World Series Preview

Posted: 10/22/2013 by levcohen in Baseball

The World Series starts tomorrow night, with the Red Sox with home field advantage even though the teams had an equal regular season record. They are home because of nothing either team did; the AL won the all-star game, so they get home field advantage, which probably swings their odds to win by a good 5%. It’s a stupid rule, but it is what it is.

First of all, the LCS’s were terrific, exciting, and mystifying all at the same time. Six of the twelve LCS games were decided by exactly one run, and only one of them was decided by more than one run. The better team probably won both series, but that is probably the only normal thing that happened (and it really isn’t normal, as in the playoffs the best teams rarely do get to the World Series). Another oddity: The Dodgers and Tigers lost every game presumptive Cy Young winners Clayton Kershaw and Max Scherzer started in this series. That’s four losses, and both lost in game six, eliminating their team.

That’s not to say that either ace was bad. Scherzer allowed three earned runs in game six, the first time he had done that in the playoffs. His total playoff numbers were still very good, if not Justin Verlander: 22.1 innings, 2.82 ERA, 34 strikeouts. You can blame him for losing his control (a BB/9 of about 4.5 after walking just 56 in 214.1 regular season innings), but not for losing the ALCS for his team.

You can blame Kershaw for getting shelled in game six. It was shocking, and a true testament to St. Louis’ offense. After posting a 1.83 ERA in the regular season, Kershaw was humming along to the tune of 19 postseason innings, one run allowed, seven hits, and 23 strikeouts. And then he gave up seven runs and 10 hits in four innings. You might ask when the last time Kershaw gave up seven earned runs was. Well he gave up just 48 earned runs this year, and the most he allowed in a game was five at Coors field. The last time he gave up seven earned runs in a game was July 24th, 2012 against, you guessed it, St. Louis. This was also just the second time since the beginning of the 2009 season that Kershaw gave up 10 hits in a game.

So we learned some things in the LCS:

  • The Tigers offense is overrated
  • The Tigers defense stinks
  • The Tigers pitching is other-worldly
  • Michael Wacha is an ace
  • The Cardinals bullpen is nearly unbeatable
  • The Red Sox offense is not impossible to tame, but they do still wear out pitchers
  • The Red Sox bullpen is the reason that they are in the World Series. It is vastly underrated
  • Injuries finally caught up to the Dodgers, who have some work to do but should be a WS favorite next season.

Now it’s on to the World Series, which, in my opinion, is between the two very best teams in baseball: St. Louis and Boston. They had the best records in the regular season, and now both will be playing late into October. Who has the edge?

The Optimal Lineups:
Boston:
1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury– Ellsbury is the quintessential leadoff hitter, with an OBP above .350 and 52 regular season steals.
2. 2B Dustin Pedroia- Pedroia is going to work the count and get on base, and he also has power.
3. 1B Mike Napoli- Napoli had a huge ALCS, and is basically the reason that Boston is in the World Series. He basically won the Red Sox games two and four.
4. DH David Ortiz- Big Papi is the best hitter on the team.
5. LF Jonny Gomes
6. C Jarrod Saltalamacchia
7. RF Shane Victorino- Victorino won game six with his grand slam as the Red Sox ended up winning 5-3. I’m dropping him from second to seventh because he has lots of trouble against righty pitchers and the Cardinals have an abundance of really tough right handers.
8. 3B Xander Bogaerts- Let’s see how the rookie does now that he will be given a chance to start over Will Middlebrooks.
9. SS Stephen Drew

St. Louis:
1. 2B Matt Carpenter- Most underrated player in the MLB? Great OBP, good defender, has some power.
2. RF Carlos Beltran- Slowed down noticeably, but still the best playoff hitter of all time
3. DH Allen Craig- Back from injury, can start at DH in Boston. Can he start at first base in St. Louis?
4. LF Matt Holliday- Had a couple of big hits, but underwhelmed in general.
5. C Yadier Molina- Has had a tough postseason hitting-wise, but is too talented not to turn it around.
6. 3B David Freese- Playoff hero from two years ago
7. 1B Matt Adams- Young hitter who struggled in the NLCS.
8. CF Shane Robinson- Better than Jon Jay
9. SS Pete Kozma

Edge: Slight edge to the Red Sox

Rotations:
Boston:
1. Jon Lester- He’s pitching really well, with a 2.33 playoff ERA.
2. John Lackey- He’s started just two playoff games, and has a 3.00 ERA in those games, with one good start and one bad start.
3. Clay Buccholtz- He hasn’t been the pitcher he was in the regular season.
4. Jake Peavy- Got blown up in Detroit. Has always been worse in the playoffs than he is throughout the regular season.

St. Louis:
1. Adam Wainwright- It’s always a shock when he loses, which he did against Los Angeles. The Cardinals have a better than even shot of winning whenever Waino is on the mound.
2. Michael Wacha- Best pitcher in baseball right now, with one run allowed in 21 playoff innings.
3. Joe Kelly- He will give the Cardinals quality if not dominant innings
4. Lance Lynn- Very inconsistent.

Edge: Cardinals

Bullpens:
Boston:
Closer- Koji Uehara. He is the best closer in baseball right now, if not the best reliever in general.
Setup- Junichi Tazawa. Tazawa was dominant in the ALCS against the Tigers best hitters, and he’ll have to be as good against the middle of the Cardinals lineup.
Setup- Craig Breslow. He is a lefty, but it’s not fair to call him a lefty specialist. He can get anyone out.

St. Louis:
Closer- Trevor Rosenthal. Consistently throws in the high 90s. He is nearly unhittable.
Setup- Carlos Martinez. Throws just as hard as Rosenthal, with really nasty stuff.
Setup- Seth Maness. Back-to back-to back rookies. Maness has a great sinker and is good at getting double plays.

Edge: Cardinals, because they have more depth.

Bottom Line: The Red Sox, with all of their unbelievable 1-0 wins against the Tigers, have a “team of destiny” look and feel about them. They also have home field advantage. With that said, it’s hard to argue against the far superior pitching of the Cardinals, and with Wacha and Wainwright starting four or five games, I feel confident enough to pick the Cardinals in seven.

 

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