2013 World Series Preview: St. Louis Cardinals vs. Boston Red Sox
On Wednesday, the 109th edition of the World Series will take to the field, with the National League champion St. Louis Cardinals taking the field at Fenway Park against the American League champion Boston Red Sox. This will be the fourth time that these two teams have squared off for the championship of Major League Baseball (MLB), with the Red Sox holding a 2-1 lead in those Series events. It is also the first time since 1999 that the teams with the best record in each league have been able to make it to the Fall Classic (and both teams finished the season with identical 97-65 records).
From that last simple statistic, this should be one of the most competitive World Series clashes in recent memory. Both teams have solid units across the board, but somebody has to win; let’s break down the teams in the main categories and take a look at some of the key components of each team that will drive them to the World Series title.
During the regular season, the Cardinals were the fifth ranked team overall in team pitching, with the staff yielding a 3.42 ERA and a .249 batting average. Perhaps because of the band box that is Fenway Park, the Sox pitching staff was in the middle of MLB, giving up a 3.79 ERA and a .248 batting average over the course of the season.
In the postseason, both teams have excelled on the mound. The Cards’ ERA has dropped to 2.34 in the 11 games that they have played and their opponents’ batting average has dropped to a miniscule .207. Boston, on the other hand, has a 3.05 ERA over their ten games and an opposing batting average of .242.
Postseason baseball is all about hot pitching shutting down bats and Game One will feature two outstanding starters. Adam Wainwright steps up to take the ball for the Cardinals and Jon Lester takes the hill for the Sox and both will do their jobs well. It will be the depths of the starting rotation, however, that will make the difference.
Although Cardinal rookie Michael Wacha has been the star of the postseason to this point (taking the NLCS Most Valuable Player) award, the Cardinals get a bit weaker after him and Wainwright. The Sox will follow Lester up John Lackey, Ryan Dempster and Jake Peavey, giving them an edge despite what the statistics state overall. Add into the mix a solid closer for Boston in ALCS MVP Koji Uehara and it’s…
EDGE: Red Sox
The Cardinals were also one of the top fielding teams in MLB during the 2013 season, finishing fourth in the league with a fielding percentage of .988 and only committing 75 errors. The Red Sox were only a few steps behind them, finishing eighth with a .987 fielding percentage on 80 errors. The two teams are neck-and-neck during the postseason, with Boston’s .992 fielding percentage ever so slightly lower than St. Louis’ .933 (both have three errors).
The key to the fielding matchups will come up the middle of the field. Cardinals’ catcher Yadier Molina has had the best offensive season of his career while not dropping any of his defensive prowess. He vastly outpaces Sox C Jarrod Saltalamacchia in every department, but his biggest skill will be in keeping Sox base runners out of scoring position.
The 2B/SS combos will basically play even (Sox have Dustin Pedroia and Stephen Drew while the Cards counter with Matt Carpenter and Pete Kozma), as will center field (Jacoby Ellsbury vs. Jon Jay). The Cards’ total defense, however slight, is better than that of the Red Sox, however.
The two teams were first (Boston, .277 AVG, most runs scored in MLB with 853) and third (St. Louis, .254 AVG and 783 runs) during the regular season and are 1-2 (Boston/St. Louis) in the postseason. While the Cardinals have some big bats (Matt Holliday and Carlos Beltran lead the way, with Molina, David Freese and a returning Allen Craig for the WS), the Red Sox can counter with some pop of their own (Shane Victorino, Mike Napoli, DH David Ortiz, Ellsbury and Pedroia).
The Cardinals are the ones at risk in this department, however. They suffered a significant power outage at several points during the NLCS (as witnessed by their .210 batting average) which, for a team with lesser pitching, might have derailed their title hopes. Boston, on the other hand, hasn’t had such issues; they have been the most consistent team, season-wise as well as the postseason, and the home field advantage should play nicely into their hands.
EDGE: Red Sox
There is no way to tell how the two managers, Boston’s John Farrell and St. Louis’ Mike Matheny, will handle their first trips to the Fall Classic. Both are solid game tacticians who shouldn’t make a huge mistake in any step of the game. Thus, you have to give this one a push.
I hate to do it (as a die-hard Yankee fan), but there’s just too much going Boston’s way to see them not taking down the 2013 World Series crown. They were the dominant team throughout the season in the AL (while St. Louis faced an insurrection from Cincinnati and Pittsburgh in battling its way to the NL Central crown and a Dodgers unit that was ravaged by injuries by the time the postseason came). It isn’t going to be easy for the Sox, however. I see a split in Games 1 and 2, the Red Sox taking two of three in St. Louis over the weekend, the Cardinals taking Game Six and, ultimately…
PREDICTION: Red Sox in 7
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