Breaking down the 2013 Cards vs. Sox World Series

| Editor-in-chief

The St. Louis Cardinals and Boston Red Sox will meet in a World Series for the fourth time in history. St. Louis won the first two meetings, but the last time the teams met with a championship on the line was 2004, when Boston swept the Cardinals. Boston had momentum heading into the World Series that year following an emotional seven-game series with the rival New York Yankees. The Red Sox came back from a 3-0 deficit to advance and end the team’s World Series drought that began in 1918. The city of St. Louis and many Washington University students who have adopted the Cardinals as their favorite team will hope for a different result in 2013.

Overview:

St. Louis finished the regular season with the best record in the National League at 97-65. The Cardinals took out the Pittsburgh Pirates in five games in the National League Division Series before defeating the Los Angeles Dodgers in six games in the National League Championship Series. The Cardinals last reached the World Series in 2011, when they defeated the Texas Rangers in the seventh game before a raucous crowd at Busch Stadium.

Boston also finished the regular season with a league-best record, topping the American League with a 97-65 mark. The Red Sox topped the Tampa Bay Rays in the American League Division Series in four games and knocked off the defending AL champion Detroit Tigers in six games in the American League Championship Series. The Red Sox last reached the World Series in 2007, when the team swept the Colorado Rockies.

Manager:

Cardinals: Mike Matheny

Red Sox: John Farrell

Farrell and Matheny both had decent big-league careers and are relatively new to the managing game. Farrell, in his third season managing and first with Boston, pitched eight seasons in the majors, finishing with a career-ERA of 4.56. Matheny, in his second season managing the Cardinals, was a catcher in the majors for 13 years, including five with St. Louis. A career .239 hitter, his best years came with the Cardinals, where he won three of his four Gold Gloves. But as far as managing goes, Matheny has had more success, with a career win percentage of .571 compared to Farrell’s .516.
Edge: Cardinals

Catcher:

Cardinals: Yadier Molina

Red Sox: Jarrod Saltalamacchia

It’s been years since Saltalamacchia was the next big thing as a 22-year-old in the Atlanta Braves’ farm system in 2007. Since then, though, he hasn’t lived up to the hype, batting .246 in his career. “Salty” is the definition of an average catcher, both offensively and defensively. Molina, on the other hand, is what young catchers aspire to be. “Yadi” is a five-time Gold Glove winner and All-Star since taking over for Matheny behind the plate in 2005. He posted career highs in batting average (.319), runs batted in (80) and hits (161) this year.
Edge: Cardinals

First Base:

Cardinals: Matt Adams

Red Sox: Mike Napoli

Adams has filled in admirably for the injured Craig, batting .268 in his first postseason. In the regular season, Adams hit .284 and had a slugging percentage of .503. Napoli showed some improvement in his first season with the Red Sox, pushing his batting average up 32 points from last year to .259 and recording a career high in hits with 129. Both players are average in the field, but Napoli just wrapped up an ALCS in which he hit two home runs and batted .300 against the vaunted Tigers pitching staff.
Edge: Red Sox

Second Base:

Cardinals: Matt Carpenter

Red Sox: Dustin Pedroia

Both of these guys had All-Star regular seasons followed by a relatively subpar first two rounds of the postseason. Carpenter followed up his MVP-caliber regular season, in which he led the league in runs scored (126), hits (199) and doubles (55) while batting .318, with a stinker of a series against Pittsburgh, in which he was 1-for-19. Pedroia’s numbers have taken a dip since his MVP season in 2008, but he still hit better than .300 (.301) for the fourth time in his career while tallying 193 hits, tied for third in the majors. This battle is remarkably close, evidenced by Carpenter’s 0.1 advantage in wins above replacement, per Baseball-Reference. Pedroia gets the advantage because of stronger numbers this postseason (batting .256 as opposed to Carpenter’s .167).
Edge: Red Sox

Shortstop:

Cardinals: Pete Kozma

Red Sox: Stephen Drew

Kozma may be the man with the best nicknames on the Cards (Pistol Pete, The Kozmanian Devil, The Wizard of Koz, etc.), but he remains the weak link on an otherwise stellar team. During his first full season in the majors, Kozma finished with a WAR of -0.2 and a batting average of .217. What both Kozma and Drew bring to the table is strong defense: both tied for third in the majors among shortstops with a .984 fielding percentage. Drew, however, brings a little more at the plate, where he hit .253 this year and tied a career high with 67 RBIs.
Edge: Red Sox

Third Base:

Cardinals: David Freese

Red Sox: Xander Bogaerts

Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Freese was the hero of the Cardinals’ last World Series trip but struggled this season. He posted career lows in batting average (.262), slugging percentage (.381) and on-base percentage (.340) and has yet to improve in the postseason. He is batting .189 so far, well below his .345 postseason batting average entering 2013. Bogaerts is a rookie in his first postseason but has an OBP of .727. While impressive in the ALCS, Bogaerts played in only 18 games in the regular season, batting .250 with five RBIs.
Edge: Cardinals

Left Field:

Cardinals: Matt Holliday

Red Sox: Jonny Gomes

Who would you take, the six-time All-Star who hit more than .300 in 2013 for the seventh time in his 10-year career or the journeyman outfielder who has never hit .300 in his career? Holliday continues to impress in the No. 3 hole in the Cardinals’ lineup, while Gomes is on his fourth team in three seasons.
Edge: Cardinals

Center Field:

Cardinals: Jon Jay

Red Sox: Jacoby Ellsbury

Jay has had some good times with the Redbirds, and he set a career high in RBIs this season with 67. While his batting average dropped to .276, his fielding percentage remained sky-high at .997. The Red Sox, though, have a player in Ellsbury who can do it all. He hit .298 this season while leading the league with 52 stolen bases. While his power numbers are down, he hit 32 home runs and racked up 105 RBIs in 2011. On top of that, he had a fielding percentage of .992 this year. This postseason, Ellsbury is batting .400 as Boston’s leadoff hitter.
Edge: Red Sox

Right Field:

Cardinals: Carlos Beltran

Red Sox: Shane Victorino

Beltran is one of the rare “five-tool players” ever to play the game. That means he can hit for power, hit for average, run with speed on the basepaths (or at least he used to be able to), throw well and field his position well. Beltran is a career .337 batter in the postseason with 16 home runs and 37 RBIs in only 45 games. He is also the active leader in outfield assists and an eight-time All-Star, three-time Gold Glove winner and two-time Silver Slugger. Victorino tied a career high with a .294 batting average in 2013 and has also been a good postseason player throughout his career with 38 RBIs in 56 games. He also led the league in times hit by pitch with 18 and stole 21 bases this season.
Edge: Cardinals

Starting Pitchers:

Cardinals: Adam Wainwright, Michael Wacha, Joe Kelly, Lance Lynn

Red Sox: Jon Lester, John Lackey, Clay Buchholz, Jake Peavy

Let’s go game by game and examine each pitching duel. Game 1 will feature Wainwright (2.94 ERA, 219 strikeouts) against Lester (3.75 ERA, 177 strikeouts). Game 2 will pit Wacha (2.78 ERA, 0.43 ERA in postseason) vs. Lackey (3.52 ERA, 161 K’s). Game 3 will have Kelly (2.69 ERA, 10-5 record) and Buchholz (1.74 ERA, 12-1 record) take the mound. Game 4 will likely feature Lynn (3.97 ERA, 198 K’s) and Peavy (4.17 ERA, 121 K’s). The Cards have the better stats in three of four potential matchups.
Edge: Cardinals

Relief Pitchers:

Cardinals: Trevor Rosenthal, Carlos Martinez, Seth Maness

Red Sox: Koji Uehara, Junichi Tazawa, Craig Breslow

This is about as close as it gets, so let’s look at the numbers. In the postseason, the Red Sox bullpen has an ERA of 0.84 with an opponents’ batting average of .209. The Cardinals’ bullpen has an ERA of 1.80 with an opponents’ batting average of .177. Uehara was just named the ALCS MVP after pitching six scoreless innings with nine strikeouts. Rosenthal has yet to allow a run in the postseason and throws in excess of 100 mph. If a choice absolutely has to be made, the Cardinals barely edge out Boston by virtue of the upper-90 mph velocity most of the unit can achieve.

Edge: Cardinals

Bench/Designated Hitter:

Cardinals: Matt Adams, Daniel Descalso, Shane Robinson

Red Sox: David Ortiz, David Ross, Will Middlebrooks

How the Red Sox use the power-hitting Ortiz when the series shifts to St. Louis is a major storyline considering how well Napoli—whom he would overtake as first baseman with the elimination of the designated hitter role in an NL ballpark—has played in the postseason. A nine-time All-Star, Ortiz hit .309 this season with 30 homers and 103 RBIs. Middlebrooks hasn’t exactly set the world on fire. Compared to last season, his average dropped 61 points to .227, and his strikeouts rose from 70 to 98. In his first postseason, Middlebrooks is batting just .174 with only one RBI. In his second year as a starter, Craig was named an All-Star and had career highs in batting average (.315), RBIs (97) and OBP (.373). Beyond him, though, the Cardinals’ bench does not have much firepower, and Craig is coming off of a left foot injury that has sidelined him since early September.

Edge: Red Sox