In the Cards or will Tigers roar?

BOB ELLIOTT -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 10:58 AM ET

DETROIT -- For the seventh consecutive October a different World Series champion will be crowned.

Will it be the St. Louis Cardinals, drained from their Game 7 win Thursday night over the New York Mets, or the Detroit Tigers, rusty since they swept the Oakland A's last Saturday?

According former Blue Jays manager Jim Fregosi, it will be the Tigers. Fregosi returns for the eighth season as the Toronto Sun's official post-season prognosticator.

"I like Detroit in five games," Fregosi said from Tarpon Springs, Fla. "The reason is their pitching. Justin Verlander, Nate Robertson and Jeremy Bonderman are all tough, top-notch guys."

The best-of-seven World Series begins tonight at Comerica Park, a rematch of both the 1968 and 1934 Series.

In managers Tony La Russa of the Cards, and Jim Leyland of the Tigers, Fregosi sees two evenly matched managers. Leyland, who had not managed since 1999 until he returned this season, had previously worked for St. Louis.

"The managers worked together (in St. Louis), have managed against each other and they're both quality managers," Fregosi said.

Neither the Tigers, who lost the AL Central and won the wild card, or the Cards, who almost were caught in the NL Central by the Houston Astros, dominated in September.

"Both got hot at the right time," Fregosi said.

All of which means the Tigers could be the fourth wild-card winner to win in the past six years, joining the Florida Marlins, the Boston Red Sox and the Anaheim Angels.

"I still don't agree that being a wild card you go into the post-season without much of a disadvantage," Fregosi said. "I've read where they are talking they won't give the wild-card winner a home game. That doesn't solve a thing if a team is hot.

"They should add two more teams and let the wild-card teams play a best-of-three as the division winners rest their starters."

The series won't be decided by which shortstop -- Carlos Guillen or David Eckstein -- gets the most hits, but looking at a position-by-position breakdown is one way of sizing up the teams.

Fregosi rates the teams below (post-season stats not included):

CATCHERS

Cards: Yadier Molina (.216, 6 HR, 49 RBI)

Tigers: Ivan Rodriguez (.300, 13, 69).

Fregosi: "They're both great defensive catchers. One can hit and one can't -- Molina -- even though Molina hit the big homer in Game 7. Both shut down running games and both will throw to any base at any time. Pudge is still the best catcher in baseball."

Rating: Rodriguez 10; Molina 6.

First base

Cards: Albert Pujols (.331, 49, 137).

Tigers: Carlos Guillen (.320, 19, 85).

Fregosi: "There's no better hitter in the game than Pujols. He has not had a good post-season, but I believe he will get hot. He's the No. 1 hitter in all of baseball for average, home runs and RBIs. He's put up numbers his first six years no one has ever done. Guillen drives in runs, has leadership ability and might be their best player. He'll start here and then return to short."

Rating: Pujols 10; Guillen 8.

Second base

Cards: Ron Belliard (.237, 5, 23).

Tigers: Placido Polanco (.295, 4, 52).

Fregosi: "Polanco is outstanding. Leyland can bunt with him, hit and run with him. Plus, he's a team player with a great attitude. Belliard plays a very deep second base. He has not swung the bat well, but he's a good fastball hitter when you leave the ball up and over the plate."

Rating: Polanco 8; Bell 5.

Third base

Cards: Scott Rolen (.294, 22, 95).

Tigers: Brandon Inge (.253, 27, 83).

Fregosi: "They're both very good third basemen. Inge has one of the best arms in the game, Rolen is hurting. He's not the same player he used to be. I'm evaluating him right now, not when he's healthy. When Merv Rettenmund was the hitting coach at Detroit he told me that Inge -- he was catching back then -- has as much as power as anyone and it has come to fruition."

Rating: Inge 6; Rolen 5.

Shortstop

Cards: David Eckstein (.292, 2, 23)

Tigers: Ramon Santiago (.225, 0, 3).

Fregosi: "Guillen is the best shortstop and he will play there eventually. He all the talent in the world and the other doesn't have much. Eckstein can't throw and doesn't have any power, but he makes up for it with all of the intangibles. He'll take a walk, will get hit by a pitch, will make opposing pitchers work. Santiago is a back-up."

Rating: Guillen 8, Eckstein 6.

Left field

Cards: Chris Duncan (.293, 22, 43) or So Taguchi (.266, 2, 31).

Tigers: Craig Munroe (.255, 28, 92).

Fregosi: "Taguchi is a fourth or fifth outfielder; he runs okay and has a below average arm. He's fundamentally sound. Duncan has a lot of holes in his swing. He's what I call a crap house or castle guy. He'll strikeout or hit a home run. Munroe is below average defensively but he has above average power. He's impressed me."

Rating: Monroe 6, Cards 4.

Centre field

Cards: Jim Edmonds (.257, 19, 70).

Tigers: Curtis Granderson (.260, 19, 68).

Fregosi: "Granderson is a young, upcoming star who someday, I think, will end up hitting third. He shows outstanding power, great ability and range. Edmonds is on the downside. Both he and his bat are on the downside after a pretty good career."

Rating: Granderson 7, Edmonds 6

Right field

Cards: Juan Encarnacion (.278, 19, 79).

Tigers: Magglio Ordonez (.294, 24, 104).

Fregosi: "Ordonez is a their RBI guy, he's a true professional hitter. He can hit the big hit as he showed this fall. Encarnacion is a tools player. He'll make mistakes. He can be pitched to but if you make a mistake he'll hit it. Good arm."

Rating: Ordonez 8, Encarnacion 6.

Designated hitter

Cards: Scott Spiezio (.272, 13, 42).

Tigers: Sean Casey (.245, 5, 30) or Marcus Thames (.256, 26, 60)

Fregosi: "Thames is the better hitter. Casey can't run, he's not a good defensive first baseman and he's a singles hitter. Spiezio has the knack of getting a big hit. He signed the big free-agent contract with the Mariners that didn't work out and now has battled back. I always thought Thames was a fourth or fifth guy but he has done a good job for them."

Rating: All 5s.

Starters

Cards: Jeff Weaver (5-4, 5.18), Chris Carpenter (15-8, 3.09), Jeff Suppan (12-7, 4.12), Anthony Reyes (5-8, 5.06).

Tigers: Justin Verlander (17-9, 3.63), Kenny Rogers (17-8, 3.84), Nate Robertson (13-13, 3.84), Jeremy Bonderman (14-8, 4.08).

Fregosi: "No contest. Detroit has probably one of the best young rotations in the game -- excluding Rogers and he fits right in there because the others are power guys and he's a finesse guy. Outside of Carpenter the Cardinals' whole rotation is unproven."

Rating: Tigers 9, Cards 5.

Relievers

Cards: Braden Looper (9-3, 3.56), Randy Flores (1-1, 5.62), Josh Hancock (3-3, 4.09), Tyler Johnson (2-4, 4.95).

Tigers: Fernando Rodney (7-4, 3.52), Joel Zumaya (6-3, 1.94), Jamie Walker (0-1, 2.81), Jason Grilli (2-3, 4.21)

Fregosi: "No comparison, Zumaya is a monster. Rodney has a great arm. No one in the Cards' bullpen matches up with them."

Rating: Tigers 9, Cards 6.

Closers

Cards: Adam Wainright (2-1, 3.12, three saves).

Tigers: Todd Jones (2-6, 3.94, 37 saves).

Fregosi: "One guy (Jones) has experience, the other guy (Wainright) doesn't. Wainwright has an outstanding curve and has filled in OK for Jason Isringhauson. Jones is a fastball, cutter guy. You have to go with the experienced guy."

Rating: Jones 8, Wainwright 6.


Photos