Leftridge: World Series Slugfest: The Pitchers Won’t Win, ‘Cause the Hitters Won’t Quit

There was a moment in the NLCS Game 6—probably after Albert Pujols’ 3rd inning homerun and before Yuniesky Betancourt’s 4th inning RBI double—when I began to wonder when the bloodletting would stop.

Game 6—along with the entire series, along with the ALCS, along with the entire postseason in both leagues—was a squealing pig having its throat sliced by steely-eyed butcher. You know, supposing that the pig had hemophilia. 

But finally, after 18 combined runs and a never-ending parade of seemingly ill-prepared bullpen sacrifices, it was mercifully over. The St. Louis Cardinals were heading to their first World Series since 2006, their 18th overall appearance, and the Milwaukee Brewers—once champions of some nonsensical motivational slogan deemed “Beast Mode”—were left shaking their heads, wondering why big name offseason acquisitions like Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum were so decidedly terrible when it mattered most.

They like to say that pitching and defense wins championships; I think this is only partially true. As much as they want you to believe that the era of the big inning is over, and that power numbers have dropped dramatically in the face of rigorous drug testing, this is only half of the story. 

Because for every fatigued, noodle-armed bullpen hack on his last go round, there’s a bulging-muscled third baseman at the plate. For every starter who has to ice his shoulder simply after popping open a can of beer in the clubhouse, while playing Xbox and eating Popeye’s— I’m looking at you, Boston Red Sox—there’s a chunky designated hitter whose sole purpose in life is to take a hanging breaking ball into the bleachers.

It’s a marathon, not a sprint, as the refried adage goes, and never has this been more apparent than in the 2011 postseason.

Gone are the Tampa Bay Rays, with their sparkling young pitching staff. So long, Phillies, with your insanely ludicrous looking rotation—arguably one of the best of all time— that broke down when it mattered most. In their stead, a collection of Godzillian sluggers capable of somehow managing to put it over the wall with a broken-bat check swing: Pujols, Berkman, Holliday; Hamilton, Kinsler and Cruz.

By my estimation, both teams have at least 4-5 guys who can literally blow a game wide open with one swing, who can control any contest with nothing more than four plate appearances. The same cannot be said of the pitching staffs of either squad.

St. Louis ace Chris Carpenter— the best starting pitcher on either team– looked shaky in his last start against the Brewers, going only 5 innings and giving up 3 runs.

And things weren’t much better for the Rangers. Aside from a respectfully decent ALCS outing from Matt Harrison, the other three starters—C.J. Wilson, Colby Lewis and Derek Holland—combined for an average ERA of 7.23.

How’s that for pitching?

And defense? C’mon… 

As B. Travern wrote in 1927’s classic novel The Treasure of the Sierra Madre:

“Defense, to god-damned hell with defense! We have no defense. In fact, we don’t need defense. I don’t have to show you any stinking defense, you god-damned cabrón and ching’ tu madre!

(Though my Spanish is admittedly rusty, I believe the last two sentiments are intended for Cardinals’ skipper Tony La Russa, specifically in relation to his aggravating super-micromanagement of the St. Louis bullpen… but hey, it works, right?)

So this time, unlike my Championship Series preview, there will be no wasted keystrokes examining the chasm between the opponents’ defense and pitching, between their hitting and fielding. Why? Because the bottom line is, this game will not be won with curveballs and cutters, by pitchers finessing the outside corner with a slow, elegant breaking pitch. This game will be decided with 425-foot blasts to the second deck of the Ballpark in Arlington, and doubles smashed off of the wall in New Busch Stadium.

For baseball purists—those who detest the DH and still keep their own score while watching the game—I say good luck. May your carpal not get tunneled as you feverishly scribble with your pencil nub in a vain effort to keep up.

This figures to be one hell of a ride.

And to those on Facebook and Twitter decrying an unexciting, lackluster matchup, I ask simply: are you high? Look, the Cardinals are the National League’s version of New York’s Evil Empire. In terms of championships, they’re second only to the Yankees. The Rangers? Never won one. Hey, it’s only the second time they’ve been.

Simply put, it’s a classic battle of good and evil, of the haves and have-nots. How can you not pick a side, I wonder?

And when the dust settles, and 7 games have passed, I hereby declare that we have a brand spanking new, first time World Series Champion. Shout it from the rooftops, people.


World Series Game 1, Wednesday 7:05 CT, Fox

Texas Rangers (Wilson) @ St. Louis Cardinals (Carpenter)


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10 Responses to Leftridge: World Series Slugfest: The Pitchers Won’t Win, ‘Cause the Hitters Won’t Quit

  1. smartman says:

    Confusedus Says
    Good pitching ALWAYS beats good hitting. We just haven’t seen any good pitching in the post-season this year.

    If you can’t get real money for your efforts you might wanna ask one of your bosses to drop your name in on the masthead. Botello, McTavish and Juarez are still listed and they haven’t done squat in ages. A little RESPECT is in order, NO?

  2. Orphan of the Road says:

    These two teams have it figured differently about pitching. They don’t have a stud #1, or #2 for that matter. They had competent starters but a bullpen full of arms.

    The pitching didn’t don in the Phillies, it was their typical trip to the playoffs and they leave the bats at home. And a manager who doesn’t seem to have a clue about adjusting his lineup to put people who are hitting in to relieve those in a slump.

    I just hope Joe Buck doesn’t have to stay up late for the games, they bore him so much.

  3. jed says:

    who could

  4. PB says:

    Odd Post
    In regards to the lack of pitching. Orphan’s right, the two teams that are in the WS are there BECAUSE of their backend PITCHING. Cards won because of LaRussa’s deft use (often bringing former closer Salas in for early shutdown innings) of his bullpen and Texas made it with its two bullpen STARTERS (Ogando & Feldman) and trade deadline additions Mike Adams/Mike Gonzalez.

    Yes, the starters have been decidely average (or worse), but both teams bullpens have been stellar and last time I checked, those guys are still considered pitchers. To just fart this off as a Series of bad pitching completely misses the point of what makes a pitching staff. Last year, the Giants did it with their starting staff, this year in a Series with two better than average offensive teams, the best bullpen will probably be the deciding factor.

    Just an FYI…
    Rangers bullpen = 2.34 ERA with 37 strikeouts in 421 / 3 innings in the playoffs
    Cards bullpen = 2.55 ERA, .177 opponents batting average this postseason

  5. Brandon Leftridge says:

    PB– no, you’re completely right. I was obviously sensationalizing the pitching woes by only telling part of the story. The fact of the matter is, both of the bullpens have been lights out this postseason, a stark contrast from the regular season where Texas was middle of the pack with most of their bullpen statistics and the Cardinals– who really turned it around over the last two months– were pretty awful.

  6. Hearne Christopher says:

    We are in the process of redoing the site

  7. Hearne Christopher says:

    Click on the “sports” button and it’s all Brandon all of the time!

  8. chuck says:

    I am not a fervent baseball fan,
    but I read this cause Leftridge wrote it.

    Hearne, ya hit a home run with this kid.

    Great article.

  9. Brandon Leftridge says:

    I really appreciate that, Chuck.

  10. PB says:

    Great Series
    So far! Even though it hasn’t played out quite the way many of us thought (more runs?), it has been exciting and very well-played thus far. I expect the run production to go up some when they get to the warmer air of Texas and the more hitter-friendly BP@A. Huge swing with the Rangers winning last night’s game in the fashion they did. How Cards bounce back from that will be key. Did LaRussa’s “overmanaging” catch up with him last night? I would have left the flame-thrower in there to face the one-armed Hamilton, but no pitcher is safe under TLR. Oh well, no real dog in this fight (although I favor Texas) so I’d like to see it go at least 6 or 7 games which I think it will.

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