World Series Game One Preview

Here we go – the Fall Classic is just a few hours away, and both teams are rested and ready to send their aces to the hill for Game One. Let’s take a look at the match-ups and see how this break’s down from the numbers.

Rangers Starting Pitcher:

C.J. Wilson: 8.1 BB%, 22.5 K%, 49.3% GB%, 3.24 FIP (76 FIP-), 3.41 xFIP (84 xFIP-)

Cardinals Starting Pitcher:

Chris Carpenter: 5.5 BB%, 19.2 K%, 46.6% GB%, 3.06 FIP (82 FIP-), 3.31 xFIP (86 xFIP-)

Wilson and Carpenter are both groundball guys who also can rack up strikeouts if need be, which is why they’re among the best pitchers in baseball. Carpenter’s GB rate this year was actually the lowest he’s posted since 2002, so that probably slightly undersells his ability to get opposing hitters to beat the ball on the ground.

The main difference between the two (besides handedness, of course) is that Carpenter generally has terrific command, while Wilson is prone to bouts of wildness. He was able to get his walks under control this year, but he’s struggled with location during the playoffs, and if he doesn’t keep his fastball down, he’s certainly hittable. Carpenter’s less likely to struggle hitting his spots, but since he’s more reliant on balls in play being turned into outs, his potential path to failure is more about balls just finding holes.

Still, both are legitimate frontline starting pitchers, and there’s not much here to make you think that one team has a legitimate advantage on the mound at the start of the game. In terms of the starting pitching in tonight’s game, I’ll call this a push.

Rangers Starting Line-Up:

Vs RHPs: .283/.338/.460, 7.3% BB%, 14.6% K%, .178 ISO, .345 wOBA

Ian Kinsler, 2B (R)
Elvis Andrus, SS (R)
Josh Hamilton, CF (L)
Michael Young, 1B (R)
Adrian Beltre, 3B (R)
Nelson Cruz, RF (R)
Mike Napoli, C (R)
David Murphy, LF (L)
C.J. Wilson, P (L)

Texas’ line-up skews heavily to the right-hand side, but despite an unbalanced set of hitters, they still performed well against RHPs this year – only Boston had a higher wRC+ versus RHPs than the Rangers did. Carpenter also doesn’t boast much of a platoon split over his career, as he’s about equally as effective against hitters from either side of the plate. The right-handed heaviness of the Rangers offense could come back to hurt them when St. Louis dips into their bullpen, however, as Octavio Dotel, Lance Lynn, and Fernando Salas all dominated RHBs this season. With six of their first seven hitters batting from the right side, the Rangers line-up makes it fairly easy for the Cardinals to leverage their very good RH setup men, so Texas may need to build something of a lead off of Carpenter.

Cardinals Line-Up:

Vs LHPs: .265/.339/.425, 9.5% BB%, 15.6% K%, .163 ISO, .334 wOBA

Rafael Furcal, SS (S)
Jon Jay, CF (L)
Albert Pujols, 1B (R)
Matt Holliday, LF (R)
Lance Berkman, RF (S)
David Freese, 3B (R)
Yadier Molina, C (R)
Nick Punto, 2B (S)
Chris Carpenter, P (R)

With two premium right-handed bats, it’s not that surprising that the Cardinals hit southpaws well, and they can run out a line-up with eight right-handed bats against C.J. Wilson. Berkman has struggled against southpaws, so Wilson will have the ability to be careful with Pujols and Holliday and then make Berkman be the one to drive in runs. The Cardinals don’t have the same depth in their line-up that the Rangers do, but their best hitters are better than on the other side, and against an LHP, their advantage lies most heavily in the #3 and #4 spots. If you need to rely on two guys to get hits, you can’t do much better than Pujols/Holliday, but it still condenses their offensive potential into how those guys perform.

The two offenses are both terrific, and the Cardinals will have the platoon advantage in most at-bats while the Rangers will not, but overall, I’d call this a push as well.

Rangers Bullpen::

Neftali Feliz (R), Mike Adams (R), Darren Oliver (L), Alexi Ogando (R), Mike Gonzalez (L) Scott Feldman (R), Mark Lowe (R)

We’ll eschew each team’s overall bullpen totals for the season here, as the current make-ups of each bullpen is pretty different than it was during the regular season. Texas’ bullpen has been nothing short of fantastic so far in the playoffs, and with Wilson’s propensity for running up his pitch count early, expect to see a lot of them tonight. I wouldn’t be surprised if Ogando was asked to go three innings to counter the heavily right-handed St. Louis line-up, while Gonzalez and Oliver will likely be used as specialists to just get Berkman out in big spots. The team’s decision to bump Koji Uehara from the roster in favor of Mark Lowe might look a bit strange, but Scott Feldman has clearly passed him on the depth chart, and Lowe might be a better option as a righty specialist, more of a need versus St. Louis’ line-up than Uehara’s ability to get lefties out.

Cardinals Bullpen:

Jason Motte (R), Octavio Dotel (R), Fernando Salas (R), Mark Rzepczynski (L), Lance Lynn (R), Arthur Rhodes (L), Mitchell Boggs (R), Jake Westbrook (R)

The Cardinals don’t have a guy like Ogando who they can hand the ball to for length, but they counter with one extra reliever and will likely make more frequent calls to the bullpen because of it. The fresh-reliever-every-inning strategy can certainly be effective, though with an RHP on the mound to start, LaRussa won’t have the same incentive to go the bullpen early. My guess is that the Cardinals won’t ask their relievers to go as many innings, so if the game is close, you’ll likely just see a lot of Dotel, Salas, and Motte, with a sprinkling of Rzepczynski for when Hamilton comes up to bat.

Again, we see another situation where there’s not a significant advantage to one side or the other. Ogando’s ability to work multiple innings may give Texas a slight advantage, but the back-ends of the bullpens are similarly excellent. Yes, we have another push for tonight’s game.

Rangers Defense:

+25.9 UZR, +45 DRS, 170/46 SB/CS, .278 BABIP

Cardinals Defense:

-29.8 UZR, -13 DRS, 128/25 SB/CS, .296 BABIP

We finally have an area where one team showed a significant advantage over the course of the regular season, as the Rangers are a pretty terrific defensive team while the Cardinals simply are not. However, Yadier Molina’s value is likely not being fully captured here, so the gap isn’t as large as might look on the surface, and the Rangers defense is slightly worse with Michael Young at first base. Still, Texas has a pretty clear advantage here, as they’re simply better at turning balls in play into outs than the Cardinals are.

Conclusion

The teams are fairly evenly matched almost across the board, with the only obvious difference in tonight’s game being Texas’ advantage in the field. The platoon advantages favor St. Louis, and they also have home field advantage, so it’s probably fair to say that the Cardinals should be slight favorites tonight. Still, the match-ups are close enough that you’re probably not looking at more than a 55-45 split, and either team could easily come on top in Game One.




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Dave is a co-founder of USSMariner.com and contributes to the Wall Street Journal.


21 Responses to “World Series Game One Preview”

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  1. Semi Pro says:

    Berkman is a switch-hitter, though somewhat of a “in name only” kind of way. He has a large platoon split.

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  2. Anon says:

    Nice analysis.

    One nice thing to add would be a park adjusted statistic for hitting.

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    • Xeifrank says:

      Right. and does the team wOBA take into consideration the pitcher is batting for the Rangers? I think Furcal, Punto and Molina solidify and close the gap on the defensive side of things.

      Other notes to consider are the weather which is cold. Cold weather lends it hands to low scoring games. But it might be windy. This kind of throws things for a loop depending on where the wind is blowing towards (RF?).

      Here is today’s simulation output of this game. I estimated the lineups from last night, so there are a few minor tweeks that shouldn’t have much of an effect on results. A table listing the top 150 most likely final scores are there too.

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  3. Anon says:

    Just noticed Napoli is listed as DH (instead of C).

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  4. LorenzoStDuBios says:

    So whaddabouda chat, you guys?

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  5. Todd says:

    “The Cardinals don’t have a guy like Ogando who they can hand the ball to for length…”

    Is that a comment on the quality of the Cardinal relievers? Because Boggs and Lynn can certainly go multiple innings, since they spent their minor league careers as starters. And of course Westbrook is a starter outside of this playoff run. Certainly Ogando is a better pitcher, so having him out there for 3 innings is less risky then doing so with Boggs, Lynn, or Westbrook, but it’s not as if the Cardinals can’t do it.

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    • Todd says:

      Also, the Rangers have a significant advantage over the Cardinals (and everyone else) in baserunning, though in the course of a single game that probably doesn’t move the projection needle much.

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      • adr3 says:

        An advantage in stealing bases, but not in baserunning…. the Cardinals are collectively very good at running the bases, despite the lack of speed. Also, Yadi vs. Napoli might neutralize some of the gap in stolen bases as well.

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  6. CircleChange11 says:

    However, Yadier Molina’s value is likely not being fully captured here, so the gap isn’t as large as might look on the surface

    That’s an understatement.

    I was surprised we did not see more written about the change in WPA due to [1] Molina throwing out Utley (despite a huge, huge, huge freackin jump), and [2] Pujols electing to throw Utley out at 3B instead of remaining on th ebag to get Pence out at 1B.

    Cardinals Defense:

    -29.8 UZR, -13 DRS, 128/25 SB/CS, .296 BABIP

    When you replace Theriot with Furcal, StL moves up to a +2 UZR … or so it seems like it. *grin*

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  7. CircleChange11 says:

    I just want to say that I WANT to see a 7-game series. I’m nowhere near ready for baseball to end.

    I predict TEX in 6, but would of course love my Redbirds to take it all.

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  8. Joe says:

    I don’t see how the offense is a push. Texas leads by .012 wOBA and you further discount the handedness advantage of Carpenter,

    But maybe with WRC+ it evens out.

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    • JDanger says:

      You’d definitely want to use wRC+ here because the ballpark in Arlington so drastically inflates offensive numbers. The Rangers are good but probably not as good as we think. Both TEX and STL had 111 wRC+ vs RHP this season after park adjustments et al.

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  9. Joe says:

    Of note, Rangers also have a baserunning advantage of 19. So put that with fielding and they are around 8 wins better in those areas.

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  10. CircleChange11 says:

    Just noticed that Rhodes gets to pitch against the team that waived him.

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    • NWS says:

      actually, just against Josh Hamilton

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      • CircleChange11 says:

        Yeah.

        They said during the broadcast that TEX is paying Rhodes 1.5M and StL is paying him something like 100K.

        I’m not the biggest Rhodes fan, and I thought StL was remembering his CIN days too much when they signed him.

        But, if he keeps being effective I can put my feelings aside. *grin*

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  11. CircleChange11 says:

    Not sure if Garcia is G2 starter, but I’d pitch him at home in G2 and G6.

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  12. Remarkable things here. I am very satisfied to see your article. Thanks so much and I’m taking a look forward to touch you. Will you kindly drop me a e-mail?

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