David Ortiz's smile would be wider if he won the World Series MVP award.
After a grueling regular season and playoffs to date, the St. Louis Cardinals and Boston Red Sox are set to duke it out in the World Series.
While the teams’ World Series berths were predictable, the inevitable series MVP race could go in a variety of directions.
A Mr. October like David Ortiz might be the leading candidate going into the series, but fans shouldn’t count out newcomers like Michael Wacha, whose microscopic ERA thus far has wowed critics and fans alike.
Read on to see the top five 2013 World Series MVP award candidates.
Few opposing hitters have been able to do damage against Trevor Rosenthal in the playoffs.
The fact that Trevor Rosenthal only accumulated three saves during the regular season is a shame. The Cardinals instead handed the closing duties to career middle reliever Edward Mujica, who, up until September, was shutting the door on a consistent basis.
Throughout 2013, however, Rosenthal has been the real gem in the Cardinals bullpen. The righty posted a 2.63 ERA (versus a park-adjusted 139 ERA+), 1.10 WHIP and 5.40 K/BB during the regular season. Rosenthal’s success was mostly due to averaging 97.3 miles per hour on his fastball.
But Rosenthal has only taken it up a notch in October. The 23-year-old hasn’t been scored on over seven innings, giving up just three hits and three walks while striking out nine batters. Rosenthal has also matched his regular-season save total with three postseason saves.
If the Cardinals find themselves in several save situations against the Red Sox, a successful Rosenthal could also be in line for the MVP award.
Jacoby Ellsbury has returned to being the dynamic player he was in 2011.
After spending a good chunk of 2012 on the disabled list and posting a rather pedestrian season even when healthy (a park-adjusted 84 OPS+), Jacoby Ellsbury has returned to glory in 2013. The outfielder had a .298 batting average, 114 OPS+, nine home runs and 52 stolen bases over 636 plate appearances in the regular season.
The impending free agent must be pleased about his postseason performance thus far, too. Ellsbury has posted a .400 batting average with four extra-base hits and six stolen bases for the Red Sox this October.
Even if the 30-year-old doesn’t jack a home run in the World Series, his knack for timely hits, stolen bases and spectacular defense could earn him the MVP award.
Michael Wacha has quickly emerged from neophyte to dependable ace.
Few people thought Michael Wacha would emerge as the Cardinals' best starting pitcher down the stretch and into the playoffs. After posting a 2.78 ERA (versus a park-adjusted 131 ERA+) during the regular season, Wacha has continued his success in the postseason.
Over three starts against the Pittsburgh Pirates and Los Angeles Dodgers, the 22-year-old has befuddled opposing hitters. Wacha has a 0.43 ERA, 0.57 WHIP and 5.5 K/BB with three wins.
And even though Adam Wainwright is technically the Cardinals' ace, Wacha has pitched as well (or better) than any starter this postseason.
Carlos Beltran lives for October baseball.
There are few players with more success in the postseason than Carlos Beltran. Beltran owns a .337 batting average, 1.173 OPS, 16 home runs and 37 RBI in his October career.
And while the 36-year-old is only hitting .256 in the 2013 playoffs, his two home runs and 12 RBI have still helped propel the St. Louis Cardinals to where they are now.
Given his career statistics, it’s likely Beltran will turn it around in his first World Series. Especially if the veteran could emulate his 2004 postseason, when he hit .435 with eight home runs, Beltran would have little difficulty adding some new hardware to his collection.
David Ortiz is a prime candidate to take home his first World Series MVP.
At age 37, David Ortiz enjoyed yet another banner season for Boston. The slugger posted a .309 batting average, park-adjusted 160 OPS+ and 30 home runs for the Red Sox during the regular season.
And while Ortiz’s play in the postseason has been spotty, only collecting one hit over his last 17 plate appearances, the designated hitter has also produced in key moments. Ortiz has swatted three home runs in October, including a game-tying grand slam in Game 2 of the ALCS.
The Red Sox need Ortiz to be on his game in the World Series. Given his postseason track record, Ortiz is a logical World Series MVP award front-runner.