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 2017 Yankees are, somehow, plucky underdogs

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There’s a lot that has happened in the past year that I never, ever would’ve thought would or even could happen in America. Many of them are serious, some are not, some make me kinda happy and some make me terribly sad. I’m sure a lot of people have felt that way in this oddest of years.

There’s one thing in baseball, however, that still has me searching my feelings in a desperate effort to know what to feel: The New York Yankees are the postseason’s plucky underdogs.

This is not about them being lovable or likable — we touched on that last week — it’s more about the role they play in the grand postseason drama. A postseason they weren’t even supposed to be in.

None of the three writers of this website thought the Yankees would win the AL East or a Wild Card. ESPN had 35 “experts” make predictions back in March, and only one of them — Steve Wulf — thought the Yankees would make the postseason (he thought they’d win the division). I’m sure if you go over the plethora of professional prognosticator’s predictions a few would have the Yankees squeaking in to the postseason on the Wild Card, but that was nothing approaching a consensus view. Their 2017 regular season was a surprise to almost everyone, with the expectation of a solid, if unspectacular rebuilding year being greatly exceeded. To use a sports cliche, nobody believed in them.

Then came the playoffs. Most people figured the Yankees would beat the Twins in the Wild Card game and they did, but most figured they’d be cannon fodder for the Indians. And yep, they fell down early, losing the first two games of the series and shooting themselves in the foot in spectacular fashion in the process. Yet they came back, beating arguably the best team in baseball and certainly the best team in the American League in three straight games despite the fact that . . . nobody believed in them.

Now we’re in the ALCS. The Astros — the other choice for best team in the American League if you didn’t think the Indians were — jumped out to a 2-0 lead, quieting the Yankees’ powerful bats. While a lot of teams have come back from 0-2 holes in seven game series, the feel of this thing as late as Monday morning was that, even if the Yankees take a game at home, Houston was going to cruise into the World Series. Once again . . . nobody believed in them.

Yet, here we are on this late Wednesday morning, with the Yankees having tied things up 2-2. As I wrote this morning, you still have to like the Astros’ chances given that their aces, Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander, are set to go in Games 5 and 6. I’m sure a lot of people feel still like the Astros’ chances for that reason. So that leads us to this . . .

It’s one thing for no one to have, objectively, believed in the Yankees chances. It’s another thing, though, for the New York Yankees — the 27-time World Champions, the 40-time American League pennant winners, the richest team in the game, the house-at-the-casino, U.S. Steel and the Evil Empire all wrapped into one — to officially play the “nobody believed in us” card on their own account. That’s the stuff of underdogs. Of Davids facing Goliaths. Of The Little Guy, demanding respect that no one ever considered affording them. If you’re not one of those underdogs and you’re playing that card, you’re almost always doing it out of some weird self-motivational technique and no one else will ever take you seriously. And now you’re telling me the NEW YORK FRIGGIN’ YANKEES are playing that card?

Thing is: they’re right. They’ve totally earned the right to play it because, really, no one believed in them. Even tied 2-2, I presume most people still don’t, actually.

I don’t know how to process this. Nothing in my 40 years of baseball fandom has prepared me for the Yankees to be the David to someone else’s Goliath and to claim righteous entitlement to the whole “nobody believed in us” thing.

Which, as I said at the beginning, is nothing new in the year 2017. I just never thought it’d happen in baseball.