Monday, October 21, 2013

World Series, Here We Come!

I am happy to report that I got the playoffs right so far - we've got Boston and St. Louis in the World Series, the two best records in the game, and pretty clearly the two best teams. So it should be pretty good. Sox got there rather predictably, by staying close, and taking out the Tiger's bullpen - winning two games late that way. Cards won mostly by shutting down the Dodgers, though they did rise up and smite Clayton Kershaw in game 6.

They look pretty evenly matched - the Cards with great young arms, deep and strong, and a deep, balanced, tough lineup; the Sox with a run of proven starters, a couple of them in fine form (Lester and Lackey), backed by a solid bullpen in front of a nearly unhittable closer. Plus a lineup a lot like the Cards' - everyone hits, everyone brings something; they hit line drives, they hit for power, they have some speed - and it's all anchored by David Ortiz. Which isn't too far from what the Cards bring - maybe less power, but plenty of high average hitters - and Carlos Beltran, who, it should be noted, is a better post-season hitter than Ortiz.

The last time these teams played was 2004 - the Sox came into that one on a more or less unmatchable high, and took the poor Cards (and their 105 wins) apart. But that was a different kind of team - different pitching - the Cards ran out 4 solid journeymen starters, none of them lights out arms. None of them with the kind of history Boston's worse starter had (dear old Derek Lowe, who took the whole year off, until the team was behind 3-0 in the playoffs, when he reverted to his 21 game winning 2002 form.) The Sox just put it to them. Of course - the 2004 Red Sox were a pretty notable bunch of underachievers most of the year - they never really got going until August, though after that they almost ran the table. They let the Yankees take 3 from them, and had to fight an almost supernatural battle for the next two wins - but really, after the Bloody Sock game, there wasn't much room for doubt. That team wasn't about to lose.

This year is another matter. This Red Sox team has not underachieved at all. It's tempting to think they overachieved, since they weren't exactly expected to be this good - but mostly, that's a matter of people staying healthy, and performing to expectations. Well - hopes; but reasonable hopes. I think one of the things Ben Cherington did right is see that he had good players, 93 losses notwithstanding, and didn't need to rebuild fromt he top. Ortiz (if healthy), Pedroia, Lester and Buchholz (if healthy) were quite capable of anchoring a good team - they needed a roster to go with it. So he added players that filled out the roster, all of them proven players, with good track records; added arms in the bullpen (to their salvation). It is a 25 man team - everyone on the roster brings value. It's impressive. This Cardinal team, meanwhile, is just as good - not many holes in the lineup; a bench; lots of good young power arms (unlike the 04 version), plus an ace, in Wainwright (the 2004 St. Louis ace was Chris Carpenter, who was injured - when he was healthy, he was 3-0 with a 2.00 ERA in the World Series.) They have a tough, deep bullpen. This is going to be a tight series, I think - 6 or 7 games, and I'd expect most of them to be nail-biters. In the end? I'm going with the Red Sox because I have to, and also - their resiliency. Grinding out every at bat, inning, game; they never seem to break...


Sam Juliano said...

WS, it seems to me that we have two teams that refuse to break, rather than one. And as you rightly note the Sox and Cards have proven themselves the two best teams in baseball. The way the Cards took out the Dodger ace in Game 6 and the pivotal miraculous comeback in game #2 at Fenway park when Big Papi hit that late-inning grand slam remain the defining highlights, but both series were great to watch. I am not yet ready to make a prediction as it is such a close call. The Cards are itching to avenge the last time the teams met in the World Series, while the Sox seem this year's team of destiny. It seems like a seven-game series is in the cards--though not necessarily by way of that pun. As a huge Red Sox rooter, you are dead-on to stick with your team here by way of forecasting, but still this can swing on one play. As a lifelong die-hard Yankees fan I guess it is sacrilege to root for the Sox, but I am also an American League rooter from way back.

This will be quite a series!

weepingsam said...

Indeed - they are two very similar teams, I think. Deep, tough, balanced... this one is likely to go very deep... The Tigers put up a good fight, but once you get their starters out of the game, they were in trouble - and they are kind of all or nothing at the plate. These teams are going to be tough.