Tuesday, October 22, 2013

World Series Preview

The Boston Red Sox and St. Louis Cardinals, the two best teams in baseball during the regular season with identical 97-65 records, are meeting up in the World Series for the fourth time.

On paper, these two teams appear pretty evenly matched. They both have deep, talented offenses that led their respective leagues in runs scored to go along with good starting rotations and outstanding bullpens. They play solid defense too, but in that regard I'd probably give the edge to Boston because Jacoby Ellsbury and Shane Victorino can get to almost anything hit to the outfield, and because Dustin Pedroia plays a mean second base.

Speaking of those guys, the Red Sox can run, while the Cardinals are more of a station-to-station team. Yadier Molina is one of the best at throwing out potential basestealers, but John Farrell shouldn't let that stop him from giving the green light to his speedsters. St. Louis will supposedly benefit from the return of Allen Craig, but after sitting out the last seven weeks he'll probably be too rusty to make much of an impact. In Carlos Beltran the Cardinals have arguably the best postseason player of all-time, but Boston can counter with its own playoff legend; David Ortiz. The Red Sox have more power and patience, but the Cardinals are less-strikeout prone. Offensively, I'd give the slight edge to Boston, even though losing the DH for three games is going to hurt.

St. Louis has the best pitcher in the series (Adam Wainwright), and having to face him twice is a frightening thought. Jon Lester's been on a roll lately, though, and should be able to hold his own (especially against a Cardinals' lineup that has struggled against southpaws). So should NLCS MVP Michael Wacha, the rookie phenom who's clearly not intimidated by the bright lights of October. Clay Buchholz has struggled this postseason, and I'm not sure whether that means there's something wrong with him or if he's due for a good start. I have no idea what Boston's going to get from John Lackey or (gulp) Jake Peavy, but I figure St. Louis feels the same way about Joe Kelly and Lance Lynn.

Boston's bullpen has been untouchable, and in ALCS MVP Koji Uehara the Red Sox have the best reliever in the game. That said, Redbird relievers have been just as dominant and is staffed with young power arms such as Kevin Siegrist and closer Trevor Rosenthal. If push comes to shove, I think I actually like the Cards' bullpen a bit better.

Neither team has a master tactician at the helm, either. Mike Matheny and John Farrell fall somewhere between Dusty Baker-bad and Joe Maddon-genius. They're both capable skippers but the general consensus seems to be that Farrell is a touch better.

Every way you try to compare these two teams it's incredibly close. There's no clear favorite here. We have the makings of what should be a competitive, exciting World Series that could easily go the distance, and I'm betting it will. Red Sox in seven.

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