With abundant respect to the Arizona Diamondbacks, their manager, their players, their social-media team, Phoenix resident Alice Cooper, Kurt and Brenda Warner, Michael Bidwill, old friend Tommy Pham, the spirit of Barry Goldwater – and anyone else who has been near a cactus – please forgive me in advance for believing the Texas Rangers will prevail in the 2023 World Series.
I’m not even sure about that. Baseball’s postseason is turbulent, volatile and insane. Making predictions is a foolish endeavor. The 2006 Cardinals (83 wins) have been where you are now. One day your worn-out and looking like an also-ran team … and then you’re riding with Clydesdales in a downtown World Series parade.
It’s hysterical – and now annoying – to see the Diamondbacks still complain and show receipts and call out anyone who thought they’d lose to the Brewers, Dodgers and Phillies. Enough with the Coach Prime routine. You have not been disrespected. You were underestimated … and the reasons were legitimate.
To Los Serpientes: you won 84 games this season. You ended your regular season by getting swept in a three-game series at home. Even with your excellent and wonderful 9-3 run through the National League playoffs, you enter the World Series with a minus run differential on the season. You deserve immense credit for putting every aspect of your game together in time to pull this off, but y’all need to stop being so oversensitive about all of the galoots out there who assumed – logically – that you’d be eliminated by now.
Hey, I just want to see an entertaining twisty-turny World Series that goes the full seven games. I’m not even crabby that this matchup will be a meeting of lowest combined seeds in a World Series. The Rangers are a No. 5 seed. The Diamondbacks are a No. 6.
Ever since the lords of baseball began splitting up the old single-league format – NL vs. AL, straight to the World Series, no playoffs – there’s been plenty of chaos. And if you’ve done to receive an invitation to the party, then you can take advantage of the opportunity, win the whole damn thing, and dance the night away.
This year’s series will give us a ninth different World Series champion in 10 years. The Houston Astros are the only repeat winner, winning it all in 2017 and 2022.
Compared to the other sports, baseball’s postseason is the most disconnected from the regular-season. And probably the most disconnected from probability and reality.
As baseball writer Travis Sawchik pointed out, No. 1 seeds have have won 53% of Super Bowl titles.
In NBA postseason history, No. 1 seeds have grabbed 57.3% of the league championships.
During MLB’s wild-card era open house, only 41 percent of World Series championships have been won by the No. 1 seeds. And now that six teams from each league are in the postseason tournament every season, that percentage will go down.
With an expanded 16-team format in place since the 1980 Stanley Cup playoffs, only 15.5% of No. 1 seeds have captured the big trophy.
DIAMONDBACKS VS. RANGERS
I’m just keeping the simple with a general breakdown of the key areas:
BETTER LINEUP: Texas. The Rangers have more home-run voltage and are equally strong against righties and lefties. They rank among the top five in the majors against pitchers who throw from either side. Per wRC+, the Diamondbacks were 17th against RHP and 23rd against LH pitching this season.
BETTER STARTING PITCHING: Draw. This postseason Arizona and Texas have virtually the same starting-pitching ERA – 3.62 for the Rangers, 3.63 for the Diamondbacks. Zac Gallen and Merrill Kelly are the top two starters for Arizona. Texas has Jordan Montgomery and Ethan Eovaldi at the top of their rotation. Another Rangers starter – you may have heard of Max Scherzer – could be the X Factor in this starting-pitching battle.
BETTER BULLPEN: Manager Torey Lovullo did a fantastic job of remixing his bullpen late in the season. Arizona relievers had a 2.31 ERA in September, and a 2.94 in the NL playoffs. The Texas bullpen was pretty shaky in 2023 with more blown saves than games saved. Their Ranger bullpen has been better in the postseason with a 3.72 ERA. But manager Bruce Bochy really relies on three guys, Jose Leclerc, Aroldis Chapman and Josh Sborz. Arizona has a larger and more capable cast. ANd high-leverage guys Paul Sewald and Kevin Ginkel have been just about perfect this postseason – not allowing a run in 18 combined innings – with strikeout rates above 36 percent.
BETTER DEFENSE: Very close. Arizona 4th and Texas 7th in defensive runs saved. The Rangers had a better better defensive efficiency rating. This is about even.
BETTER SPEED: Arizona, for sure. The D-Backs were second in MLB with 166 stolen bases and did it with an outstanding 86 percent success rate. They’re 8 for 8 in postseason steal attempts. During the regular season Arizona had the fourth-best percentage (46%) in extra bases taken on hits and other batted balls in play. The Rangers ranked 27th in that category.
MANAGER: Both managers are among the best. But Bochy already has won three World Series. The Rangers are the third different team he’s led to a spot in the World Series. And his teams have a 45-20 record in his last 65 postseason games. Bochy is universally praised for his acumen in running bullpens. He’ll have to show that again, because the vulnerable Rangers bullpen – good or bad – could determine the outcome.
HOME AND ROAD: Both teams have thrived in road games this postseason. The Rangers are 8-0, the Diamondbacks are 6-2.
THE CHOICE: Rangers in 7.
Thanks for reading …
Bernie hosts an opinionated sports-talk show on 590 The Fan, KFNS. It airs 3-6 p.m. on Monday through Thursday and 4-6 p.m. on Friday. You can stream it live or access the show podcast on 590thefan.com or through the 590 The Fan St. Louis app.
Please follow Bernie on Twitter @miklasz
All stats used in my baseball columns are sourced from FanGraphs, Baseball Reference, StatHead, Baseball Savant, Fielding Bible and Baseball Prospectus unless otherwise noted.
For the last 35 years Bernie Miklasz has entertained, enlightened, and connected with generations of St. Louis sports fans.
While best known for his voice as the lead sports columnist at the Post-Dispatch for 26 years, Bernie has also written for The Athletic, Dallas Morning News and Baltimore News American. Bernie has hosted radio shows in St. Louis, Dallas, Baltimore and Washington D.C.
Bernie, his wife Kirsten and their cats reside in the Skinker-DeBaliviere neighborhood of St. Louis.