The Boston Red Sox took Game 1, but perhaps the St. Louis Cardinals have a few tricks up their sleeve for the remaining bouts.
With the Boston Red Sox taking Game 1 of the World Series, the St. Louis Cardinals are already in the hole.
But with at least three more games left to come back, the Red Birds should not be fretting for a variety of reasons, one of which could be some non-surface statistical advantages.
While World Series victories are more or less contingent on the good play of individual matchups, some advanced and peripheral statistics could indicate otherwise unaccounted for strengths.
Metrics like FIP (Field Independent Pitching), a bullpen’s collective fastball value (wFB) and all-inclusive defense metrics (UZR/150) only add to the “who will win?” conversation.
Read on to see the full explanation of these advanced/peripheral statistics that could help determine the 2013 World Series champion.
Michael Wacha's ace performance in the playoffs has been supported by his regular season FIP.
Michael Wacha has proven to be a dominant starting pitcher in the playoffs. Over three combined starts against the Pittsburgh Pirates and Los Angeles Dodgers, Wacha has posted a 0.43 ERA, 0.57 WHIP and 5.5 K/BB.
But Wacha’s maturation into an ace shouldn’t be as much of a headline as it’s becoming. The 22-year-old owned a 2.92 FIP (versus a 2.78 ERA) over 64.2 innings during the regular season.
Granted, 64.2 innings is a small sample size, but Wacha is certainly supporting it thus far in the playoffs. By comparison, pitchers like Chris Sale, David Price and Zack Greinke all posted FIPs higher than Wacha’s during the regular season.
If the World Series stretches to seven games, Wacha and his ace-worthy FIP should hit the mound twice.
Koji Uehara can't do it all by himself, Boston Red Sox.
Koji Uehara has proved that a blazing fastball doesn’t make or break you as a dominant reliever. Uehara averaged a mere 89.2 mph on his fastball during the regular season, yet the pitch was still worth 10.3 runs above average.
If only the rest of the Boston Red Sox’s bullpen could take a page out of his book.
On the season, the Red Sox’s bullpen’s fastball was worth a collective 0.4 runs above average. By comparison, the St. Louis Cardinals’ bullpen’s fastball netted a whopping 23.3 runs above average this season.
Even though it takes more than a valuable fastball to collect a strikeout, possessing one still gives the Cardinals the upper hand when it comes to late-inning outs.
David Ortiz made the ball cry all season long.
The St. Louis Cardinals produced enough in the second half to keep division rivals Pittsburgh Pirates and Cincinnati Reds at bay. But it wasn’t because of their offense.
Despite posting a park-adjusted 111 wRC+ during the first half, the Cardinals slumped to a pedestrian 98 wRC+ after the All-Star break. The most remarkable fades were Yadier Molina, Allen Craig and Carlos Beltran, who witnessed their wRC+ drop between 34-35 points.
By comparison, the Boston Red Sox’s offense stayed consistent throughout the season. The Red Sox posted a combined 115 wRC+ and 116 wRC+ in the first and second halves, respectively.
David Ortiz, the team’s trusted designated hitter, personally powered the Red Sox with a 152 wRC+—which was 13 points more than the next hitter.
Shane Victorino was a defensive wizard in 2013.
Defense isn’t just about pure errors anymore. Experts tend to look at range, arm and, yes, errors—but it is all done through a “runs above average” lens. And UZR/150, a metric created by FanGraphs.com, is a statistic that takes all of these individual defensive metrics and combines it into one statistic (per 150 defensive plays).
According to UZR/150, the St. Louis Cardinals did not have a good defensive season in 2013. Despite boasting Yadier Molina and Pete Kozma, the St. Louis Cardinals, as a team, did not grade out well defensively. During the regular season, the Cardinals posted a combined minus-10.6 UZR/150.
Players like David Freese (minus-22.7 UZR/150), Daniel Descalso (minus-20.4 UZR/150 at shortstop and minus-14.2 UZR/150 at second base) and Carlos Beltran (minus-18.7 UZR/150) were the biggest culprits.
On the other end of the spectrum, the Boston Red Sox enjoyed a fruitful defensive season in 2013. The Red Sox owned a combined 2.6 UZR/150 during the regular season, which was third best in the American League.
Outfielder Shane Victorino led the charge for the Red Sox, gloving an incredible 35.3 UZR/150. But Mike Napoli (13.3 UZR/150), Jacoby Ellsubury (12.9 UZR/150) and Dustin Pedroia (11.7 UZR/150) also deserve some credit, too.