The Red Sox barely missed the postseason in 2011 and then finished in last place in the AL East in 2012 before winning 97 games this season, which was tied for the most in all of baseball. They got past the Tampa Bay Rays in four games in the ALDS before winning the ALCS four games to two against the Detroit Tigers.
The Cardinals on the other hand did not go through as much hardships in the past. They won the 2011 World Series over the Texas Rangers and reached the 2012 NLCS before losing to the San Francisco Giants, which ended up winning the 2012 World Series. This year, the Cardinals won 97 games themselves, beat the Pittsburgh Pirates in five games in the NLDS and defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers in six games to win the NLCS.
In what will be a repeat of the 2004 World Series matchup, both the Red Sox and the Cardinals have very good pitching and solid lineups as well.
But how exactly does each team really stack up against one another? Here is a position-by-position breakdown of whether the Red Sox or the Cardinals will have more advantages in the 2013 World Series.
Red Sox Catcher: Jarrod Saltalamacchia
Cardinals Catcher: Yadier Molina
While Jarrod Saltalamacchia has started to really come into his own as a major league catcher, this position clearly favors the Cardinals.
Saltalamacchia has power and even raised his average 51 points this season, but he is average at best defensively and does not have a particularly good throwing arm.
Meanwhile, Yadier Molina has been one of the elite catchers in all of baseball for almost a full decade. His defense and throwing arm has always been one of the best, as evidenced by the five consecutive NL Gold Glove awards he has won (and with a sixth consecutive award likely coming this season as well).
He also acts as a great mentor for his pitching staff.
As for his bat, Molina has really developed into a great contact hitter that gets on base and shows occasional power.
So while Saltalamacchia has been improving, he is still not an elite catcher like Molina.
Red Sox First Baseman: Mike Napoli
Cardinals First Baseman: Matt Adams
Mike Napoli, who had primarily been a catcher in the past with the Angels and the Rangers, came to Boston in the offseason to become the Red Sox first baseman. He sure enough became one of the Red Sox's best hitters and can hit the ball a mile at any given moment.
Matt Adams also has a lot of power but only got 296 at-bats in the regular season because he was not an everyday starter.
Regular first baseman Allen Craig has been out since early September with a foot injury, but according to The Associated Press (via ESPN), Craig feels ready to return for the World Series. Craig will likely be the designated hitter for the first two games in Boston, but when the series moves to St. Louis, it will be interesting to see what happens at first base for the Cardinals.
Regardless, Adams is not particularly agile and is average defensively at best, but he has a lot of power potential, which should not be overlooked. The difference though is that Napoli is a much more established hitter thus far, which favors the Red Sox.
Advantage: Red Sox
Red Sox Second Baseman: Dustin Pedroia
Cardinals Second Baseman: Matt Carpenter
Matt Carpenter had quite a breakout season this year in which he led the National League in runs scored (126), hits (199) and doubles (55). He also drew 72 walks and became a great leadoff catalyst for the Cardinals.
Dustin Pedroia on the other hand has been one of the best second basemen in all of baseball for years. He gets on base, hits for more power, has a lot more speed and plays very good defense all the time. Pedroia, a member of the 2007 World Series champion Red Sox as a rookie, also has more postseason experience than Carpenter, which is a significant aspect for a comparison.
Carpenter has shown the baseball world who he is and what he can do, but it's too early to compare him to an established star like Pedroia.
Advantage: Red Sox
Red Sox Shortstop: Stephen Drew
Cardinals Shortstop: Pete Kozma
Here is another comparison between an established shortstop and a young, rising shortstop.
Stephen Drew, of course, is the veteran, who has been the Red Sox's starting shortstop despite the presence of both Jose Iglesias and later, Xander Bogaerts.
Drew batted just .253 with 13 home runs and 67 RBI this season and has been cold at the plate in the postseason thus far. However, if his bat can catch fire in the World Series, it would certainly be a boost for the Red Sox.
Pete Kozma has been a light-hitting shortstop in his rookie season this year. His defense also wasn't one of the best, as evidenced by a .984 fielding percentage and nine errors. Kozma is younger and could have some offensive potential one day, but at this point, his bat is not even as good as Drew's ice cold bat.
Advantage: Red Sox
Red Sox Third Baseman: Will Middlebrooks
Cardinals Third Baseman: David Freese
Both Will Middlebrooks and David Freese are aggressive hitters that will not lead their leagues in OBP, but both have some power to tap into. But once again, the more seasoned veteran has the advantage over the younger player.
Middlebrooks had a good season as a part-time player in 2012 but did not perform as well this season with just a .227 average, 17 home runs and 49 RBI. Middlebrooks only had one hit in 10 at-bats in the ALCS before getting benched in favor of Xander Bogaerts.
It will be interesting to see which player will get more playing time in the World Series.
As for Freese, he took a step back this season and was not particularly consistent at the plate. But the one thing Freese has going for him is postseason experience.
In the 2011 postseason, Freese batted .397 with five home runs and 21 RBI. He saved his best hitting though for the World Series when he hit a two-run triple to tie Game 6 and eventually hit a walk-off home run to win it and send the series to a Game 7, which the Cardinals also won.
It's definitely possible that Freese could find his postseason mojo again.
Middlebrooks and Bogaerts both have a lot of potential, but they cannot be compared right now to a former World Series hero.
Red Sox Left Fielder: Jonny Gomes
Cardinals Left Fielder: Matt Holliday
Jonny Gomes is a serviceable left fielder and has had some big hits at times. Despite being a respectable outfielder though, he is no match for Matt Holliday, who is one of baseball's elite hitters.
Holliday has been one of baseball's most consistent hitters since 2005. He may not be as feared at the plate as he was in his days with the Colorado Rockies, but he still has a lot of power. With a .311 career average and a career .918 OPS, Holliday is one of the big bats that the Red Sox will have to be cautious with.
Red Sox Center Fielder: Jacoby Ellsbury
Cardinals Center Fielder: Jon Jay
Unlike left field, center field is a position that is in the Red Sox's favor with Jacoby Ellsbury being one of the best leadoff hitters in the game.
This season, Ellsbury did not display the same kind of power he showed in 2011, when he was the AL MVP runner-up, but he led the major leagues in stolen bases with 52 and only got caught four times. He also batted .298 with 172 hits.
Defensively, Ellsbury does not have the best throwing arm but has excellent range in center field and can cover a lot of ground.
Jon Jay is a respectable center fielder in his own right. Like Ellsbury, Jay is above average defensively, but his bat is not as developed. He does not possess much power and is not a particularly great on-base guy, but his defense makes him essential to the Cardinals overall.
Advantage: Red Sox
Red Sox Right Fielder: Shane Victorino
Cardinals Right Fielder: Carlos Beltran
Both right fielders are converted center fielders that were forced to move for different reasons. Shane Victorino had to move due to the presence of Jacoby Ellsbury in center field for the Red Sox, while Carlos Beltran's age made a right field transition necessary, which he made in 2011 with the New York Mets.
Both have been All-Stars and have won Gold Glove awards in center field over the years. But the kind of offensive players they happen to be are different. Victorino is more of a speedy catalyst that will score runs, while Beltran has been a middle-of-the-order hitter that will drive in runners and hit a lot of home runs.
This position is closer than most, but the biggest difference is Beltran's postseason success.
Beltran is a career .335 hitter in the postseason with 16 home runs and 37 RBI. Victorino, on the other hand, is a career .258 postseason hitter with seven home runs and 38 RBI. These are respectable numbers in themselves, but Beltran has become one of the best postseason hitters of all time.
Red Sox Designated Hitter: David Ortiz
Cardinals Designated Hitter: Allen Craig
With the designated hitter is only in play when the Red Sox are hosting, this will not be as significant of a position. This comparison is between a veteran designated hitter in David Ortiz and Allen Craig, who has been recovering from his September foot injury and might be limited with his playing time as a result.
Craig has developed into a very good hitter. He batted .315 and drove in 97 runs this season. However, despite being younger Ortiz, Big Papi has a much more impressive postseason resume. Despite a .277 career postseason average, Ortiz has hit 16 home runs and driven in 57 RBI. He has also hit .321 in the World Series, with this season being his third trip to the Fall Classic.
In addition, Ortiz's overall season this year was better than that of Craig's and when the Red Sox are home, Ortiz is a difference maker. It should not be too much of a surprise that the American League team gets the designated hitter advantage.
Advantage: Red Sox
Red Sox Starting Pitchers: Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, Jake Peavy, John Lackey
Cardinals Starting Pitchers: Adam Wainwright, Michael Wacha, Joe Kelly, Lance Lynn
This is more of a toss-up, generally speaking, but while the Cardinals may have the better one-two punch in Adam Wainwright and the red-hot Michael Wacha, the Red Sox's rotation is deeper.
John Lester is the ace of the staff and should be a dependable rock for the pitching staff to lean on. Clay Buchholz, Jake Peavy and John Lackey could all be worthy of starting Game 2, but according to Dayn Perry of CBS Sports, Lackey will be getting the Game 2 start.
Lackey has overcome a disastrous 2011 season and a 2012 season that he didn't even pitch in due to injury to bounce back this season with a 10-13 record and a 3.52 ERA. Buchholz and Peavy are both very good starters as well, who make the Red Sox's rotation that much deeper.
Wainwright for the Cardinals has been an innings-eater and a consistent presence as an ace. He has pitched very well this postseason.
Wacha was the NLCS MVP this year with two brilliant starts in which he allowed no runs and seven hits combined. In his only NLDS start, he allowed a home run as the only hit he gave up that day. That is how dominant Wacha has been, and the Cardinals will need him to win Game 2 so that St. Louis is not in an 0-2 hole when the series moves to Busch Stadium.
Joe Kelly and Lance Lynn both have not been as consistent, but if they have good command on their pitches, they can definitely keep the Cardinals in the game and give them good chances to win.
Both teams have great pitching, but the Red Sox have a deeper rotation, and it can certainly help them win more.
Advantage: Red Sox
Red Sox Bullpen: Felix Doubront, Ryan Dempster, Franklin Morales, Brandon Workman, Junichi Tazawa, Craig Breslow, Koji Uehara
Cardinals Bullpen: John Axford, Carlos Martinez, Kevin Siegrist, Seth Maness, Randy Choate, Edward Mujica, Trevor Rosenthal
Both of these bullpens have overcome significant injuries to their closers and have still been dominant this season. Earlier this season, the Red Sox lost both Joel Hanrahan and Andrew Bailey to season-ending injuries, which resulted in Koji Uehara becoming the next closer.
Uehara thrived in his new role with 21 saves and a 1.09 ERA. He continued to pitch well this postseason with a 3.00 ERA in the ALDS and a 0.00 ERA in the ALCS with only five hits allowed. It's clear that the third closer was the charm for the Red Sox this season.
Junichi Tazawa and Craig Breslow have teamed up to become one of the best righty-lefty setup duos in the game, while regular starters Felix Doubront and Ryan Dempster make the Red Sox's bullpen that much deeper.
The Cardinals lost their own closer Jason Motte in May to season-ending surgery and have had Edward Mujica and Trevor Rosenthal close ever since, with Rosenthal as the Cardinals' present closer.
Rosenthal only had three regular-season saves but has not allowed a single run in the postseason thus far. Mujica had himself a good season with 37 saves but has only made two appearances in the postseason.
John Axford and Randy Choate have pitched well as setup men, while Carlos Martinez is another good, young arm in the Cardinals' pitching staff.
The battle of the bullpens could be close, but with Uehara having more experience in the postseason than the rookie Rosenthal, the Red Sox should be favored here.
Advantage: Red Sox
Red Sox Manager: John Farrell
Cardinals Manager: Mike Matheny
Both John Farrell and Mike Matheny do not have a particularly long experience of being major league managers.
Farrell was the Toronto Blue Jays manager from 2011-2012 and is in his first season as the Red Sox manager, while Matheny is in his second season as the Cardinals manager. Neither had managed a team to the World Series in the past, although Farrell was the Red Sox pitching coach from 2007—when the Red Sox won their most recent World Series—until 2010.
Matheny has a very talented Cardinals team, but his overall lack of managerial experience is inferior to that of Farrell, who has managed a few more years. As a result, for whatever it may be worth, the Red Sox have the managerial edge.
Advantage: Red Sox
Positional Advantages for the Red Sox: First Base, Second Base, Shortstop, Center Field, Designated Hitter, Starting Pitching, Bullpen, Manager
Positional Advantages for the Cardinals: Catcher, Third Base, Left Field, Right Field
As shown here, the Red Sox look like they have more going for them at certain positions than the Cardinals. Some of these comparisons were very close, but with the pitching advantages and a stronger infield, the Red Sox should be favored to win their third World Series championship in the past decade.
World Series Prediction: Red Sox in Six Games