The Boston Red Sox and St. Louis Cardinals are both very good teams, and that is why they are meeting in the World Series.
The Red Sox finished first in the majors in runs scored, doubles, OBP and OPS. Their pitching staff finished 14th in the league in ERA, seventh in the league in strikeouts and third in the league in quality starts.
The Cardinals finished third in the majors in runs scored and OBP and 10th in OPS. Their staff featured the fifth-best ERA in the majors, allowed the 11th-lowest OBP by opposing batters and finished with the eighth-best WHIP.
The individual pitcher match-ups and each team’s lineup composition will be hugely important in determining this series, but I’m going to let various other writers and outlets cover that angle.
Instead, I want to talk about what could be Boston’s secret weapon heading in to their second championship bout against the Cardinals in the last nine years.
I want to talk about the benches.
Let’s assume for a moment that each team’s starting lineup and benches will look as they are posted below. Note that we’re seeing tons of reports that Allen Craig will rejoin St. Louis for the series, which provides a significant boon to their team. Note as well that I have Jonny Gomes and Xander Bogaerts as starters for the Red Sox now, since the tide has seemed to turn in favor of those two right-handers.
We’ll use lineups with DH spots as well, since the AL has home field advantage in this matchup.
|St. Louis Cardinals||Boston Red Sox|
|Matt Carpenter, 2B (L)||Jacoby Ellsbury, CF (L)|
|Carlos Beltran, RF (S)||Shane Victorino, RF (S)|
|Matt Holliday, LF (R)||Dustin Pedroia, 2B (R)|
|Allen Craig, DH (R)||David Ortiz, DH (L)|
|Yadier Molina, C (R)||Mike Napoli, 1B (R)|
|Matt Adams, 1B (L)||Jonny Gomes, LF (R)|
|David Freese, 3B (R)||Xander Bogaerts, 3B (R)|
|Jon Jay, CF (L)||Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C (S)|
|Pete Kozma, SS (R)||Stephen Drew, SS (L)|
Those are two lineups that can mash with the best of them, and St. Louis’ ability to start Craig and Adams at the same time in Fenway Park gives their lineup a nice boost. The Red Sox have an advantage when it comes to speed, while I personally find the top of St. Louis’ lineup a little more daunting at this point and time.
If we turn our attention to the benches, though, it becomes pretty apparent which team has the advantage.
|St. Louis Cardinals||Boston Red Sox|
|Tony Cruz, C (R)||David Ross, C (R)|
|Daniel Descalso, INF (L)||Mike Carp, 1B/OF (L)|
|Kolten Wong, 2B (L)||Daniel Nava, 1B/OF (S)|
|Shane Robinson, OF (R)||Will Middlebrooks, 3B (R)|
|Adron Chambers, OF (L)||Quentin Berry, OF/PR (L)|
There’s some defensive upside to St. Louis’ non-starters, and Robinson can handle the bat against left-handed pitching. Wong is probably their second baseman of the future, but it’s possible he could be removed from the roster in favor of Craig. And Descalso and Kozma occupy a timeshare at shortstop.
But the Red Sox have three bats who can kill you in Carp, Nava and Middlebrooks, the best backup catcher in the game in Ross and an adept pinch runner in Berry (even if I think that last spot should belong to Jackie Bradley Jr.). If Farrell comes to his senses and begins playing Nava over Gomes again when a right-hander is on the mound, Boston’s bench seems even deeper.
This could be hugely important in the games the Red Sox play under NL rules, as the double-switching and pinch-hitting possibilities here are endless. Late in the game, perhaps we’ll finally see Nava or Middlebrooks bat for a struggling Drew against a tough lefty, or maybe the Sox can lift Salty for Carp or Gomes in a big at-bat.
It’s worth noting that some reports indicate that Craig may be incapable of playing the field at this point, which means he’d serve as a potent weapon off the bench in any games played in St. Louis. That being said, Boston would likely be able to counter with Ortiz or Napoli coming in for late-inning power, so any advantage the Cards might have there is washed away pretty quickly.
These teams are good enough that I fully expect this series to go at least six games. It’s reasonable for Sox fans to be uneasy about facing Adam Wainwright twice in a series, and we’ve all seen Michael Wacha transform into a postseason hero before our eyes. St. Louis’ bullpen is daunting, and their lineup can hurt you at any point in the one-through-seven spots.
But as we go deep into these games, take solace in the fact that, if nothing else, John Farrell is walking into these match-ups with more bullets than is Mike Matheny. Hopefully, that will make a difference at some point on the Sox’ quest for four more wins.