After a regular season full of surprise performances both good and bad, the 2013 World Series features the teams that finished with the best records in their respective leagues: the Boston Red Sox and the St. Louis Cardinals,each with 97 wins.
Both teams are balanced and experienced, each with veteran leadership and talented youngsters. Both have been to the Fall Classic multiple times in the past decade. Broken down by attributes, neither has a particularly clear advantage in any category.
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Both the Red Sox and Cardinals feature explosive, balanced offenses. The Cardinals finished third in the major leagues in runs scored, as well as third with on-base percentage and fourth in batting average. Both teams have hitters who can win prolonged at-bats against top-line pitching. However, as potent as the Cardinals’ offense is, the Boston Red Sox’ numbers are startling: they ranked first in baseball in runs scored, on-base percentage and slugging percentage, as well as second in batting average. They get on base, hit for power, and with speed merchants like Jacoby Ellsbury and Shane Victorino, they’re a threat on the bases. They’re never out of a game, and have a knack for scoring in late innings and in bunches. But the Red Sox’ offensive numbers should be viewed in light of the designated hitter rule, as well as spending lots of time in the hitter-friendly parks of the AL East — and the DH might not proved such a big advantage against the Cardinals.
The Cardinals have two bonafide power threats at first base, in Matt Adams and the recently healed Allen Craig. In games with the DH, St. Louis will get to put both of these sluggers in the lineup. Moreover, the games in St. Louis may deprive the Red Sox of their biggest power threat, the ageless wonder in David Ortiz. Big Papi is a relative liability in the field, and in St. Louis, the BoSox will be forced to decide between weakening their lineup or weakening their defense. Meanwhile, the Cardinals have Carlos Beltran, who continues to solidify his reputation as one of the best postseason hitters in at least a generation.
2013 World Series Advantage: Even
Both the Cardinals and the Red Sox have solid pitching, including top-line starters and solid relievers. This season, the St. Louis Cardinals were fifth in baseball in team ERA and 8th in WHIP, despite being only twelfth in batting average against and thirteenth in quality starts. But these numbers belie the impact the impact their pitching had down the stretch and in the postseason, where ace Adam Wainwright and wunderkind Michael Wacha continue to crank out dominant starts.
This season, the Boston Red Sox’ pitching numbers were somewhat the inverse of the Cardinals’. The Red Sox were third in baseball in quality starts but finished 10th in batting average against, 14th in ERA and 15th in WHIP. As with their offensive numbers, these stats should be taken in light of the DH and the AL East’s ballparks. And Jon Lester is a true top-line starter, while the Sox’ bullpen is stronger and more balanced overall. Still, the Cards’ pitching staff is more capable of the kind of dominant outings that can take bullpens out of the picture. And Adam Wainwright has proven he’s able to shine in big postseason games.
2013 World Series Advantage: St. Louis Cardinals
Both the Cardinals and Red Sox are solid defensive teams with few weak links. The Cards have Carlos Beltran in right field, a former centerfielder who’s lost a step but plays the angles extremely well and has a strong, accurate arm and good instincts. They have versatile, athletic guys like Daniel Descalso, John Jay and Shane Robinson up the middle. The Cards also have Yadier Molina behind the plate. That said, the Red Sox have Jacoby Ellsbury and Shane Victorino patrolling the outfield and Dustin Pedroia and Stephen Drew up the middle. Even with Ortiz at first base, the Red Sox can give their pitchers a bigger margin for error.
2013 World Series Advantage: Boston Red Sox
The Boston Red Sox beat the Detroit Tigers in the ALCS despite spending a lot of time being buried by the Tigers’ outstanding starting pitching. It seems they snatched victory from the jaws of defeat every night, echoing their knack for thrilling comebacks throughout the regular season. Fenway Park provides as much of a home-field advantage as just about any park in baseball, and the Sox seem energized by momentum and the power of belief. They have veteran leadership, as well as talented happy-to-be-there kids like Xander Bogaerts.
The St. Louis Cardinals fought their way through a regular season that was beset by injuries, and won what was the most hotly contested divisional race in the major leagues. They’re battle-tested and veteran-dominant, and Mike Matheny is a centered, sharp motivator who still looks like he should be suiting up to play. Both teams have recent World Series experience. The Red Sox have a point to prove, as they’re a year removed from a brutal 2012 season filled with controversy and public nastiness. The Cardinals are motivated by franchise vengeance, as they were swept by the Red Sox in 2004.
2013 World Series Advantage: Even
The 2013 World Series is as evenly matched as it gets, with neither team having an overwhelming advantage in any one category. The Red Sox have home field advantage, but the designate hitter will allow the Cardinals to put two big-hitting first basemen in the lineup. It will go the distance, but Wainwright or Wacha will pitch the gem that makes the difference.
2013 World Series Winner: St. Louis Cardinals in Seven games