Honestly, if this staff wasn't on it's rookie contracts, it would be a $60 - 75 million dollar staff. (Verlander 16 mill, Rogers, 8 mil, Bonderman 11 mil, Robertson 11 mil, Todd Jones 3 mil, Zumaya 9 mil, Rodney 7 mil.. . .and on and on.) Personally, I think this staff makes the White Sox staff that barelled through the postseason last year look second-rate. This is so clearly the biggest difference between the two teams that it cannot be overstated. The Tigers have a phenomenal staff that is healthy and rested.
The Cards on the other hand are extremely banged up. Everyone knows about Rolen and Eckstein's shoulder, and Jimmy's head. But not enough is being made of Pujols' bad hamstring. Pujols without that power goes from being the best player in all of baseball bar none, to an all star hitter. He can't run as well, and he can't hit for as much power. Without being able to drive, he just isn't the same guy. He looked bad against the Mets and he sure got some easy pitches to hit.
That being said, there are a couple of ways the Cards can win this series:
1) Anthony Reyes is capable of a great start. Larussa doesn't have a lot of confidence in him, and he gets his pitch coung up high too soon. But I'm excited about him taking the mound. I really am. He could get shelled for 6 runs, or he could throw 7 shut out innings. If the Cards get blown out tonight, I'm not sure they can win. If they are close and have a shot - we'll see.
2) Catch up to the fast ball. Honestly, with the Cardinals, the worst thing you can do is throw heaters down the middle. They have a whole bunch of guess hitters on that team. Edmonds, Pujols, Wilson, Juan, can all turn on a fast ball. Again, if these guys do not run their bat into some home runs off these fireballers, they're going to be in trouble. However, if I'm Larussa, I give contact hitters like Taguchi and Spezio starts in every game. If you put the ball in play, good things can happen. Strikeouts could kill this squad.
3) Get the Tigers hitters to chase. Detroit has a lot of speed, a lot of defense, and a ton of solid contact hitters. You just can't let guys like who strike out a lot put the ball in play. You have to get those guys to strike out. They are too good on the basepaths. Sadly, the Cards only strikeout pitcher is Carpenter and Reyes, and Reyes is an unknown quantity. But you can give up singles to Polanco and Casey; the occasional long hit to Ordonez. But you need to strike out Granders, Monroe, Inge, and Thames a lot. You just need to, or you won't get out of the series.
More than anything: The Cards like facing fireball pitchers who will challenge you, a lot more than they like facing crafty guys who nibble the strike zone and let you get yourself out. So, one game the Cards are going to need to explode early in the game, and knock out a pitcher.
It's an uphill battle to be sure. But if Reyes starts gettin people to chase early in the game, and Edmonds connects with a Verlander fireball early in the game, it could change the series.