Tigers will take it

Scouting Report

World Series

October 21, 2006|By DAN CONNOLLY

Catcher

Detroit's Ivan Rodriguez vs. St. Louis' Yadier Molina

Rodriguez is 34, his power has decreased and he is no longer the sport's best defensive catcher. But he's still a complete player, and his attitude soars when he's winning. He remains the guy to have behind the plate in a big game. Ten years younger, Molina is a Rodriguez wannabe, a stocky fellow Puerto Rican with excellent defensive skills and occasional power. His ninth-inning homer in Game 7 of the National League Championship Series put the Cardinals into the World Series. But he hasn't proved he can hit consistently.

Edge: Tigers

First base

Detroit's Sean Casey/Carlos Guillen vs. St. Louis' Albert Pujols

The Tigers are in a tough spot here. If Casey (left calf) is healthy, he makes the defense better and provides a clutch veteran bat. He says he'll play and he'll likely get a chance to at least DH while the Series is in Detroit. If Casey can't play first, shortstop Guillen would likely fill in. No matter the configuration, the Cards win hands down here. Pujols, bad hamstring and all, is still baseball's best player. And he'd be the choice at 70 percent healthy against any other first baseman.

Edge: Cardinals

Second base

Detroit's Placido Polanco vs. St. Louis' Ronnie Belliard

Polanco, the ALCS Most Valuable Player, could be the league's most underrated player. He can flat-out hit and is solid defensively. He's also the Tigers' glue, and that was evident when he was out for a month near season's end and the team struggled. Belliard was a nice midseason pickup, and offers stability at what was a gaping hole for the Cardinals. He's only a complementary guy, though.

Edge: Tigers

Shortstop

Detroit's Guillen/Omar Infante/Ramon Santiago vs. St. Louis' David Eckstein

This is only a carousel for Detroit if Guillen is needed at first base. Guillen has underappreciated power and is praised by teammates for doing little things well. The backups can play defense but are limited offensively. Eckstein is the quintessential underdog who gets the most out of his ability. When he is on, he is a catalyst at the plate and tremendously fun to watch. When he's off, he can bunt and run and do little else.

Edge: Tigers, if Guillen plays shortstop

Third base

Detroit's Brandon Inge vs. St. Louis' Scott Rolen

It's hard to believe, but Inge may be a better bet than Rolen right now. Inge had more homers (27-22) and has made spectacular plays this postseason. Most important, Inge is healthy, and the same can't be said for St. Louis' respected veteran. Rolen is known to play injured, and his shoulder is ailing him. It's great to be a gamer, but he might be hurting his team if he can't be the Rolen of old.

Edge: Tigers

Right field

Detroit's Magglio Ordonez vs. St. Louis' Juan Encarnacion

Ordonez had just four hits in the ALCS, but two went over the fence in Game 4, including the three-run series-winner. He has tremendous power and a rocket arm. Encarnacion is a solid 30-year-old veteran. Like most Cardinals, he does what he needs to do, but he won't wow you.

Edge: Tigers

Center field

Detroit's Curtis Granderson vs. St. Louis' Jim Edmonds

This is a tough one. Granderson, a top defender who impressed in his first full year, provides a combination of power and speed. He's still somewhat raw, but when he gets on base, the Tigers win. Edmonds remains the best NL defensive center fielder north of Atlanta's Andruw Jones. Injury and advancing age have limited his effectiveness. He's tough to pick against during crunch time, though.

Edge: Even

Left field

Detroit's Craig Monroe vs. Scott Spiezio/Preston Wilson

Monroe is another unsung hero on a team filled with them. He had 28 homers in the regular season and handled the bat adeptly when asked to hit second in the ALCS. Normally, he, Inge and DH Marcus Thames give the Tigers a rare power threat in the bottom third of the lineup. A solid platoon of Spiezio and Wilson - with a touch of So Taguchi or Chris Duncan - holds its own. Spiezio, who also plays third base when Rolen is out, is money in the postseason.

Edge: Tigers, slightly

Designated hitter/bench

Detroit's Marcus Thames and others vs. St. Louis' Chris Duncan and others

Thames is the only one with lots of pop here, but seldom-used Alexis Gomez came up big with a homer and four RBIs in Game 2 of the ALCS. And the Tigers' group of middle infielders provides flexibility. Duncan, a rookie who hit 22 homers in 280 at-bats, will likely get DH time, as might Spiezio and Taguchi, who had a big homer of his own in the NLCS. Tony La Russa loves using his bench, and this is a deep group.

Edge: Cardinals

Rotation

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