Monday, October 05, 2009

Double Barrel Action

Cole Hamels.

Josh Beckett.

Chris Carpenter.

These three hurlers have more in common than being damn good. They've all won a World Series before, and they've each done some heavy postseason lifting. But more than that, they've each carried the burden of being a team's number one starter in a run to a Title.

I may be of an old school mentality, but because the postseason is are often decided by which team "gets hot," that first starter can often set the tone for an entire playoff run. That, of course, doesn't mean the team with the Cy Young award winner is going to win the World Series, but it does mean that a team with a few power arms that can go 7 innings deep stand a very good chance of hoisting a trophy.

Looking over the last few years, the White Sox are something of the odd team out, as their starting rotation was made up of a lot of very good pitchers, but arguably no "great" ones. Mark Buerhle has had, now, two incredible flashes of brilliance, but despite the no-hitter and perfect game, I don't know if you can call him dominant. Jon Garland is a serviceable righthander that has since floated from Angels to Snakes to Dodgers near the back end of the rotation. Jose Contreras would be best served to spend some time at a City Fair dunk tank working on his control, and Freddy Garcia, well, he's in Chicago at the present, but it's been an adventure working his way back there.

So, excluding the White Sox offensive romp over the choking Astros, the teams that advance are the teams that can give the ball to a big, bearded, sometimes bleeding head-case, and win a game on a stolen base and a sacrifice fly.

Here in 2009, that the St. Louis Cardinals. Besides limping down the stretch with the pressure off and the focus wavering, everything (and I mean everything) points to the Redbirds advancing to at least the World Series, and maybe winning it. They have the best offensive player in baseball anchoring the lineup; they have a small handful of youngsters that can steal a base if the situation arises; they have protection for Pujols with Matt Holliday (who has seen more American League pitching than most of his teammates); they have an All-Star catcher who can call a great game and gun down the opposition; and most of all, they have Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright, who, on any given day, can SINGLEHANDEDLY win a game.

There are very few pitchers in baseball that can accomplish that feat, and the Cardinals have TWO! Depending on timing, the Cards' two-headed monster could pitch in as many as 12 games in one postseason (though, perhaps, 10 or 11 is more likely). Unless the opponent happens to catch Wainwright after some bad shrimp, or Carpenter gets addicted to nerve tonic (see: Simpsons, season 3 episode 17), getting past the Cardinals is going to take near-perfect execution and some ultra well-timed hits.

Give me Cardinals to win the NL, and we'll re-approach this when we see who comes out of the American League. Unfortunately, the oddsmakers are seeing what I'm seeing, and have dropped the Cardinals future on winning the National League Pennant to just 9:5 -- monitor this closely.


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