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October 23, 2013

Playoff Prospectus

World Series Preview: Cardinals vs. Red Sox

by R.J. Anderson

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The Cardinals and Red Sox each won their Championship Series in six games, denying us a few days of rust-or-rest narrative. Luckily, the easy copy surrounding this pseudo-rematch of the 2004 World Series is plentiful. Ignore that the teams have changed general managers, managers, and players―with the exceptions of David Ortiz and Yadier Molina―there will be revenge talk should the Cardinals win some nine years after being swept. No matter your rooting interest, let's just hope for a more competitive send-off than we got back then.

Projected Lineups (AVG/OBP/SLG/TAv)

Cardinals

  1. 2B-L Matt Carpenter (.318/.392/.481/.310)
  2. RF-S Carlos Beltran (.296/.339/.491/.288)
  3. LF-R Matt Holliday (.300/.389/.490/.297)
  4. 1B-L Matt Adams (.284/.335/.503/.289)
  5. DH-R Allen Craig (.315/.373/.457/.296)
  6. C-R Yadier Molina (.319/.359/.477/.296)
  7. CF-L Jon Jay (.276/.351/.370/.261)
  8. 3B-R David Freese (.262/.340/.381/.250)
  9. SS-R Pete Kozma (.217/.275/.273/.201)

Indications are that Craig is set to return to the Cardinals lineup after missing the first two rounds. Should that come to fruition, the Cardinals will have another middle-of-the-order caliber bat to throw at Boston. Mike Matheny might not have to choose between Craig and Adams once this series returns to St. Louis, as a lot rides on how Craig feels. Otherwise, expect the Cardinals to trot out mostly the same lineup, with one possible exception being Shane Robinson over Jay against Jon Lester.

Red Sox

  1. CF-L Jacoby Ellsbury (.298/.355/.426/.270)
  2. RF-S Shane Victorino (.294/.351/.451/.285)
  3. 2B-R Dustin Pedroia (.301/.372/.415/.281)
  4. DH-L David Ortiz (.309/.395/.564/.324)
  5. 1B-R Mike Napoli (.259/.360/.482/.287)
  6. LF-S Daniel Nava (.303/.385/.445/.302)
  7. C-S Jarrod Saltalamacchia (.273/.338/.466/.281)
  8. SS-L Stephen Drew (.253/.333/.443/.272)
  9. 3B-R Xander Bogaerts (.250/.320/.364/.291) in 50 PA

John Farrell has some tougher decisions ahead of him. He's taken to playing Jonny Gomes and Bogaerts over Daniel Nava and Middlebrooks, yet he could go back on those choices this series. The Red Sox are hurt more by the lack of a DH during the middle of the series than the Cardinals, as they'll need to choose between Ortiz and Napoli. Of course, the easy solution would be to slide Napoli to catcher, but he didn't start a game there all season, whereas Ortiz did start a few times at first base.

These lineups ranked first and second in their leagues in True Average, with Boston owning the advantage in part due to the DH.

Projected Benches (AVG/OBP/SLG/TAv)

Cardinals

In addition to helping the starting lineup in Boston, Craig's return could bolster the bench during the St. Louis games. Either Craig or Adams will be available as a pinch-hitter, which is an upgrade over Matheny's choices through the first two rounds. Descalso expects to see time as Freese's glove.

Red Sox

There's a chance Gomes will start and Nava will sit. Ross should get a start or two as well.

Projected Starting Pitchers (IP/ERA/FIP)

Cardinals

In these seven-game series, depth often matters less than quality. The Cardinals have the edge in that department with arguably the best and third-best starters in the series in Wainwright and Wacha, with the latter being the breakout star of the postseason. Given how the schedule works out, the Cardinals could use those two in five of the seven games. That leaves at most one start apiece for Kelly and Lynn, but it also frees them up to serve as relievers should the need arise.

Red Sox

The math works out the same for the Red Sox, who could use Lester and Buchholz in five of the seven games should they desire to do so. Peavy represents the litmus test for Boston fans; if he starts, then the series is going well. If he doesn't, then Farrell is likely making a last-ditch effort to fend off elimination.

Projected Bullpens (IP/ERA/FIP)

Cardinals

Martinez, a rookie, entered the postseason as a wild card. Matheny has turned over the eighth inning to him thus far, and the results have been positive for St. Louis.

Red Sox

Meanwhile, Farrell has deployed Uehara for more than three outs three times this October, including twice in the ALCS. He's supposedly willing to throw him out there for two innings if necessary.

Defense
If you like defense, then this isn't the series for you. Both squads ranked in the bottom 10 in park-adjusted defensive efficiency during the regular season. Boston does own a slight edge, for those keeping score.

Managers
Two relatively inexperienced managers lock horns here. Mike Matheny, now in his second season, is mostly hands-off; he lets his talented roster dictate the action. John Farrell, nearing the conclusion of his first year running Boston, is more willing to assert his control with, among other things, aggressive bullpen management. It doesn't seem as though either is a risk to lose the game for his team.

Prediction
This should be a fun series between two highly talented rosters. Here's guessing the Red Sox pull it out in six games.

PECOTA Says
PECOTA sees the Cardinals as favorites by a healthy margin.

Advance Scouting Reports
Matt Carpenter (Tim Steggall)
David Ortiz (Tim Steggall)

R.J. Anderson is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see R.J.'s other articles. You can contact R.J. by clicking here

23 comments have been left for this article.

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