Red Sox vs. Cardinals: Top Takeaways from Exciting 2013 Fall Classic
There are several stories to take away from the 2013 World Series between the champion Boston Red Sox and St. Louis Cardinals, but there are a few developments that should be singled out above the rest.
Boston won a World Series at home for the first time since 1918—a great story in itself. Just as astounding was the fact that Boston won the World Series after winning only 69 games in 2012.
St. Louis was as mentally tough an opponent as Boston could have faced, but the clutch bats and strong pitching performances of the Red Sox were too much for the Cardinals to handle. The young pitching for St. Louis has a bright future, but the inexperience of the club inevitably led to its Game 6 demise.
Even though the Series didn't go seven games, this year's Fall Classic should stand out as one of the more exciting ones in recent memory for a bevy of reasons.
Here are a few things to take away from the six-game series as we head into the offseason.
Koji Uehara is a Top-Tier Closer
After entering the season with plans to use Joel Hanrahan or Andrew Bailey as the closer, manager John Farrell passed those duties onto setup man Koji Uehara. The injuries to the aforementioned closers were supposed to cripple Boston in the second half. Instead, they actually made the Red Sox better.
Uehara, who recorded 21 saves and a 1.09 ERA in 74.1 innings during the regular season, was arguably the most dominant reliever in baseball over the second half of the season. He's under contract for cheap money in 2014, and the Red Sox will surely take advantage of that before his inevitable pay raise comes after next season.
Uehara's impressive performance in the postseason is what puts him in the discussion as one of the top closers in baseball. He had seven saves over 16.0 combined innings against the Tampa Bay Rays, Detroit Tigers and Cardinals while allowing just seven baserunners and striking out 20 batters.
After an exceptionally dominant postseason and World Series, Uehara deserves to have his name put up there with the top closers in the majors. Farrell would be wise to keep him in that role next season, even when Hanrahan and Bailey are back to being healthy.
Michael Wacha is MLB's Next Ace
Prior to his Game 6 meltdown, Michael Wacha was putting together one of the best postseasons by a rookie pitcher in MLB history.
Before he took the mound for the deciding Game 6 of the World Series, Wacha had a postseason record of 4-0 with a 1.00 ERA and 28 strikeouts in 27.0 innings. He allowed just 19 baserunners and two home runs.
Then, the Red Sox bats awoke against him, as Wacha allowed six runs in 3.2 innings. Even his explosive fastball and hammer curveball weren't enough to keep Boston off balance. Regardless, Wacha has the tools and mental makeup to be baseball's next ace.
Wacha can reach back and paint the corners with an upper-90s fastball. He can also change speeds effectively from the same arm slot and then drop in a 12-6 curveball in hitter's counts. Plus, he has the uncanny ability of recording strikeouts while still keeping his pitch count relatively low.
He still has a lot to prove, but his numbers this postseason should be a preview to what we'll see for the rest of his career. Suggesting a Cy Young Award in 2014 would be a stretch, but he'll win a few of them before his career is over.
Nothing like a coming out party on the game's biggest stage, right?
David Ortiz is One of the Best Postseason Hitters of All Time
World Series MVP David Ortiz arguably had one of the best Fall Classics ever. Big Papi was unstoppable, and it was baffling that it took manager Cardinals manager Mike Matheny until Game 6 to realize that the best way to neutralize Ortiz was to not pitch to him.
After being intentionally walked three times in Game 6, Ortiz's triple-slash line for the World Series was a .688/.760/1.188. He was unstoppable, with viewers calling for Matheny to pitch around Ortiz since Game 1.
Ortiz's OPS of 1.940 ranks sixth all time for a World Series behind Barry Bonds (2002; 1.994), Babe Ruth (1928; 2.022), Hideki Matsui (2009; 2.027), Billy Hatcher (1990; 2.050) and Lou Gehrig (1928; 2.433). Sure, it was just one World Series, but his dominance at the plate could not be overlooked.
For his career, Ortiz ranks fourth in World Series OPS behind Amos Otis (1.495), Willie Aikens (1.638) and Bonds (1.994).
Carlos Beltran was considered by many to be the best active hitter in the postseason, but Ortiz outplayed him by far in the World Series. As a result, there's no doubting Ortiz is the best active postseason hitter in the game.
If I need a big hit in a postseason series-clinching game, there's only one person I want at the plate—and that's Big Papi.
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