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October 24, 2013

Playoff Prospectus

World Series Game One Recap (Cardinals Edition)

by Ben Lindbergh


Throughout the World Series, we'll be providing two recaps of each game, one with a focus on the winner and the other devoting a longer look to the loser. This is the Cardinals entry for Game One. The Red Sox entry is here.

In retrospect, this sort of set the tone for Game One from the Cardinals’ perspective:

That’s the 6’7” Adam Wainwright making his way to the mound in the first and bumping his head on the roof of the visiting dugout at Fenway, whose home team in the ballpark's long-ago inaugural season topped out at 6’2”. Things got worse for Wainwright from there.

“If you like defense, then this isn’t the series for you,” R.J. Anderson wrote in his World Series preview. As R.J. noted, neither the Cardinals nor the Red Sox placed particularly well on the various defensive leaderboards this season, though St. Louis was worse, ranking 21st in defensive efficiency, 26th in park-adjusted defensive efficiency, 27th in team UZR, and 22nd in team DRS. Boston wasn’t so much better that the team’s glovework constituted a massive advantage, but if you wanted to find a weakness in a matchup between two of baseball’s best teams, the Cardinals’ lack of leather was it.

As the Red Sox ran up the score on Wednesday, Tim McCarver and Joe Buck kept clucking about how atypical it was for a Cardinals team to look so sloppy. In a sense, they were right: the Cardinals committed three errors in the game, which was out of character for them (only the Yankees, Rays, and Orioles committed fewer errors in 2013). But errors aren’t a great proxy for overall defensive performance; the Cardinals' shortcomings in the field have more to do with the balls they don't touch. It seems like defensive inadequacy should be inconsistent with the Cardinal Way, but converting batted balls into outs is one aspect of the game at which St. Louis doesn’t excel.

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