Chris Duncan on M&M: ‘Pitching wise, I’ve got to give it to the Cardinals’
|10.22.13 at 12:53 pm ET|
It’s been an interesting turn of events for St. Louis over the past few seasons. Despite losing three-time MVP Albert Pujols to free agency at the end of the 2011 season, the Cardinals have still been going strong, as they advanced to the NLCS in 2012 and made it to their 19th Fall Classic this season.
“I think a lot of people in the St. Louis area wanted to see Albert Pujols stay. At the same time, I think they knew the organization couldn’t afford to pay him 250 million bucks,” Duncan said. “And the pick that they got in return for letting Albert go to Anaheim is the pick that they used on Michael Wacha. And guys, this guy is an absolute stud.
“So I think once Wacha stepped up to the big leagues and people saw what they got in return for losing Albert Pujols, people started really crediting [Cardinals general manager] John Mozeliak and the front office, and I think they did the right thing in this situation.”
Unlike the Tigers, whose shaky bullpen was exploited by the Red Sox in the ALCS, the Cardinals boast one of the strongest bullpens in the league, as well as an imposing starting rotation. Boston likely will need to exploit St. Louis’ baserunning and defense if the Sox have a shot at winning their eighth World Series title.
“I think the Cardinals’ strength is their pitching — their starting rotation, their bullpen,” Duncan said. “But I do think there’s a question mark as far as their speed goes. They’ve got a slow lineup, they’re not great defensively. They’ve got guys that can make the plays, but as far as range is considered, I think Boston’s probably faster and they probably got a better defense, but pitching wise, I’ve got to give it to the Cardinals.”
The Cardinals will receive a big boost in the World Series, as first baseman Allen Craig will return and likely serve as the team’s designated hitter in Game 1. Craig, who led the team in RBIs (97), has not played since Sept. 4 after suffering a ligament injury in his left foot. Craig has been incredible this season in clutch situations, as he hit .454 with runners in scoring position, the best mark amongst any MLB hitter in 2013.
“I think Allen Craig is one of the better hitters that I’ve ever seen,” Duncan said. “I think the Cardinals are being smart right here by putting him on the roster. … I think they’re smart by playing this guy because he’s that elite and I compare him to Albert Pujols when he was in his prime.
“Think about if Albert Pujols was going through this same thing and he tells the head coach, ‘Look, I can play,’ and it’s the World Series, you would bat this guy probably in the three-hole, so maybe despite the injury Allen Craig might still be batting fourth, but it’s going to be tough because his speed is not there.”
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