by Andrew Mannix
The Red Sox and St. Louis Cardinals may be the two best teams in baseball and are almost identical in every way. They are both looking to be the first team in the 21st Century to win three World Series titles. Both teams won 97 games in the regular season, and both teams have a great lineup, great starting pitching, and a great bullpen. Picking a winner will be very difficult for this series. There is no underdog. Talent and statistics don’t tell the entire story, but on paper, the Red Sox have a very slight advantage.
Neither line ups have big boppers like the two teams had in 2004 when the Red Sox swept the Cardinals, who had Albert Pujols, while the Red Sox had a juiced up Manny Ramirez and a younger David Ortiz. Instead of this, these teams have nine solid hitters who are all capable of getting a big hit. The Red Sox scored the most runs in the regular season and have scored the most in the playoffs, while the Cardinals came in third and second, respectively. The edge goes to the Red Sox. They have much more team power than the Cardinals (178 to 125 regular season home runs.) 1 through 9 they are deeper, faster, and flat out better. They have better speed (123 to 45 regular season steals) with Jacoby Ellsbury, Quintin Berry, Shane Victorino, and Dustin Pedroia all capable of stealing a base. Keep in mind, however, that Yadier Molina threw out 42 percent of runners this year.
Expect the lineups to look something like this (in 1-9 order):
Matt Carpenter 2B, Carlos Beltran RF, Matt Holliday LF, Yadier Molina C, Allen Craig DH, David Freese 3B, Matt Adams 1B, Shane Robinson CF, Pete Kozma SS
Jacoby Ellsbury CF, Shane Victorino RF, Dustin Pedroia 2B, David Ortiz DH, David Ortiz DH, Mike Napoli 1B, Daniel Nava/Jonny Gomes LF, Jarrod Saltalamacchia C, Stephen Drew SS, Xander Bogaerts 3B
Keep in mind that for games 3, 4, and 5 there will be no DH, so Mike Napoli or David Ortiz and Allen Craig or Matt Adams will not be in the lineup. Napoli was the difference in games 3 and 5 of the ALCS with clutch home runs.
Starting Pitching wins championships. Like with the line-ups, both team are the best in the business when it comes to starting pitching. However, the Cardinals have the edge in this category. With Adam Wainwright and Michael Wacha pitching in games one and two, winning one of these two will be a tough task for the Red Sox. Wainwright has been a work horse over the last five years. This year he went 19-9 with an ERA under 3 while throwing 241 innings. In the postseason he has an ERA of 1.57 in three games including a complete game win in a clinching game. Michael Wacha, who will pitch game two, has a stunning ERA of 0.43. He gave up only one run in 21 innings and winning all three of his starts.
The Red Sox have outstanding pitching with a 1-2 punch of Jon Lester and John Lackey; however, it is not as impressive as the Cardinals 1 and 2 pitching. Lackey will not be scared of Michael Wacha, considering that in his two starts he beat the previous two Cy Young award winners, Justin Verlander and David Price. The Red Sox have better three/four starters with Clay Buchholz and Jake Peavy against Joe Kelly and Lance Lynn which makes the two starting rotations more even. However, the Cardinals have better starting pitching than the Red Sox, but then again the Red Sox have beat David Price, Matt Moore, Justin Verlander, and Max Scherzer (twice) so the Red Sox’s great lineup could overcome the Cardinals great starting pitching.
The Cardinals and Red Sox have two of the best bullpens in the game. A lot of experts say that the Cardinals have the better bullpen, but I have to disagree. The Cardinals have a great bullpen with guys such as Seth Maness, Kevin Siegrist, and Carlos Martinez. However, the Red Sox have the best closer in the game in Koji Uehara. Uehara has given up only run and has been unhittable in the postseason, just like he was during the regular season. In the playoffs he has an ERA of 1.00 and 5 saves. On top of having the best closer, the Red Sox have arms such as lefty Craig Breslow, Junichi Tazawa, and Brandon Workman who have given up a combined one run. Over all, the Red Sox bullpen is 3-1,with a 0.84 ERA, 5 SVS, in 32.0 Innings while the Cardinals have an ERA of double that. It is clear that if the Red Sox have the lead after six or seven innings the game will basically be over.
I pick the Red Sox to beat the Cardinals again and win in six games, winning games one, three, four and six.