Welcome to the Final Round: World Series Preview

Here’s the pitch: the Boston Red Sox and the St. Louis Cardinals are facing off in the World Series, which begins on Wednesday, October 23rd. Each team finished with a record of 97-65, tied for best in baseball. Who is going to win this seemingly even matchup?

St. Louis Cardinals advantages:

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Catcher: Yadier Molina of the Cardinals is one of the best, if not the best, defensive catchers in baseball. Jarrod Saltalamacchia is not in the same category of catcher as Molina.

First base: With Allen Craig coming back from injury, first base for the Cardinals is refortified. When he plays designated hitter at Fenway Park, Matt Adams, who displayed his power with 17 home runs in limited action during the regular season, will take over at first. Mike Napoli of the Red Sox is quite capable of holding down the fort at first when the Red Sox play at Fenway Park but when the Series shifts to St. Louis, David Ortiz will be playing the field. That defensive liability gives the Cardinals the edge here.

Third base: David Freese, the 2011 World Series MVP, has a strong playoff pedigree. Third base has been a bit of a black hole for Boston. Will Middlebrooks struggled during the regular season and it is tough to expect much out of rookie Xander Bogaerts.

Left field: Matt Holliday can mash with the best of them. Daniel Nava is a solid player but not of the same caliber as Holliday.

Right field: Carlos Beltran is one of the best postseason players in baseball history. Shane Victorino has been struggling in the playoffs and does not have the same success in the postseason as Beltran.

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Boston Red Sox advantages:

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Second base: Dustin Pedroia is one of the most intense players in baseball. Matt Carpenter of the Cardinals is a budding star but Pedroia is more established.

Shortstop: For both teams, shortstop is not a position of offensive production. Rather, defense seems to be the priority. However, Stephen Drew of the Red Sox has added a little more pop than either Daniel Descalso or Pete Kozma of the Cardinals.

Center field: Jacoby Ellsbury is one of the fastest players in baseball and has the ability to track down anything in the outfield. His offensive prowess at the top of the lineup is also superb. Jon Jay is a solid player but he is a step below Ellsbury.

Starting Rotation: Both teams have top notch starters. Adam Wainwright (19-9, 2.94 ERA) of the Cardinals is a true ace. His supporting cast includes Lance Lynn (15-10, 3.97 ERA), Joe Kelly (10-5 2.69 ERA) and rookie Michael Wacha (4-1, 2.78 ERA). The Red Sox rotation is led by lefty Jon Lester (15-8, 3.75 ERA). Lester is followed by John Lackey (10-13, 3.52 ERA), Clay Buchholz (12-1, 1.74 ERA) and trade-deadline acquisition, Jake Peavy (4-1, 4.04 ERA with Red Sox). The regular season numbers seem to lean in the Cardinals favor. However, the Red Sox rotation has more playoff experience and Lester and Lackey have each won a World Series game before.

Bullpen: Both clubs have an array of weapons to call upon when the game is close. Led by closer, Edward Mujica, the Cardinals bullpen consists of hard-throwers who keep runners off base. With their strong rotation, they opted to move rookie sensation, Shelby Miller, to the bullpen for the postseason to reinforce their relieving corps. As for the Red Sox, closer, Koji Uehara, has been lights-out at the end of games. Furthermore, the tandem of lefty, Craig Breslow and righty, Junichi Tazawa, have gotten big outs throughout the postseason. Based on their current success in the playoffs, the Red Sox have the edge in the bullpen.

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The Prediction:

Whenever the Cardinals and Red Sox meet in the World Series, it always seems to be an exciting matchup. The last time they met, in 2004, the Red Sox ended their 86-year World Series drought by defeating the Cardinals in four games. An interesting note is that the Red Sox have not clinched a World Series at home since 1918. This season, that will change. Expect the Red Sox to win their eighth World Series in franchise history. They will accomplish this feat in six games, with the clincher at Fenway Park.

Statistics taken from baseball-reference.com and mlb.com and are current as of 10/22/13.

About Joshua Lavine