As many of you probably realized, this is a repeat of the 2004 World Series where the BoSox broke the curse of the bambino to win their first world series in 86 years. What you may not know, but probably could guess, these 2 teams look a lot different than they did 9 years ago. A lot of those Red Sox became Yankees or Dodgers, and a lot of the Cardinals have moved on as well (or retired).
But one of the best things about this series is, for the first time in several years, the 2 best teams in baseball are lining up against each other in the world series. Now, I'm sure there are a lot of fans out there that would disagree the Red Sox and the Cardinals are the best 2 teams in baseball this year, and that is fine, but what I will say is this. The Red Sox and Cardinals were in the 2 most competitive divisions in baseball (AL East had 4 teams in the playoff hunt until the last week of the season, and the NL Central sent 3 teams to the playoffs), so they are both battle tested. What may be even more impressive is, despite being in such strong divisions, the Cardinals and Red Sox had identical records for the season and both clinched home field through their respective league. But regardless on whether you agree or disagree, here are some potential key factors that could come into play in the fall classic:
Will the Cardinals youth catch up with them?
Most of the teams in the NL have been hoping this would happen sooner rather than later, but the Cardinals young pitching staff has so far met every challenge it has faced. The Cardinals ran young pitcher after young pitcher out to the hill and the performed admirably. Michael Wacha has definitely been the toast of the party, but don't sleep on the other Cardinals young guns. Joe Kelly went toe to toe with Grienke twice and pitched well, and NL Rookie of the Year contender Shebly Miller has yet to make a start in the post season. The bullpen has been equally impressive with several rookies playing key roles for the club. On top of showing great poise through the post season, the Cardinals young guns have something else going for them... lightning bolts for arms. If a Cardinals pitcher doesn't hit 95 on the gun, the commentators look at him funny. All kidding aside, these guys throw hard, but the lights are about to get a little bit brighter and the pressure is about to rise a little bit more, the Cardinals season will come crashing down pretty quick if the young arms of the Cardinals can't rise to the occasion 1 more time.
Who wins the battle of small sample sizes?
A lot has been made of the moneyball formula, which allows teams to predict about how well they will do for a season by projecting averages and other statistical values, but the problem with averages is that they breakdown in small sample sizes, like say 7 games. The Red Sox were the best offensive team in baseball in terms of runs, on base percentage and slugging percentage (and 2nd in batting average... what slackers). The Cardinals were in the top 5 in all those offensive categories, but lead the league in batting with runners on scoring position (batting well over their normal average when they had a chance to drive in a run). That is all well and good, but you can throw those numbers out the window a bit in this series because of the small sample size. If one team gets hot in game one or two this could be a quick series, because momentum dictates more in the playoffs then regular season stats.
How will teams handle the DH?
This is always an intriguing part about the World Series, how do the teams handle playing in the other teams ball park. 2 months ago, I would have said the Cardinals would be salivating for the chance to use the DH seeing as they had Matt Adams sitting on the bench most days, but the injury by Allen Craig threw that plan out the window. Craig may be available for the World Series, but having not played a game in months, the Cardinals won't know what to expect from their all-star first basemen. On the other side, will Big Papi, the definition of a DH, play first base for the 3 games in St. Louis? Do the BoSox give up defense by play him?
Is Koji Uehara really that good?
This is similar to the Cardinals young arms question, but he is the first reliever since Mariano to win an LCS MVP award. Can he continue to shut down opposing offenses (read: the Cardinals), or is it his turn to come back down to earth. More importantly, can he get that last strike, which you can ask around, when you are facing the Cardinals, especially in an elimination game, its harder than it looks.
I think the Cardinals will take this in a nail biter, but I think it could go the other way really easily.
Thanks for reading,
-T.O. signing out