Written by Joe Hubbs & Media by Ryan St. Hill
It’s decided. The Boston Red Sox and St Louis Cardinals will face off for the 2013 World Series title. Both clubs did away with their counterparts in the championship round and now the young Cardinals have a chance to avenge their 2004 team’s embarrassing loss to Boston.
Quite a bit of history exists between the two franchises in World Series play. The last time these two teams met was in the Fall Classic of 2004 when monstrous at bats by Manny Ramirez and the infamous bloody sock performance of Curt Schilling propelled Boston to an easy four game sweep of St. Louis to break the “Curse of the Bambino.” The two previous meetings, way back in 1946 and 1967, were both won by the Cardinals. Legends Stan Musial and Ted Williams battled in their first meeting in 1946, and the series was finally decided by the “Mad Dash” of Enos Slaughter, scoring from first base on a single by Harry Walker. In the 1967 series the Cardinals all-time leader in wins and strikeouts, Bob Gibson, shut down the thirsty Red Sox. Gibson was masterful, winning three of the Cardinals four wins, with a series ERA of 1.00.
As it stands, the Cardinals lead the all-time matchup 2-1, and the Red Sox look to tie it up in the 2013 World Series. Both the Sox and Cards share the best record in baseball with 97 wins and 65 losses, the first time since 1999 that the two best teams in each league have faced each other in the last series of the season. Each club has a good mix of power and pitching, but who has the edge? Will the Cardinals young roster falter under the pressure? Does Boston’s rotation have the gas to limit an offense that hit .33o with RISP? Let’s take a look at each position and analyze which team has the best shot at winning this series.
1st Base: The Cardinals’ Matt Adams heated up at the end of the regular season filling in for Allen Craig. The burley lefty is full of pop, but cannot seem to hit the ball to the opposite field. If he does not prove that he can hit the ball to both fields, then the Red Sox will keep the exaggerated shift to the right side that every other team has implemented on Adams, and he will remain a nonfactor. As for Boston, Mike Napoli has only driven in three runs this postseason, but he absolutely torched the Cardinals in the 2011 World Series when he played with Texas. The bearded wonder has come up with a reputation for timely postseason hitting, and should be a handful for Cardinals pitching in this series. First goes to Boston.
2nd Base: This is perhaps the most intriguing matchup of the series. Dustin Pedroia and Matt Carpenter each had all-star seasons. Carpenter led the NL in runs scored and doubles, and led all second basemen in batting average. However, his production slipped in the NLDS and he is still searching for that stroke that made him the MVP caliber player he was during the regular season. Pedroia experienced a down year in power, hitting only nine homeruns. Regardless, the former MVP only struck out two more times than he walked this year-he gets on base. Along with stellar defensive ability, the Laser Show wins this position battle as well, but by a small margin.
3rd Base: Two years ago no one would debate the greatness of David Freese. Watching him play lately you wonder if he is the same person. Freese’s numbers this year were atrocious, and Frosty simply can’t hit an outside breaking pitch. Glimpses of the 2011 World Series hero have shown up sporadically in the playoffs, but his average is still a miserable .189. Cardinals’ fans can only hope some of the Freese magic creeps up soon. Third base has been a mystery for the Red Sox this year. Will Middlebrooks impressed the club in his 2012 campaign with 15 homeruns as a replacement for the often injured Kevin Youkilis, but when the job was his to lose at the start of the year he could not put the bat on the ball. Middlebrooks slowly faded and received an option to the minors, but the Sox think they have found their guy at the hot corner in Xander Bogaerts. Bogaerts does what Freese is not doing, and that is consistently getting on base. He has hit .500 since starting in the playoffs, and has scored seven times. The experience edge has to go to Freese, but right now it looks like Boston’s young guy is going to have a bigger impact in the series.
Shortstop: Shortstop appears to be tailing back to its roots as a defensive specialist position. Neither team boasts a particularly good hitting shortstop; in fact, Pete Kozma and Stephen Drew underperform at the plate every day in the big leagues. They both have reputations as slick fielders, but Kozma’s nerves in the spotlight have killed the Cards in the playoffs before, and for that you have to give Drew a meager edge. Overall, expect both guys to hit ninth and contribute little other than a wizardly play in the field.
Catcher: No discussion needed- Yadier Molina is the greatest catcher in the game of baseball. Period. He possesses the most feared arm behind the plate and limits the running game. Also, he calls a terrific game for his pitchers, and he can handle the bat pretty well. The only thing Jarrod Saltalamacchia can boast against Molina is the length of his name.
Left Field: Matt Holliday at age 33 still remains a solid hitter, and gives the Redbirds a much needed power bat. The Cards slugger hit .300 this season and drove in 94 runs before hitting two key blasts in the playoffs. Holliday is a bit shaky in the outfield, and does not always come up big in clutch situations, but just his presence in the lineup is a little scary. Boston is going to send out a platoon in left field consisting of Daniel Nava and Jonny Gomes, neither of whom will compare to what Holliday is capable. Give left to the Cards.
Center Field: Jon Jay can field his position as good as anyone in center. However, the Chief Justice has begun to lose playing time to Shane Robinson due to his lack of aggression at the plate, and Shane has produced with a homer and three RBI’s. Neither guy can contend with Jacoby Ellsbury though. Ellsbury’s numbers have begun to slip over the past couple of years, but he still led the league with 52 stolen bases. Even if Yadi can shut him down on the base paths, Ellsbury gives Boston speed to protect Fenway’s oddly shaped outfield. Another edge for Boston.
Right Field: These two guys have such different talents it is hard to determine who has the edge in right. I think you have to give it to Carlos Beltran for his postseason numbers alone. Beltran shines in clutch situations with the bat and on the field- the man just passed Babe Ruth on the all-time postseason homerun list. He will not make some of the plays in the outfield that Shane Victorino, the Flyin’ Hawaiian will, but without his bat the Cards aren’t even in the World Series. Victorino, who just recently gave up switch hitting, has the ability to hurt the Cardinals with speed, but after posting a .125 average in the ALCS it is hard to see him ever making it to a base. Give both corner outfield spots to the Cards.
DH: Because St. Louis does not even have a designated hitter, Boston wins this position. Even if you consider Allen Craig the Cardinals DH, he does not hold a stick to Big Papi. Yes, Craig drove in 97 runs, but David Ortiz is the reason that old power hitters can still play in the big leagues. He has set the bar for every DH for years to come. Big Papi has smashed three homers thus far in the postseason, including a monster grand slam that started a Red Sox comeback in a thrilling game 2 ALCS victory. Honestly, Ortiz is the scariest hitter on either team as he has the ability to pounce at any time. When they travel to Busch Stadium don’t expect anything other than pinch hitting duties, but in Boston beware!
Starting Pitching: Cardinals: Adam Wainwright, Michael Wacha, Joe Kelly, Lance Lynn
Red Sox: Jon Lester, John Lackey, Clay Buchholz, Jake Peavy
When a starting rotation has a playoffs ERA of 2.57, it is hard to deny that they are the best. These four guys on the Cardinals staff did just that. Wacha, a 22 year old NLCS MVP is the biggest reason for that. In three starts, the kid has an ERA of 0.43 and a WHIP of 0.57-numbers that are insane for anyone, let alone a kid just one year removed from pitching in college. Wainwright is also a workhorse with two wins and 24 strikeouts in four postseason starts. Kelly and Lynn both throw in the mid to upper nineties, but if their control is not there they usually get rocked. If they can stay consistent, they have the stuff to give the Sox a challenge at the plate.
Boston’s rotation has a few gray areas. Lester, like Wainwright of the Cardinals, is the workhorse for the team. He struggled early on in the season, but regained his form after the all-star break, and has posted an ERA under 2.00 in four playoff starts. Lackey has also pitched relatively well, winning both of his starts and punching out 14 batters. Because Buchholz and Peavy have pitched so atrociously, the Cards win the rotation battle. The backend of their rotation is inconsistent, but it has not been consistently bad like the two guys for Boston.
I would get into the bullpens as well, but both power hurling pens are so similar that if the game gets down to the nitty-gritty we can expect a lot of strikeouts and a lot of frustration. Overall, Boston has the edge on offense as its entire infield will probably outperform their counterparts. When you analyze pitching further, the Cardinals have better throwers, and a spectacular catcher to compliment them. My Predictions: People always say a good defense beats a good offense, but in this series I have to disagree. If the Cardinals fall behind, they struggle to come back, but Big Papi and the Red Sox have already proven that they are never out of a game, no matter how large the margin. I am going to say Boston ties the historic, all-time series 2-2 and wins this one in six games.