The moment is here for all baseball fans. The 2013 World Series is here and features the St. Louis Cardinals and the Boston Red Sox. The Cardinals outlasted the Pittsburgh Pirates in the NLDS and dominated the LA Dodgers in the NLCS. The Boston Red Sox comfortably handled the Tampa Bay Rays in the ALDS and outlasted the Detroit Tigers in the ALCS. What can we make out of this series? Who will win the 2013 World Series? Can the Cardinals continue their tear? Can the Red Sox return to the top of the heap in a worst to first season? Let’s take a look at the league champions regular and post-seasons to come up with a logical winner. Of course they still have to play the game.
St Louis Cardinals
The St Louis Cardinals were near the bottom of the National League in home runs but that is not reflective of this offense. They were second in team batting average (.269), first in doubles and lead the National League in runs scored and on base percentage. Yadier Molina is not only an incredible defensive catcher and game caller but also hit almost .320. Up and comers Matt Carpenter and Allen Craig are just solid with both hitting over .310, Craig driving in almost 100 and Carpenter scoring over 125 runs. Veterans Matt Holiday and Carlos Beltran are just getting the job done as they have over the previous decade. They do have a huge void in team speed but when players start out at second base that helps hide the issue. A solid offensive club up and down the lineup.
The St Louis Cardinals had a solid but not exceptional pitching staff. The team was fifth in the National League in ERA at 3.42. They held opposing teams to a .244 batting average (sixth) and struck out 1,294 good for fifth in the National League. They have a true ace in Adam Wainwright who went 19-9 in the regular season with a 2.94 ERA. He also struck out over 200 and was impressive winning both his starts in the NLDS. Lance Lynn is solid and they have budding stars in Shelby Miller and Michael Wacha coupled with a good but not phenomenal back end of Trevor Rosenthal and Edward Mujica. They will not knock your socks off but they are a complete staff.
Offensively it has been shocking through the NLDS and NLCS to see the Cardinals potent offense only hit a combined .210 and carry a low .285 on base percentage yet uncharacteristically they are second among all teams that played in each LCS in home runs and still scored a bunch of runs. The pitching has been phenomenal with a 2.34 ERA throughout the playoffs and a 2.09 ERA in the NLCS. Adam Wainwright has been exactly what an ace should be pitching 23 innings and only allowing four runs encompassing a 1.57 ERA. But what is more remarkable is Michael Wacha who only made his major league debut at the end of May. During this post season he pitched 21 innings and only gave up one run. That’s right, he has a 0.43 ERA and has only allowed eight hits in three starts. The Cardinals hope he never wakes up.
What Needs To Happen
The Cardinals need Adam Wainwright and Michael Wacha to continue to not let the playoff atmosphere bother them. If both continue their incredible outings and save the bullpen then the opposition could be in for a short series. The combination of Joe Kelly and Lance Lynn must pitch better to take some pressure of the front two. They do not have to be lights out but they must combine for at least one quality start. Nothing can happen to Yadier Molina as he controls the Cardinals pitching staff. He accounts for at least a run saved per outing. The offense must get on track somehow. Matt Holiday must bounce back from a less than stellar NLCS and Matt Carpenter must continue the upward momentum from the previous round. However, some David Freese magic and some timely hitting just might be enough.
Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox have been front runners throughout the 2013 season taking the lead and controlling the American League East winning 97 games in 2013. The Red Sox were second in the American League in team batting average (.277), fifth in home runs (178), scored 57 more runs than any other team in the American League and were third in stolen bases. David Ortiz was on the shelf to start the season but in 136 games he drove in over 100 and hit 30 home runs all while managing an OPS of .959. When Dustin Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury are in the lineup they combined for over 180 runs and 69 stolen bases while only being caught nine times. Add the additions of Mike Napoli and Shane Victorino to the previously mentioned players and the Red Sox have speed, power and an uncanny ability to score runs making them an offensive threat to any rotation they will face. To say the Red Sox had a dominant offense in the regular season would be an understatement.
Their staff is not bad but they are just a couple of ticks above average overall and have been held up by their offense. The Red Sox team ERA of 3.79 puts them in the top half of the American League but nothing special. Outside of the fragile Clay Buchholz, John Lackey carries the lowest qualifying ERA of the starts at 3.53 and the other three starters have an ERA north of 4.00. The Red Sox had hoped for much more than 8-9 with a 4.57 ERA when they brought in Ryan Dempster. Koji Uehara has been an out of nowhere surprise for the Red Sox this year with a 1.09 ERA and 0.57 WHIP as the teams closer. As good as he has been if the Red Sox can’t get it to the bullpen with the lead it can be problematic.
The Red Sox scored the most runs of any playoff qualifying team on the run to the World Series. They were also the only team to steal over 10 bases and have an OBP over .320. Jacoby Ellsbury is flourishing hitting over .400 throughout the playoffs while stealing bases with controlled aggression. David Ortiz had an uncharacteristically poor ALCS but not even Ortiz can do it all the time. The Red Sox have taken turns in each series with Victorino and Ortiz in the ALDS while Napoli picked up the slack in a phenomenal ALCS performance. Jon Lester has been like his former self in three starts with a 2.33 ERA and striking out 14 in 19.1 innings. John Lackey has done more that many would have thought in 12 innings of work leading up to the World Series. Their ace Clay Buchholz has been a shell of himself in the post season with a just under 6.00 ERA and giving up over a hit per inning pitched.
What Needs To Happen
The dimensions of Fenway Park can be a challenge for opposing teams and the Green Monster just might decide this series. But for the Red Sox to win another World Series some other things will have to go right. Clay Buchholz must regain form as the ace of the staff while Jon Lester and John Lackey must continue to pitch solid baseball. Neither of them can afford an off night for the Red Sox to win. If they have an off night, Jake Peavy will be asked to show why the Red Sox traded away a talented youngster for his services. David Ortiz must return to his normal playoff form while Mike Napoli and Jacoby Ellsbury must continue to will the Red Sox to victory. They must press Yadier Molina by running and running often. They have a clear speed advantage and must manufacture a few runs during the series to win.
Up Next: Predicting the Winner and Why