I didn't watch as much of the preview coverage for the World Series as I could have because the five minutes an hour they spend talking about baseball on ESPN is inevitably sandwiched between twenty minutes of commercials and forty minutes of football talk. I don't know which is more tedious. Of what I saw, picks tended to divide into groups -- people who hadn't actually been watching any of the playoffs, who liked the Phillies, and genuine baseball fans, who favored the Rays. "Because they have Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Howard" is a bad reason to pick Philadelphia, since neither star has hit a lick in the whole postseason. "Because Joe Blanton, Jamie Moyer, and Brett Myers are better than James Shields, Matt Garza, and Andy Sonnanstine" is just asinine. As for the Phillies' wizened bullpen being better than the Rays' group of retreads and no-names... well, that remains to be seen. It will probably be what decides the series.
The two games in St. Pete went exactly as the chalk said they would. Cole Hamels, the best pitcher in the series, won Game 1 for Philadelphia. Then the Rays came back in Game 2 with a solid performance by Shields and a well-handled sequence of bullpen choices by Joe Maddon. Rollins, Howard, and Chase Utley all had multiple chances to flip the script on the home team, but they could not. Howard's struggles have been more publicized but he did hit the ball solidly a few times. Rollins, on the other hand, looks completely lost. Maybe he should make a guarantee before the series shifts to Philly.
The Phillies do have more name stars, such as it is, but they also have a way more frontloaded lineup. Jayson Werth, Carlos Ruiz, and Pedro Feliz are all not very good. They have, in short, the kind of lineup that's perfectly good for the National League. In addition to a heart of the lineup (Upton, Longoria, Peña) that's as good as what Philadelphia is sending out there the Rays have guys who would all be above-average NL offensive players from front to back.
Hamels is going to win his other start and the Rays are going to win the rest. That gives them the series in six games, as predicted. It's been cool to see such quick, crisp baseball being played in the Fall Classic, isn't? A lot of credit goes to both managers for not going into matchup paralysis mode and employing four arms an inning in the seventh and eighth.