2013 World Series: Lack of DH Will Hurt Boston Red Sox in St. Louis
After splitting the first two games of the 2013 World Series in Fenway Park, the Boston Red Sox will be at a major disadvantage when they travel to St. Louis to take on the Cardinals in Games 3 through 5.
Boston will be forced how to figure out its lineup without being able to utilize the designated hitter.
If the Red Sox had an average DH who merely provided an extra bat in the lineup, this problem would be far less significant. But Boston's DH is David Ortiz—one of the most prolific hitters in recent Red Sox history.
Further compounding the problem is the fact that Boston rolls with the veteran Mike Napoli at first base.
Heading to St. Louis, Boston now encounters a logjam at first base without the DH.
When these two teams met in the World Series back in 2004, there were concerns about Ortiz's abilities defensively at first base. Yet the decision to keep Ortiz in the lineup and risk exposing his defensive liabilities—at least before being replaced in later innings—did not hurt the Red Sox that year.
The difference between 2004 and 2013 is that now Boston is forced to go with either Napoli or Ortiz at first and leave the other out of the lineup.
Red Sox manager John Farrell has announced that he will start Ortiz at first base for Game 3.
Keeping Ortiz in the lineup is the right decision for Farrell according to CBS Sports Jon Heyman. Ortiz's presence in the batting order supplants almost any concerns over his defensive woes in the field.
It is also worth noting that Ortiz started six games at first during the regular season and logged 36 putouts in 37 chances. Throws from Boston's infielders will have to be on the money, which puts more pressure on the defense, but at least Ortiz is not completely hopeless in the field.
Instead, the bigger question resides with handling Napoli. Napoli gives the offense that much more firepower.
Leaving his bat out of the lineup is not a good thing. The Red Sox are hitting .188 after two games in the World Series. Ortiz has four hits in six at-bats including two home runs. While Napoli has only one hit in seven at-bats, that hit drove in three runs, kick-starting Boston's Game 1 victory.
One possible solution to keep Napoli and Ortiz's bats in the lineup is having Napoli catch. Napoli caught 72 games for the Texas Rangers last season and has started a total of 485 games behind the plate. It is clear that he knows what to do at the position.
Considering that Boston's current catching tandem of David Ross and Jarrod Saltalamacchia do not provide as much offensive thump, having Napoli take over the catching responsibilities could work from an offensive standpoint.
Ross has one hit in four at-bats with zero runs batted in thus far. Saltalamacchia is hitless in the World Series.
Boston Red Sox: Should Mike Napoli Catch in Game 3? (Yahoo Contributor Network): COMMENTARY | When the Boston ... http://t.co/6Ofv6w7DUy— RedSoxBot (@RedSoxBot) October 25, 2013
That is a good option for Farrell if he would want to keep Napoli's bat in the lineup. The problem with this, of course, is that Napoli has yet to catch any of Boston's pitchers, and there is no rapport developed between Napoli and the Red Sox pitching staff sans John Lackey.
How should Boston address the lack of DH in St. Louis?
Perhaps in this regard, putting Napoli behind the plate solves one problem but potentially creates another.
Still, this is something Farrell needs to consider. Runs are likely to be at a premium during each of the three games in St. Louis. While taking a defensive gamble on Ortiz at first and Napoli behind the plate could hurt Boston, their bats are too valuable to overlook.
Whatever course of action Boston chooses, the situation creates problems for the Red Sox.
Boston hopes that those problems will not be exposed.
Peter Panacy is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report. Follow him @PeterMcShots on Twitter.
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