It’s World Series time, so that must mean it’s time to discuss (read — argue about, mock, decry, belittle, etc.) the differences between the American and National Leagues. Sometimes, the fact that an extra hitter has to hit for a National League team or that one less gets to hit for the American League team can lead to some interesting decisions, like Vladimir Guerrero playing right field, David Ortiz playing first base or Ryan Spilborghs serving as a designated hitter. This season however, the moves should be pretty cut and dry.
Last year, Rangers manager Ron Washington had to think about whether or not he could shoehorn the aforementioned Guerrero into his lineup in San Francisco. This year, he has no such quandary. In all ten of the Rangers’ postseason games, the top seven in Washington’s batting order has been identical. The bottom two spots are the ones with which he has played around, and even then, it’s been minimal. David Murphy has played seven of the eight times a righty has started for the opposition, and sat in favor of Craig Gentry in the two matchups against left-handers. The final spot has flitted between Mitch Moreland (six starts), Yorvit Torrealba (three) and Endy Chavez (two). It is this spot that figures to fall by the wayside in St. Louis.
This is marvelous news for Rangers fans. Of the 12 Rangers who tallied at least 100 plate appearances this season, Moreland, Torrealba and Chavez were three of the four least valuable (with Murphy being the fourth). Looking at the season totals, you could build a minor case that Chavez should start over Murphy, but that evaporates when you look at their splits, as Murphy sizzled through the second half and has flamed on in the playoffs, while the majority of good in Chavez’s stat line is a .351/.400/.595 May — his OPS went steadily down in the four months subsequent. About the only bad news is that it means Michael Young has to play first base, and while he isn’t as good a defender as Moreland is there, the effect shouldn’t be that dramatic. Young played 302 innings at first in the regular season without embarrassing himself too much, and he played first in three of the last four games of the ALCS — perhaps in preparation for the World Series — and survived them without any major gaffes.
On the other side of the coin, we see that Cardinals manager Tony La Russa has a similarly easy decision, with the caveat that there’s no guarantee that La Russa won’t La Russa and pull some stunt like having Skip Schumaker or Nick Punto DH. But assuming he sticks to the thinking us mere mortals can comprehend, Allen Craig figures to start in the first two games in Texas. As I discussed last week, Craig has been a monster bat for the Cards when he gets in the lineup, and that has been especially so in his small sample against lefties, which is notable since Texas’ hurlers for Games 3 and 4 will be the lefty tandem of Derek Holland and Matt Harrison (and then C.J. Wilson in Game 5). La Russa seems to agree, as Craig has batted second in the lineup in all three games against lefties this postseason.
Whether Craig is the actual DH, or he spells Lance Berkman or Matt Holliday (he spelled Holliday in the Kansas City series earlier this year) won’t likely make as big of a difference as his bat in the lineup in place of the pitcher will. Craig will give the Cards a very American League-looking lineup, and his bat should be better than the chosen member of the Moreland, Torrealba, Chavez trio that suits up for Texas. While trying to figure the difference in runs the Cards could expect in such a small sample would be a fool’s errand — especially since they just put up 19 of them in their last two games without the luxury of the DH — suffice to say that the Cardinals will be even with the Rangers or better in Texas.
There will likely be a lot of drama in the World Series. Before we start, we have some from the baseball side and some from the blowhard side, and with the way that Washington and La Russa have managed their bullpens, the fireworks are likely to continue once the action moves in between the lines. But as much drama as we’re likely to see, the drama probably won’t be surrounding the designated hitter or lack thereof. The Rangers won’t lose much, if any offense in St. Louis, and the Cardinals will be able to match, if not best the Rangers DH options in Texas.
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