The last time the Redsox faced the Cardinals in the World Series, they swept them to win a championship for the first time in 86 years. They are hoping for the same result, but this year’s Cardinals team matches up very well against the Boston Redsox.
Both teams have striking similarities. They both had the best record in their leagues (97-65), both led the leagues in runs and both are very disciplined and gritty—the reason why they were both so successful. Lets take a closer look at this Cardinals team.
The Cardinals had one of the best offenses in the league. They were third in the entire MLB in runs and on base percentage, and were fourth in the league in batting average. Those numbers could have been higher too, but since the pitcher hits in the National League, it deflates their offensive statistics.
The reason why this offense is so strong is because it is led by several key playmakers. They had five hitters: Molina, Beltran, Craig, Carpenter, and Holiday, who put up all-star numbers. All of those hitters hit for a batting average above .297, double-digit homerun totals, at least 80 RBIs and an OPS of above .830. Those five hitters are the top five hitters in batting order, and Redsox pitching should have trouble throwing to that group. Because of the their firepower, they score in bunches making this a very dangerous line-up. Their two best hitters based on OWAR (which combines every offensive statistic to show how many more games a team won due to their offense), surprising are their catcher and second baseman.
Two of their other three starters in their line-up are also very serviceable players and help to give them depth. Overall, they have a great core of hitters and have no glairing weaknesses and should definitely give the Redsox pitchers trouble.
The Cardinals had one of the best and most consistent pitching staff in the league this year and during the post season. They have had a lot of injuries to key players like Garcia, Miller, and Carpenter, but they have been able to plug players in who have been able to produce. Veteran Adam Wainwright has been the anchoring force on the staff. He led them with a 2.94 ERA and a WAR of 6.2. Lance Lynn was the only other regular starter on the post-season roster that was in it the entire regular season. He has been slotted as the number four starter in their rotation and has put up solid numbers—posting an ERA under four, while averaging almost a strikeout an inning.
The other two starters are Michael Wacha and Joe Kelly. Wacha has been a dominant force down the stretch for the Cardinals. He looks to be the number two starter for the club. He was drafted in 2012, but has proven he is more than ready to make a dominant impact for the Cardinals in this series. In 21 innings pitched this post-season, he has only given up one run. In all three games he pitch, the Cardinals won. He was also the NLCS MVP. Joe Kelly looks to be the teams number three starter. In his 15 starts this season, he put up a dominant 10-5 record with an ERA of 2.69. He has not been as stable in the post-season, as the team lost two of the three games he pitched, but the Cardinals hope he can return to the dominance he had filling in during the regular season. Overall, the Cardinals staff may be very inexperienced, but both the regular season and post season numbers show they are one of the best staffs in the league, despite how banged up they are.
St. Louis has one of the top bullpens in all of baseball. All together, the pen averaged an ERA of 3.45, compiled 44 saves and almost averaged a strikeout per inning during the regular season. During the post season, they have a combine ERA under two. Their bullpen, like their pitching staff, is compiled of young arms, but manager Mike Matheny seems very confident in them. He does a great job mixing in tough lefty, righty match-ups, and he has plenty of good arms at his disposal.
The post-season closer, 23 year-old closer Trevor Rosenthal, has been electrifying in the bullpen. His 100 mph fastball led the bullpen with 74 games this year, collecting a team high 29 holds and an average of over 12 strikeouts per nine innings. In seven innings pitched this postseason, he has not given up a single run. Their regular season closer, Edward Murijica, despite losing his job, was one of the best closers in the league. He had a total of 37 saves while only blowing four saves—a good ratio. He can certainly be relied on in the late innings and will be a difficult matchup for left-handed hitters. Seth Maness, Kevin Seigrist, and Randy Choate all had WARs above 1 (which is good for bullpen pitchers), and ERA’s below 3. Matheny also likes the young Martinez, who has been tough in the innings he has pitched this postseason.
All these pitchers can be used in crucial situations to cause matchup problems against the Redsox; thus, the Redsox cannot rest on their strategy of working a starters pitch count up, and knocking him out of the game to face the bullpen. In many ways, the bullpen has been stronger than the starters. Don’t expect Mike Matheny to be timid to bring in any one of these bullpen arms.
This should be a very tough series for the Boston Redsox. The Cardinals are by far the most balanced team they have played this postseason. They have one of the most powerful line-ups in the league, stacked with well-rounded hitters who can and will do anything to get on base. Their offense may be the second deepest in baseball, only to the Redsox, and these high powered offense should collide to score runs in bunches.
They have a young rotation, but all four pitchers have shown that they can be dominant in the postseason. Their top four starters match up well against the Redsox. I give the edge to Lester and Lackey over Wainwright and Kelly, but the Cardinals have a clear edge in NLCS MVP Michael Wacha over Bucholtz, since he has been dominant since the beginning of September. The starting pitching looks to be a draw in this series.
The Cardinals have one of the best bullpens in the league, as they can rely on several guys to get key outs and make tough matchups against the Redsox hitters. It will be hard for the Redsox to make comebacks on this bullpen like they did against the Tigers and Rays. On paper, the Cardinals have a clear advantage over the Redsox in the bullpen, but in reality, this might not be the case. The only bullpen that has been stronger in the postseason than the Cardinals is the Redsox. This is because John Farrell has masterfully used his bullpen, creating tough matchups against good hitters to get to ALCS MVP Koji Uehara. Uehara, since becoming closer of this Redsox team has been putting up one of the best pitching stretches of all time. All he does is throw strikes and generates outs. He has been asked to make four or five out saves this post-season, or inherit runners on base, and he still doesn’t give up any runs. He is the crutch to this team, and is keeping the Redsox bullpen together. Despite Uehara, the Cardinals bullpen has the advantage due to their incredible depth.
Prediction: Redsox will win in 6 close games.