2006 MLB Playoffs
World Series Preview
October 21, 2006
My Division Series predictions were less than stellar (0 for 4), and I was as shocked as anyone to see St. Louis in the World Series. Not to worry though, loyal reader. I will not steer you wrong in the World Series. With Detroit and St. Louis stumbling into the playoffs, it no longer matters what happened in the season but how the teams are playing right now. A quick rundown:
Starting Pitching: The edge goes to Detroit, but based on recent performances of Weaver and Suppan, only slightly. The Tigers had a much better rotation throughout the year, but Jeff Weaver's recent resurgence and Jeff Suppan's steady work have made it possible for St. Louis to win games in which Chris Carpenter doesn't pitch.
Relief Pitching: Edge to Detroit. Joel Zumaya, Jamie Walker, Fernando Rodney, and a veteran if not underwhelming Todd Jones give the Tigers just about everything they need out of the pen. The strength of the late inning staff takes a lot of pressure off Detroit's young starters and make Jim Leyland's decisions that much easier when a starter is struggling. St. Louis doesn't offer much to love in the middle innings, but the up and coming Adam Wainwright has been a 9th inning force for the Cardinals in the playoffs, providing stability where the team desperately needs it.
Lineups: Edge to Detroit. Scott Rolen is starting to look better at the plate, but the Cardinals can still be solved by avoiding the one and only true threat: Albert Pujols. Detroit's lineup is hardly threatening, but it is solid throughout. It is just as likely for a rally to come from Guillen and Rodriguez than it is from the top of the order.
Defense: Edge to St. Louis. Brandon Inge has looked strong at third base and Ivan Rodriguez is still one of the best behind the plate, but St. Louis boasts a few more defensive gems in Ronnie Belliard, Rolen, Molina, Taguchi, and Edmonds. When Scott Spiezio plays the outfield, however, the advantage is lessened.
Intangibles: Even. Both manager's are well equipped to handle the pressure of the series. The outcome is unlikely to be decided by a manager's blunder. With both teams being left for dead when the playoffs began, they both have a chip on their shoulder. Detroit's title hopes are a longer time coming, but this St. Louis team has suffered some recent failures in the World Series and looks to redeem itself in '06.
Many prognosticators are predicting a Detroit sweep, and the Tigers abundance of pitching may suggest that, but I get a feeling we may be in for a long series. I was too quick to dismiss St. Louis for their pitching missteps in the regular season but failed to see the successes happening in October. There's more reason to believe Suppan and Weaver will continue what they did last week instead of reverting to mid-season (bad) form.
Unfortunately for St. Louis, Detroit has been even stronger, winning seven straight playoff games. A couple starters are bound to slip up, but Kenny Rogers looks as focused as ever and should carry the young guys on his shoulders if needed.
Prediction: Tigers in 6