October 23, 2013
World Series Game One Preview: Cardinals at Red Sox
I know it’s in season to congratulate the Red Sox and the Cardinals for making it to the Fall Classic—and they certainly deserve the accolades—but they are not the only groups worthy of weathering the journey. We, the general baseball following universe, deserve a congratulations. Sure, there were plenty of amazing games/moments, but here’s a quick list of things we (the baseball-consuming public) have had to endure this October thus far:
Despite the best attempts of some, we made it out on the other side stronger for all of this. And we are rewarded with a World Series matchup featuring the two best teams in baseball—a sight we don’t often see in the wild card age. So put on your red party hats and proudly display your empathy for Daniel Nava—it’s the Red Sox and the Cardinals!
Here is a look at the PECOTA odds and projected lineups for Game One of the World Series:
Projected Starting Lineups:
One thing to watch out for, however, with Lester is his fastball velocity. After two-and-a-half months of elevated velocity between early August and mid-October (93.35 MPH through end of July and 94.17 MPH since), Lester dipped back down more than 1.0 MPH in his Game Five start against the Tigers in the ALCS than he was sitting during his first two starts of the postseason. It’s not a coincidence that his last outing was his worst of this playoff run.
Lester is likely to have at least a little bit of an advantage the first time or two through the Cardinals’ lineup, as the whole team has accumulated only 12 plate appearances against Lester in their careers. He also has an ERA nearly a half a run lower when pitching on five days rest as compared to all other combination of days. Well, that may not matter very much, but it is over a 500-plus inning sample—so maybe it will.
Amazingly, it seems as though Adam Wainwright—the Cy Young contender and major league leader in innings pitched during the 2013 season—was just pacing himself to have a little extra oomph in his back pocket for the playoffs. After averaging just 92.1 MPH on his four-seam fastball during the regular season, that number has jumped to 93.7 MPH in October. The success he’s found has also jumped up this month, but that’s just par for the course for the big right-hander.
In his career, Wainwright now has a 2.10 career playoff ERA in 55 2/3 innings with a ridiculous 62:7 strikeout-to-walk rate. He’s had only one postseason start with a Game Score of less than 60 in his career (his NLDS Game 5 performance against the Nationals last season) and that doesn’t even touch on his run as closer for the 2006 World Series winning Cardinals—where he didn’t give up a single earned run and struck out 15 in 9 2/3 innings.
On the hitting side, no one in either dugout comes into the World Series hotter than Red Sox’ leadoff hitter Jacoby Ellsbury. In fact, Ellsbury’s .400 postseason average is not only the highest of any player on either roster, but that next highest batting average belongs to Cardinals’ first baseman Matt Adams—and Adams is hitting .268. That’s how much offense has been down this October. And even if Ellsbury does keep getting himself on base, he’s going to have his work cut out for him if he wants to add to his six postseason steals going up against Yadier Molina. And in case you were wondering, there are only 16 stolen bases in all of October that don’t belong to Jacoby Ellsbury.
Unfortunately for the Cardinals, their leadoff hitter hasn’t been performing nearly as well as his Boston counterpart. Matt Carpenter, after being a legitimate MVP candidate during the regular season, has hit .167/.250/.262 with 11 strikeouts in 48 plate appearances. That may not seem like a ton of punchouts, but a lot of Carpenter’s regular season success was due to a big increase in his contact rate.
Matchup to Watch: