Red Sox vs. Cardinals: A 2004 World Series Rematch

In a rematch of the 2004 World Series, the St. Louis Cardinals will represent the National League against the Boston Red Sox of the American league in the 2013 World Series. In 2004, the Red Sox swept the Cardinals four games to none to end their 86-year World Series drought and end the “Curse of the Bambino.” Since then, both the Cardinals and Red Sox have won two World Series, the Red Sox in 2004 and 2007 and the Cardinals in 2006 and 2011. Both teams have taken very different paths to this World Series, however.

In the last three years, the Cardinals are coming off a World Series championship and a loss in the NLCS last year to the World Series champion San Francisco Giants. The Red Sox on the other hand suffered one of the biggest collapses in all of baseball in 2011. After leading the Tampa Bay Rays by nine games on September 3rd, the Sox went on to lose 18 of their final 24 and miss the playoffs. After firing manager Terry Francona in the offseason among rumors of fried chicken and beer in the clubhouse, the Red Sox hired Bobby Valentine and proceeded to self-destruct, owning the worst record in baseball last season. The Red Sox fired Valentine after just one season and replaced him with John Farrell, who was the Red Sox pitching coach from 2007 to 2010 and completely turned things around. In this article I will look at four categories, starting pitching, bullpen, lineup, and manager and make a final prediction on who will come out on top.

We begin with starting pitching. Both St. Louis and Boston have very good starting rotations. Adam Wainwright and Jon Lester are two of the best pitchers in all of baseball. Michael Wacha, the NLCS MVP, has been arguably as dominant as Wainwright in the playoffs and Jon Lackey is coming off a dominating effort against the Detroit Tigers in the ALCS. The biggest difference lies in which teams third and fourth starter, Joe Kelly and Lance Lynn for the Cardinals and Clay Buckholz and Jake Peavy for the Red Sox, can out duel the other. Joe Kelly and Lance Lynn have an advantage here as both have pitched well in the playoffs thus far, whereas Buckholz looks like fatigue from a midseason neck injury is starting to set in and Peavy was a disaster in his only start in the playoffs against Detroit. Boston may have to consider skipping Jake Peavy and pitch Lester on short rest to avoid another game 4 disaster like in the ALCS. Advantage: Cardinals.

Moving to the bullpen, both teams are very evenly matched in this category. The Red Sox boast a trio of Junichi Tazawa, Craig Breslow and closer Koji Uehara that has been virtually unhittable in the playoffs thus far. The Sox can also throw former starter Ryan Dempster if they need a long relief guy. The Cardinals are no slouches when it comes to the bullpen either. The Cardinals bullpen is full of live young arms that showed in the NLCS that no stage is to big for them. Closer Trevor Rosenthal is fast becoming one of the best closers in baseball and Seth Manesse and Carlos Martinez are both excellent set up men. While both teams offer excellent bullpens, the Red Sox have a slight advantage with closer Koji Uehara and his split finger fastball that has completely dominated opponents both in the regular season and in the playoffs. Slight Advantage: Red Sox.

The lineups are where the two teams have the biggest separation. The Cardinals boast a lineup that was first in runs scored, by a large margin, in the National League, second in batting average in the National league and fourth in all of baseball. The Cardinals will also be getting back Allen Craig for the series, which should give them a boost. The Red Sox, however, led Major League baseball this season in runs scored and were second overall in batting average. In the postseason, the Red Sox rank fifth in batting average (.236), first in On Base Percentage (.325) and first in runs (45). The Cardinals are second in runs (42) but just ninth in batting average (.210) and seventh in OBP (.285). Factoring in that the Red Sox had to face former Cy Young winner Justin Verlander, wins leader and probable AL Cy Young winner Max Scherzer and era leader Anibal Sanchez in the ALCS, facing the Cardinals pitching staff may actually seem like a break. Advantage: Red Sox.

The final category, manager, is hard to define because of its subjective nature. Both the Red Sox and Cardinals are considered to have two of the best managers in baseball but I am giving the advantage to the Red Sox because John Farrell turned virtually the same team that led the league in losses last season into a team that tied for the best record in baseball this season. His impact on the culture in the Red Sox clubhouse cannot be understated. Advantage: Red Sox

While both teams have their advantages over the other and are undeniably the two best in baseball, I am picking the Red Sox in 6 because of their potent lineup and the fact that they have Koji Uehara to close out games. Just like when New Orleans won the Super Bowl the year after Hurricane Katrina, it seems like the Red Sox are playing for something more than just a trophy. Plus, the Sox are sporting those awesome playoff beards.