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World Series 2013: Cardinals vs. Red Sox Position-by-Position Breakdown

Ely SussmanCorrespondent IOctober 21, 2013

World Series 2013: Cardinals vs. Red Sox Position-by-Position Breakdown

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    How does Dustin Pedroia compare to fellow All-Star second baseman Matt Carpenter?
    How does Dustin Pedroia compare to fellow All-Star second baseman Matt Carpenter?Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY

    We're down to two team left—and there's no denying we ended up with the two most talented clubs in Major League Baseball.  

    The St. Louis Cardinals (97-65) and Boston Red Sox (97-65) were the two best teams in their respective leagues during the regular season. Their matchup is the first time since 1999 the top teams in the AL and NL have met in the World Series.  

    But, breaking down the 2013 World Series teams requires much more than recapping their collective accomplishments. Both clubs were driven to pennants by elite individual players, and this is the chance to go position by position, identifying and comparing these players.

    The following article mentions some events from much earlier in the season—and even previous seasons—but it all comes full circle when we conclude who has the present advantages. The slides also specify the degrees of those advantages.

    Perhaps you've stumbled upon this sort of preview at MLB.com or CBS Sports. We're proud to say, however, that ours is the most thorough.

    Is it the most accurate? That's for the guys on the field to determine.

     

    *Stats provided by Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.

Catcher

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    Yadier Molina, St. Louis Cardinals.
    Yadier Molina, St. Louis Cardinals.Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    St. Louis Cardinals: Yadier Molina 

    Molina's 2013 Regular Season: .319/.359/.477, 131 OPS+, 5.7 WAR in 136 G

    His consistency with the bat over the past few seasons suggests than an underwhelming offensive effort in the NLCS (.227, 1 RBI in 25 PA) won't carry over to the Fall Classic.

    Molina is a remarkable contact hitter with very subtle platoon splits. No other catcher—or player at any other position, besides possibly Andrelton Simmons of the Atlanta Braves—has a greater defensive impact on the game. For the eighth time in his decade of major-league experience, he threw out more than 40 percent of would-be base-stealers. He is so good, in fact, that only three opposing players have even attempted a theft during 11 games against him this postseason.  He's all-but assuredly heading for his sixth straight gold glove behind the dish.

    Beyond the physical gifts and technique, Molina has proven to be a very cerebral player. He optimizes the performances of his battery mates by letting their specific repertoires determine strategies for sneaking out of tough jams.

     

    Boston Red Sox: Jarrod Saltalamacchia

    Saltalamacchia's 2013 Regular Season: .273/.338/.466, 118 OPS+, 2.9 WAR in 121 G

    The curly-haired switch-hitter compensated for a drop in his home run total by setting a new career high in total extra-base hits. However, most of his damage came from the left side of the plate (.873 OPS as LHB, .628 OPS as RHB).

    Salty has always been strikeout-prone, so the Detroit Tigers pitching staff predictably dominated him. In 27 plate appearances this October, he has whiffed 15 times.

    The 28-year-old caught more than 1,000 innings for the first time in his career, despite the fact that he struggles to contain opposing baserunners.

    So, in many ways, Saltalamacchia is the antithesis of Molina. That even holds true for their contract situations, as Salty approaches free agency, while Molina is signed through his prime years.

    Whether we're basing this comparison off traditional stats, sabermetrics or intangibles, the edge clearly belongs to the St. Louis starter.

     

    Big Advantage for Cardinals

First Base

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    Mike Napoli, Boston Red Sox
    Mike Napoli, Boston Red SoxMike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    St. Louis Cardinals: Matt Adams

    Adams' 2013 Regular Season: .284/.335/.503, 131 OPS+, 1.2 WAR in 108 G

    Conservatively listed at 260 pounds, Adams has started 31 of the past 34 games for the Cardinals, dating back to Allen Craig's foot injury.

    He can be counted on for his fair share of home runs and strikeouts, but much more of the latter when an opposing left-hander takes the mound. Besides a run-scoring double against Clayton Kershaw in Game 6 of the NLCS, southpaws have continued to irritate him in the postseason.

    Adams has very little range at first base. At least he makes plays on grounders and throws that come directly to him, though (only two errors in 597.2 innings this season).

     

    Boston Red Sox: Mike Napoli 

    Napoli's 2013 Regular Season: .259/.360/.482, 129 OPS+, 4.1 WAR in 139 G

    Boston's beard leader—in terms of length and commitment to maintenance—would actually look puny standing next to Adams.

    Stacking up their numbers side-by-side, however, Napoli comes out on top.

    The soon-to-be 32-year-old posted a similar batting line to Adams in 2013, despite nearly twice as many plate appearances and plenty of exposure to both lefties and righties. He also dwarfs Adams in postseason OPS, .857 to .724.

    A glaring difference between these two is their fielding. Napoli led all MLB first baseman in Ultimate Zone Rating, according to FanGraphs (min. 500 innings), whereas Adams was in the middle of the pack.

    That's much more important than a tidy fielding percentage.

      

    Slight Advantage for Red Sox

Second Base

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    Dustin Pedroia, Boston Red Sox
    Dustin Pedroia, Boston Red SoxMike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    St. Louis Cardinals: Matt Carpenter

    Carpenter's 2013 Regular Season: .318/.392/.481, 143 OPS+, 6.6 WAR in 157 G 

    Carpenter's futility during the NLDS—1-for-19 at the plate, plus defensive mediocrity—almost dragged the team to a premature playoff exit.

    During the matchup with the Los Angeles Dodgers, however, he seemed much closer to his All-Star form. 

    Serving as an everyday player for the first time in 2013, Carpenter posted an adjusted OPS that nearly matched Robinson Cano's for the best among MLB second basemen.

    His sure-handedness in the field compensates for a lack of athleticism and fluidity.

     

    Boston Red Sox: Dustin Pedroia 

    Pedroia's 2013 Regular Season: .301/.372/.415, 116 OPS+, 6.5 WAR in 160 G

    For the first time since 2007, Pedroia finished the season with a single-digit home run total. His .114 Isolated Power this year was roughly the same as notoriously light hitters like Alberto Callaspo and Pedro Florimon.

    Thankfully for the Red Sox, all of his other skills and intangibles validate the lifetime contract extension that both sides agreed to earlier in the summer.

    Along with Miguel Cabrera, Joey Votto and teammate David Ortiz, Pedroia is in an exclusive group of players who annually walk about as often as they strikeout. Maintaining that stellar one-to-one ratio makes him somebody you'd want at the plate to spark a rally, and he is also a big threat at the plate with runners in scoring position.

    Defensive wizardry elevates Pedroia slightly ahead of Carpenter. No other player at their position is a better decision-maker, and that becomes so important in the playoffs when scores are always close, and a single baserunner could determine a game's outcome.

    MLB.com shows us a perfect example from the ALCS clincher that displays Pedroia's baseball intelligence.

     

    Very Slight Advantage for Red Sox

Shortstop

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    Stephen Drew, Boston Red Sox
    Stephen Drew, Boston Red SoxMike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    St. Louis Cardinals: Pete Kozma

    Kozma's 2013 Regular Season: .217/.275/.273, 54 OPS+, -0.2 WAR in 143 G

    Kozma's rise through the Cardinals farm system was slowed by the fact that he wasn't hitting well at the higher minor-league levels.

    Then Kozma teased us in 2012. He batted .333/.383/.569 following a late-summer call-up and then delivered a pivotal hit in Game 5 of the NLDS to upset the Washington Nationals.

    With that said, Kozma's production since last season has been pathetic. Mike Matheny finally grew restless in August and September, often opting to bring in the 25-year-old off the bench.

    He makes some flashy plays in the field (courtesy of MLB.com), but all in all, he is nothing to write home about.

     

    Boston Red Sox: Stephen Drew

    Drew's 2013 Regular Season: .253/.333/.443, 111 OPS+, 3.1 WAR in 124 G 

    The veteran shortstop swung a reasonably hot bat toward the end of the regular season, but in hindsight, the Red Sox probably wished he missed the memo about their playoff berth. They would have been better off without his combined .254 OPS in the ALDS and ALCS. 

    Nonetheless, John Farrell values Drew's defense more than Will Middlebrooks', so he'll probably continue to start regularly.

    On the bright side, his decent summer suggests that he's more likely than Kozma to suddenly heat up.

     

    Slight Advantage for Red Sox

Third Base

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    Xander Bogaerts, Boston Red Sox
    Xander Bogaerts, Boston Red SoxJim Rogash/Getty Images

    St. Louis Cardinals: David Freese

    Freese's 2013 Regular Season: .262/.340/.381, 101 OPS+, -0.3 WAR in 138 G

    Freese has been uncharacteristically quiet during the playoffs.

    By quiet, we mean dreadful.

    The 30-year-old had an encouraging performance in the NLCS-clinching Game 6, recording a pair of hits and drawing a walk. However, that "boom" still leaves him with a .547 OPS in October, as he entered that game with a hideous .200 on-base percentage.

    Freese's 2012 All-Star campaign looks a bit fluky in hindsight. He didn't hit for above-average power prior to that, and he certainly hasn't this year.

    Ultimately, the former World Series hero deteriorated to a replacement-level player at age 30 because of his ugly defense at the hot corner. Only Miguel Cabrera posted a worse UZR at the position in 2013, and even he leapfrogs Freese when you adjust for innings played, per FanGraphs

    A bout of right calf tightness is exacerbating his issues.

     

    Boston Red Sox: Xander Bogaerts

    Bogaerts' 2013 Regular Season: .250/.320/.364, 88 OPS+, 0.3 WAR in 20 G

    Expectations were enormous for Bogaerts entering this year, as he was universally dubbed one of the top position players in the minor leagues. The scouts praised his outstanding power to all fields and overall athleticism.

    Yet it seemed that the Red Sox wouldn't need him on the left side of the infield so soon.

    Of course, the Red Sox didn't anticipate Will Middlebrooks regressing so much in his sophomore season, and even worse, he's been particularly brutal at the plate over the past month. After Bogaerts impressed as a starter in ALCS Games 5 and 6, it's hard to envision him ever returning to the bench.

    The 21-year-old is just as disciplined at the plate as Freese, and his light usage since being recalled from the minors might have been a blessing in disguise. Because of it, he's undoubtedly healthier than his Cardinals counterpart right now.

    Despite his inexperience, Bogaerts has more potential to affect this series. 

     

    Slight Advantage for Red Sox

Left Field

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    Matt Holliday, St. Louis Cardinals
    Matt Holliday, St. Louis CardinalsJeff Gross/Getty Images

    St. Louis Cardinals: Matt Holliday

    Holliday's 2013 Regular Season: .300/.389/.490, 144 OPS+, 2.7 WAR in 141 G

    Even at age 33, Holliday is an elite right-handed hitter. This was his eighth-straight campaign with a .290 batting average and 20-plus home runs. Miguel Cabrera is the only other player who has a longer active streak of exceeding those milestones.

    However, we may have spotted a concerning trend.

    Holliday has tweaked his plate approach the past two postseasons, drawing three walks in 100 combined plate appearances. He walked 11.2 percent of the time—nearly four times as often—during the 2012-2013 regular seasons.

    You sometimes need to exercise patience to get easy pitches to hit. Barring immediate adjustments, he won't resemble the middle-of-the-order stud that Cardinals fans have grown accustomed to.

     

    Boston Red Sox: Jonny Gomes/Daniel Nava

    Gomes' 2013 Regular Season: .247/.344/.426, 111 OPS+, 1.2 WAR in 116 G

    Nava's 2013 Regular Season: .303/.385/.445, 128 OPS+, 2.9 WAR in 134 G

    Neither guy matched Holliday's production during the summer, and they haven't been lighting it up recently, either. 

    Gomes and Nava are just as shaky in the field as Holliday. At least they're familiar with Fenway Park, though, where four of the seven potential World Series games will take place.

    Nava constantly gets on base, but judging by how John Farrell managed the ALCS, Gomes is going to get more starts, even against St. Louis' right-handers.

    Even if Holliday continues chasing the wrong pitches, he has enough raw power to hit them with authority. Gomes, on the other hand, looks lost right now (5-for-25, 8 K in October).

     

    Slight Advantage for Cardinals

Center Field

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    Jacoby Ellsbury, Boston Red Sox
    Jacoby Ellsbury, Boston Red SoxRick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

    St. Louis Cardinals: Jon Jay

    Jay's 2013 Regular Season: .276/.351/.370, 102 OPS+, 1.5 WAR in 157 G

    Most of Jay's value comes from getting on base, but he isn't particularly active once that happens. He has fewer steals in his four-year major league career than Ellsbury did last summer.

    Although Shane Robinson started in place of Jay in Game 6 of the NLCS, we're assuming that the latter will continue to receive the lion's share of the playing time. Robinson is a longtime reserve with a low ceiling who's closing in on his 29th birthday, so this dilemma isn't comparable to Xander Bogaerts' emergence in Boston.

    The less-than-ideal situation in center field creates a glaring mismatch between these two teams.

     

    Boston Red Sox: Jacoby Ellsbury 

    Ellsbury's 2013 Regular Season: .298/.355/.426, 114 OPS+, 5.8 WAR in 134 G

    The MVP-caliber version of Ellsbury that we saw in 2011 is probably never coming back, but the Red Sox seem mighty content with him in a "diminished" form. Mike Trout, Andrew McCutchen and Carlos Gomez were the only center fielders to contribute more value in terms of Wins Above Replacement this season.

    Ellsbury had an enormous impact defensively while playing alongside relatively unathletic left fielders. That's why he made so many plays outside of his fielding zone (about one every 14 innings), per FanGraphs.

    Of course, teams will prepare nine-figure contract offers for him this winter based on his ability to ignite a lineup. He led the majors with 52 steals in 2013, despite sitting out for most of September. Being caught by Alex Avila in Game 6 of the ALCS ended a streak of 18-straight successes (dating back to the regular season).

    This speedster has amassed six steals, 16 hits and a .992 OPS this postseason. He ranks No. 1 among Red Sox and Cardinals starters in all of those categories.

      

    Very Big Advantage for Red Sox

Right Field

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    Shane Victorino, Boston Red Sox
    Shane Victorino, Boston Red SoxRobert Deutsch-USA TODAY

    St. Louis Cardinals: Carlos Beltran

    Beltran's 2013 Regular Season: .296/.339/.491, 128 OPS+, 2.4 WAR in 145 G

    A decade-and-a-half of waiting has paid off for Beltran—he's finally going to the World Series.

    The Cardinals owe him dearly for making that possible. According to High Heat Stats, he was responsible for four of the five most important plays during their NLDS and NLCS victories in terms of Win Probability Added.

    Clutch postseason performance isn't anything new for Beltran. The veteran switch-hitter boasts an otherworldly .337/.449/.724 batting line in 45 career games in October.

    He has seemingly turned back the clock at this all-important time of the year, chasing down fly balls that nobody else catches up to at age 36 (courtesy of MLB.com).

     

    Boston Red Sox: Shane Victorino

    Victorino's 2013 Regular Season: .294/.351/.451, 119 OPS+, 6.1 WAR in 122 G 

    On the other hand, the Flyin' Hawaiian's track record in the playoffs isn't quite as consistent. For example, although he contributed an enormous grand slam in Game 6 of the ALCS to propel the Red Sox to the American League pennant, he batted just .125 in the series overall.

    Victorino certainly had a solid regular season, but the offensive numbers were somewhat warped during the second half.

    A nagging hamstring injury convinced him to abandon switch-hitting. His .386 on-base percentage as a right-handed batter against right-handed pitching is relatively hollow because he was plunked 11 times in those situations. It's not surprising that he's been slow to identify inside offerings when at a platoon disadvantage after many years of facing righties from a different perspective. 

    Nonetheless, Victorino is the superior right fielder in this matchup based upon the strength of his defense—as a longtime center fielder, he's overqualified for a corner spot—as well as the value he adds as a baserunner.

     

    Very Slight Advantage for Red Sox

Designated Hitter

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    David Ortiz, Boston Red Sox
    David Ortiz, Boston Red SoxMike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    St. Louis Cardinals: Allen Craig

    Craig's 2013 Regular Season: .315/.373/.457, 131 OPS+, 2.2 WAR in 134 G

    Sabermetrics were underwhelmed with Craig as a defender, particularly when Mike Matheny miscast him as a corner outfielder.

    His 2013 WAR value also suffered a ton from baserunning, and that was mostly because of dumb decisions that resulted in 12 outs on base. For comparison's sake, the much-maligned Yasiel Puig committed 11. (Weird, huh? We haven't been seeing veteran columnists wagging their figurative fingers at Craig for those blunders, arguing that his return will only hurt the Cards. Anyway, that's a whole different article.)

    The 29-year-old was fantastic with runners in scoring position (1.138 OPS, 83 RBI in 152 PA) this season. He prioritizes solid contact in those situations, and besides maybe Matt Carpenter, no other Cardinal deserves more credit for the club's National League-leading offensive output.

    Craig has been absent from the playoff run thus far because of a Lisfranc foot injury, but he told Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that he's ready to rejoin the roster. Bob Nightengale of USA Today came away with the same impression after watching him take batting practice on Sunday.

    Now, the big question concerns how close he'll come to mirroring his pre-injury production after seven weeks on the sidelines.

     

    Boston Red Sox: David Ortiz 

    Ortiz's 2013 Regular Season: .309/.395/.564, 160 OPS+, 4.4 WAR in 137 G

    Get your popcorn ready, because the sight of Big Papi manning first base at Busch Stadium ought to be wildly entertaining. There has perhaps never been a more prototypical "American League player" than David Ortiz.

    He's also a liability on the basepaths, but unlike Craig, that's because of his glacial running speed.

    Ortiz, of course, will open up the Fall Classic as a designated hitter, exploiting a rule that's given him an everyday job for 11-straight seasons. However, he still does that job about as well as anyone ever has.

    Although he had uncharacteristically dramatic platoon splits this year and his power dipped a bit after the All-Star break, we cannot dispute that he is still lethal at the plate. Moreover, his history of annihilating October competition has been well documented.

    This DH slide is all about offensive impact, so the ageless Dominican legend gets the nod.

     

    Big Advantage for Red Sox

Bench

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    Daniel Nava, Boston Red Sox
    Daniel Nava, Boston Red SoxJared Wickerham/Getty Images

    St. Louis Cardinals 

    Let's say a starting position player goes down with an injury; how would the Red Birds go about replacing that offense?

    This bench features Adron Chambers (.434 OPS in regular season), Tony Cruz (.533 OPS) and Kolten Wong (.363 OPS). Although Daniel Descalso and Shane Robinson provide some contact skills and defensive competence, neither of those diminutive guys is an extra-base threat.

    The fact that St. Louis has been so successful in September and October is solely a testament to outstanding lineup depth and gifted young pitchers, because this bench is an embarrassment.

     

    Boston Red Sox

    Before mentioning a single name, we'll make it clear that Boston has better alternatives. 

    First baseman/outfielder Mike Carp and catcher David Ross terrorize left-handed pitching. Midsummer acquisition Quintin Berry has never been caught stealing in 28 career regular-season and postseason attempts. Also, let's not forget about Will Middlebrooks, who has a steady glove at the hot corner and great power-hitting potential.

    The disparity here is almost Jon Jay vs. Jacoby Ellsbury-esque. 

     

    Big Advantage for Red Sox

Starting Rotation

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    Elsa/Getty Images

    St. Louis Cardinals: Joe Kelly, Lance Lynn, Michael Wacha, Adam Wainwright

    MLB.com provides this quartet's filthy stats from their combined 11 starts in the postseason:

    • 2.57 earned run average
    • 14 unintentional walks in 70 innings
    • 6.36 innings per start

    St. Louis starters have been fearlessly attacking opposing lineups, which has kept their pitch counts reasonable and has allowed for longer outings.

    With that said, let's add some context. Those stats were accumulated against the Pittsburgh Pirates and Los Angeles Dodgers, the two weakest offensive teams who qualified for the playoffs.

    No disrespect to All-Star innings-eater Adam Wainwright, but he's got some company as far as the team's ace discussion is concerned.

    Wacha has proven himself as the most dominant member of this rotation (or of anybody's rotation, for that matter). In seven of eight starts dating back to the beginning of September, the rookie right-hander has limited his opposition to five hits or fewer, with the only exception coming during his Coors Field debut. He rightfully earned NLCS MVP honors due his 13.2 scoreless innings.

    Lynn is your quintessential "Jekyll and Hyde" guy. He ranked ninth in the National League in strikeouts this year, but also fourth in walks and fifth in hit batsmen. 

     

    Boston Red Sox: Clay Buchholz, John Lackey, Jon Lester, Jake Peavy

    Lester, the lone lefty, is an awesome option atop Boston's rotation.

    Despite logging a career-high 213.1 innings during the regular season, he made sure not to empty the tank completely. Lester's average fastball velocity of 94.28 mph this October, per BrooksBaseball.net, is his highest in any month since September 2010. 

    Alas, the depth behind him isn't quite what the Red Sox envisioned.

    Buchholz has served up three home runs in as many postseason starts after allowing only four in his 16 previous outings. Aside from an Aug. 25 complete game, Peavy has underachieved in a Red Sox uniform. His strikeout rate is the lowest it's been in a decade, and since coming to Boston in a midseason trade, he only has 49 whiffs in 73.2 innings.

    Thanks to Lackey, the group is close behind the Cardinals in overall quality. The Tommy John surgery survivor posted a career-best 1.16 WHIP and 4.03 strikeout-to-walk ratio this year.

     

    Slight Advantage for Cardinals

Bullpen

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    Koji Uehara, Boston Red Sox
    Koji Uehara, Boston Red SoxAl Bello/Getty Images

    St. Louis Cardinals Closer: Trevor Rosenthal

    Rosenthal's 2013 Regular Season: 2.63 ERA, 1.91 FIP, 1.4 WAR in 74 G

    How awesome was Rosenthal from April through September?

    Grantland's Michael Baumann put his stats and Atlanta's Craig Kimbrel's stats side by side, and concluded that with the same supporting cast, they would have been virtually identical. 

    We've noted that Matt Adams, David Freese and other regular position players for the Cardinals don't have the flexibility to touch their toes. To prevent them from ruining close contests, Rosenthal does his best to strike out all his challengers.

    He finished sixth among MLB relievers with a 12.90 K/9, according to FanGraphs. Kimbrel is the only one ahead of him on that list who posted a higher ground ball rate. That tells us that the 23-year-old expertly avoids contact, but even when he can't, the balls put in play are relatively harmless.

    By the way, he also hasn't allowed a run in 13 career postseason appearances.

     

    Setup Men and Middle Relief

    On the verge of free agency, Edward Mujica has imploded. According to Derrick Goold of The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, he blames it on fatigue—so that obviously hurts the team's bullpen depth.

    His ill-timed loss of confidence leaves Randy Choate, baseball's prototypical LOOGY, as the lone trustworthy veteran in the later innings. He quietly had a very good campaign, holding opposing lefties to a .176/.268/.224 batting line. Here's a fun fact from FanGraphs: Choate was one of 219 National League pitchers to throw at least 30 innings, but he was the only one who didn't allow a home run.

    That's right, we're dissing John Axford. The former closer is most certainly not "trustworthy," despite a 1.74 earned run average with St. Louis during the summer. He continues to be inexplicably hittable, even against right-handed batters.

    Mike Matheny would rather utilize his standout rookies in tough spots.

    Dating back to mid-September, Carlos Martinez has given up only three hits in his past 11 innings, and his heater is almost on par with Rosenthal's. Kevin Siegrist is Matheny's second lefty matchup option. He generates more swings-and-misses than Choate, but he also occasionally loses his command. 

    Meanwhile, Shelby Miller has spent most of the past month pacing back and forth in the bullpen. St. Louis had concerns about his late-summer struggles and snubbed him from the playoff rotation. Nonetheless, it'd be foolish to forget about somebody who maintained a 119 ERA+ in 31 starts and nearly completed a no-hitter (courtesy of MLB.com).

     

     

    Boston Red Sox Closer: Koji Uehara 

    Uehara's 2013 Regular Season: 1.09 ERA, 1.61 FIP, 3.6 WAR in 73 G

    The oldest player on either World Series roster (38) still has a child-like enthusiasm for the game.

    Who can blame him? If he's going to lead all relievers in earned run average and strikeout-to-walk ratio, let him high-five everybody in sight.

    Uehara has always been a special strike-thrower, but at age 38, he has finally shaken the "fragile" label that followed him during previous tenures with the Baltimore Orioles and Texas Rangers. There's no longer any hesitation about using him on back-to-back days.

    In 45 appearances since the beginning of July, the Japanese right-hander has allowed only two walks and two earned runs.

    Make sure to re-read that sentence several times. It could be a few years—or generations—until we can apply it to another closer.

     

    Setup Men and Middle Relief

    The Red Sox collectively have more October experience than the Red Birds, but key arms like Craig Breslow, Junichi Tazawa and Brandon Workman are all here for the first time. The latter two both rack up gaudy strikeout totals with ease.

    If there's any individual worth worrying about, it's Breslow. The 33-year-old left-hander began losing the strike zone a bit in September, but that was downplayed as he continued to string together scoreless appearances. With four unintentional walks and a hit batsman in seven postseason innings, it doesn't seem that he has put those troubles behind him yet.

    Felix Doubront is Boston's version of Shelby Miller, an overpowering starter who faded down the stretch.

    All things considered, this battle of the bullpens goes to the Red Sox because of Uehara's unrivaled brilliance as well as their relievers' microscopic 0.84 earned run average so far this postseason.

     

    Very Slight Advantage for Red Sox

World Series Prediction

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    Expect David Ortiz to win the third World Series title of his Red Sox career.
    Expect David Ortiz to win the third World Series title of his Red Sox career.Jim Rogash/Getty Images

    To put a bow on this, let's expand beyond the one-on-one comparisons.

    While it was important to detail which team had the advantage at each position, what ultimately matters most is how these individuals affect their opponent. After all, that's why they play the games!

    This is where we take scheduling, experience and splits into consideration in order to predict whether the St. Louis Cardinals or the Boston Red Sox will triumph:

     

    St. Louis' Matchup Advantages

    • During the ALCS, the Red Sox struggled to ignite their offense against power arms like Al Alburquerque, Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander. FanGraphs points out that seven pitchers on the Cardinals' projected World Series roster average at least 93 mph with their fastballs. Four of them consistently throw their heat above 95.
    • If necessary, Michael Wacha will start Games 2 and 6 at Fenway Park. He's been undefeated on the road since arriving in the majors.
    • Due to the improvement of opposing pitching and deterioration of weather conditions, home runs become rare in October. Bombs were hit once every 36.7 at-bats during the 2013 regular season, but only once every 45.7 at-bats since then, according to ESPN. That doesn't bother the Cardinals. They finished third in Major League Baseball in runs scored, despite the 27th-ranked home run total, and that was mostly due to their execution with runners in scoring position.

     

    Boston's Matchup Advantages

    • The American League's All-Star Game win allows the Red Sox to host four of a possible seven World Series games from Fenway Park. They were an AL-best 53-28 at home in 2013.
    • Against right-handed pitching this season, Boston posted a .283 batting average (second in MLB), .355 on-base percentage (first) and .462 slugging percentage (first). The Cardinals rotation is entirely right-handed.
    • Carlos Beltran has never played right field at Fenway Park. The quirky dimensions caused problems for Torii Hunter, who has played in Boston many times over his career.
    • Regular season and postseason combined, Boston has only been blown out—a loss by five-plus runs—13 times. That means contests should remain close, and the Cardinals will likely need to lean heavily on their best relievers.

     

    Grand slams by David Ortiz and Shane Victorino in Games 2 and 6 of the ALCS were among the most exciting moments of the series, postseason and entire baseball year. They also emphasized how much the Red Sox rely on long balls. Fortunately for the Cardinals, their pitching staff was second-best in the sport at suppressing them this year.

    If Adam Wainwright and Co. continue carving up lineups like they have throughout October, then the Cards will capture the World Series title.

    Of course, that's far from a guarantee. 

    The St. Louis staff features Lance Lynn, Carlos Martinez and Wacha, all of whom have thrown more innings in 2013 than they have in any other year of their lives. Exhaustion can manifest itself in the form of reduced velocity or an inconsistent release point (or both). The latter would lead directly to command issues, including more pitches that wind up over the heart of the plate.

    Do not expect any guesses here as to who specifically makes the mistakes and on which nights they take place. Joe Giglio has creatively mapped out Bleacher Report's game-by-game predictions

    Just know that Boston's batters have the plate discipline and intestinal fortitude to capitalize on their opportunities against the young Red Birds. That should make all the difference.

     

    Prediction: Red Sox in seven games.

     

    Ely is a national MLB Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report and a sportscaster for 90.5 WVUM in Miami. He’s hoping to deepen relationships with his fantastic online audience (that means you) via Twitter.

     

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