Looking ahead to the World Series

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The Cardinals and Red Sox will open up the 2013 World Series in Boston on Wednesday night, a rematch of the 2004 World Series ultimately taken by the Sox in four games. The two teams are, both by their regular season records and various statistical measures, the best teams from their respective leagues.

Let’s go through each aspect of the two teams and see how they match up:

Offense

  • Average: BOS ranked 2nd in AL at .277; STL ranked 2nd in NL at .269
  • On-base percentage: BOS ranked 1st in AL at .349; STL ranked 1st in NL at .332
  • Power: BOS ranked 2nd in AL with a .169 isolated power (ISO, which is slugging percentage minus batting average); STL ranked 12th in NL at .133.
  • Speed: BOS ranked 3rd in AL with 123 stolen bases; STL ranked 15th with 45 stolen bases

Hitting platoon splits

  • LH hitters vs. LH pitchers: BOS hitters posted a .641 OPS during the regular season; STL hitters posted a .682 OPS
  • LH hitters vs. RH pitchers: BOS hitters posted an .805 OPS during the regular season; STL hitters posted a .667 OPS
  • RH hitters vs. RH pitchers: BOS hitters posted a .730 OPS during the regular season; STL hitters posted a .723 OPS
  • RH hitters vs. LH pitchers: BOS hitters posted an .833 OPS during the regular season; STL hitters posted a .793 OPS

Defense

  • FanGraphs, utilizing Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR), rated the Red Sox as the 5th-best defensive team in the AL at +21.6 runs; the Cardinals ranked 14th at -49.4

Pitching

  • Rotation ERA: BOS ranked 4th in the AL with a 3.84 ERA from the starting rotation; STL ranked 2nd in the NL at 3.42.
  • Rotation K/BB: BOS ranked 4th in the AL with a 20% strikeout rate and tied for 13th with an 8.5% walk rate; STL ranked 7th with a 17.6% strikeout rate and tied for 8th with a 7.4% walk rate
  • Bullpen ERA: BOS ranked 10th in the AL with a 3.70 ERA from the bullpen; STL ranked 8th at 3.45
  • Bullpen K/BB: BOS ranked 6th in the AL with a 23% strikeout rate and 7th with an 8.7% walk rate; STL ranked tied for 4th with a 22.4% strikeout rate and 1st with a 7.4% walk rate

Pitching platoon splits

  • LH pitchers vs. LH hitters: BOS pitchers allowed a .663 OPS during the regular season; STL pitchers allowed a .588 OPS
  • LH pitchers vs. RH hitters: BOS pitchers allowed a .721 OPS during the regular season; STL pitchers allowed a .677 OPS
  • RH pitchers vs. RH hitters: BOS pitchers allowed a .748 OPS during the regular season; STL pitchers allowed a .665 OPS
  • RH pitchers vs. LH hitters: BOS pitchers allowed a .683 OPS during the regular season; STL pitchers allowed a .712 OPS

Neither team has announced their official rotation for the World Series yet, but the Cardinals — with an extra day of rest — will likely open up with Adam Wainwright in Game 1. Given how Michael Wacha has performed, it wouldn’t be shocking if he got the nod in Game 2, followed by Joe Kelly and Lance Lynn. Shelby Miller is also an option, but he hasn’t started a game since the end of the regular season. The Cardinals have instead utilized him as a reliever.

For the Red Sox, they will likely go with Jon Lester in Game 1, followed by John Lackey, then Clay Buchholz and Jake Peavy.

The Red Sox start is ridiculous

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The red-hot Red Sox completed a sweep of the previously red-hot Angels last night, outscoring them 27-3 in their three-game series. Last night’s game was, relatively speaking, a close one, with the Sox winning “only” by six runs. They did manage to strike out Shohei Ohtani three times, though, so some style points help make up for the “squeaker.” Also worth noting that they held Mike Trout of all people to a 3-for-11 line in their three-game series. He did not score a single time and drove in no runs.

That series win puts the Sox at 16-2 on the year. They dropped their Opening Day game to the Rays, but then won their next six games against Tampa Bay, which I’d say makes up for it. In between those two series they swept a two-game series from the Marlins and afterwards they took two of three from the Yankees and three in a row from the Orioles. The only thing that even threatened to slow this juggernaut down is the weather, resulting in a postponement of Monday morning’s Patriot’s Day game. Somewhere in here we should notice that they’re doing this with their starting shortstop and starting second baseman on the disabled list.

As we’ve noted many times, their 16-2 record is the best start in the Red Sox’ 118-year history. It’s also the best start for any team since the 1987 Milwaukee Brewers began 17-1 (let us just forget, for the time being, that those Brewers lost 18 of 20 in May of that year). They are the fourth team since 1961 to win 16 of its first 18 games.

The Sox aren’t simply getting lucky here. They’ve scored 116 runs and have allowed only 50, which is a Pythagorean record of 15-3. They lead all of baseball in offense, scoring 6.44 runs a game, leading individually in average, on-base percentage and slugging. They are only three one hundredths of a run behind the Astros from leading all of baseball in pitching, allowing only 2.78 runs a game. They’re winning all of these games because, in the early going, they’ve simply been that dang much better than everyone they’ve played.

No, the Sox are not going to go 144-18, as they are currently on pace to do. Yes, they are going to find a lot more trouble in their schedule once they play the Orioles, Rays and Marlins less, play a healthier Yankees team more and face off against the Astros, the Blue Jays, the Indians, the Twins and some tougher interleague opponents. This is baseball, obviously, and no one makes it through a season without rough patches, long, short and numerous.

Still: this has been one whale of a start for Boston. Those wins are in the bank. It’s been quite the thing to see.