The Detroit Tigers with twin-aces Justin Verlander and Doug Fister, and the St. Louis Cardinals, baseball’s hottest team, are now the sexy pick to meet in a rematch of the 2006 World Series. After beating the two top favorites in the division series, it makes since for people to be excited about the Tigers and Cardinals. However, a seven game championship series is much different than a five game series, while anything can happen in a five game series, when two more games are added into the equation statistics become a lot more formidable. And when the statistics are brought into the equation, there is a quantitative advantage for both the Texas Rangers and Milwaukee Brewers.
The Rangers, as many would expect, are a better hitting team than the Tigers. The Rangers have a team WAR of 38.9 (best of any playoff team) and a team wOBA of .348 (also the best of any playoff team). While the Tigers sit at a WAR of 28.5 and wOBA of .336. Some would argue that seeing Verlander and Fister twice in a seven game series could neutralize the highly talented Rangers’ offense. And I would agree Verlander (7 WAR, 3.12 xFIP) and Fister (5.6 WAR, 3.61 xFIP) are as good as any starter the Rangers have to offer. But great pitchers are not invincible, as shown in the Phillies’ series, with both Halladay and Lee losing starts, as well as, in Tigers’ ALDS series, in which Fister lost Game 1. Many people would be surprised about two facts about the Rangers team pitching though.
- CJ Wilson is better than Doug Fister, and can beat Verlander. Wilson was an all-star this season, he pitched in the ALCS last year, as well as the World Series, so he has experience. Also his numbers are fantastic, with a 5.9 WAR and xFIP of 3.41. His K/9 rate is only half a strikeout less than Verlander’s as well.
- The Rangers are a better pitching team than the Tigers. You think I’m wrong? Well I would advise people to look at the numbers again, before they give the Tigers the pitching advantage over the Rangers. The Rangers team pitching WAR is 21.7 to the Tigers 20.0 and team xFIP is 3.83 to the Tigers 4.0.
Thus, when analyzing the 2011 ALCS it is not a competition of whether the Rangers hitting can be better than the Tigers pitching, it is the fact that the Rangers are the defending American League champions, who are a better team this year than they were last year, as well as, a better hitting AND pitching team than the Tigers, this season.
The matchup in the National League Championships series pits two NL Central Division rivals against one another, and is also a rematch of the 1982 World Series (Milwaukee’s only trip). Both teams needed 5 games to win in the NLDS, and both teams used their respective aces in order to win Game 5. Milwaukee won the N.L. Central by 6 games over St. Louis. Thus, by going by records between two teams in the same division it seems as though Milwaukee is a better team. But some would argue that St. Louis is “hot” right now, by the way the ended up reaching the post-season in the final month. However, both teams won 7 out of their last 10 games to end the season, and each team won 3 out of 5 in the NLDS, so to say the Cardinals are hotter than the Brewers, when each team has won 10 out of their last 15 doesn’t solidify a point at all. Instead, I would much rather look at the season statistics to see, which team looks better coming into Sunday’s Game 1 in Milwaukee. The first and main advantage for the Brewers is that they have homefield in the series, for some teams this is not a huge deal, but for Milwaukee it most definitely is, in the regular season the Brewers were 33 games over .500 at home, while they were 3 games below .500 on the road. In the NLDS the Brewers won all 3 games at home, while losing both games played on the road in Arizona. The second advantage the Brewers have over the Cardinals is they pitch better. The Brewers’ pitching had a team WAR of 18.1 and xFIP of 3.58, while the Cardinals had a WAR of 14.3 and xFIP of 3.79. Chris Carpenter, Jaime Garcia, and Edwin Jackson are good for St. Louis, but not of the same caliber as Yovani Gallardo, Shawn Marcum, and Zack Grienke. However, the Cardinals have already beat a team in the NLDS who’s pitching was much better than theirs, and that was because St. Louis is the best hitting team in the N.L. (34.3 WAR, .332 wOBA). Those numbers were a huge advantage over the Phillies’ bats, but the Brewers lineup that features Rickie Weeks, Prince Fielder, Nyger Morgan, and Ryan Braun, is only slightly worse than that of the Cardinals. The Brewers have the N.L.’s third best offense (32.9 WAR, .327 wOBA), which over the course of a seven game series could outhit the Cardinals. Thus, the Brewers have two distinct advantages over St. Louis, while St. Louis only has the one slight advantage on Milwaukee.
Most times, in the LCS format the better team comes out on top, for this reason, based on the numbers it is not hard to see that a World Series matchup, between two teams who have never won the big one before could occur. With the Texas Rangers visiting the Milwuakee Brewers (who have home field due in large part to a Fielder homer off Wilson) in the 2011 World Series.