World Series By the Numbers... And Stuff
The Sox are coming off what may be the greatest comeback (or collapse, depending on how you look at it) in Major League Baseball history. The Cards, while no one was watching, came through in an equally compelling series win over the Astros. The Redbirds and Red Sox are two powerful teams that are set to collide beginning Saturday night.
Using the Pythagorean expected wins formula, the two best teams in baseball all year were the Sox and the Cards. The Cards were expected to win 101 games in the regular season, five more than any other team in the National League. The Sox were expected to win 97 games, six more than anyone else in the American League. Both teams led their respective leagues in runs scored and the Cards were first in runs allowed as well.
Both teams are seemingly created very much in the same way- high octane offenses with more than enough pitching to hold the opponent under a touchdown. Each defeated their previous opponents because their bats performed when it was needed most. Albert Pujols and Scott Rolen's big hits off Roger Clemens in game seven and Johnny Damon's two home runs came at the perfect time to knock out their respective opponents. On the surface, it would appear that the sticks may continue to dominaate and we could be headed for an all-out slugfest. But then again maybe not…
In game one of the series, Tim Wakefield and the cold air of October face off against the Cards. Only one of the Cards bashers have a lot of experience hitting a knuckler and that's Jim Edmonds. If the wind is blowing, St. Louis will have more trouble hitting the pitch than Jason Varitek will have catching it. Woody Williams is set to face off against Wakefield and should be able to hold the Sox to a reasonable run count. If Mother Nature is on the side of the Sox, that should be enough to give them the win.
Curt Schilling and his team of doctors are set to go in game two. Schilling had another procedure to hold the tendon in his ankle in place. Since he has experienced it once already, he could be even better the second time around. Schilling will face off against Jason Marquis in what may be the lowest scoring game of the series.
Perhaps the biggest edge the Cards have comes in games three, four, and five when they are at home, playing under NL rules. The Cards have played without a designated hitter all year long and have been just fine. The Sox however, have used Kevin Millar at first base and David Ortiz as their DH. Both are integral parts of the Boston offense and when the series shifts to St. Louis, one will have to sit.
Terry Francona has already announced that Ortiz will play first base during those games, forcing Millar to the bench. While that may help the Sox come up with a great pinch hitter late in the game, it will take a big bat out of their lineup the first three times through it. It will also replace the defensively challenged Millar with the challenged-to-be-defensively challenged Ortiz. This could severely handicap the Sox, especially in game four when Derek Lowe is on the mound.
As the series moves on, we'll see Pedro Martinez square off against the Cards' paternal offense while Matt Morris opposes him. Morris has all the talent in the world and if he is able to step up to the moment, could out-duel Martinez.
The fireworks could come in game four. Derek Lowe is coming off a gutsy performance in game seven of the ALCS but he is ready to get pounded. He was on just two days rest in that game and more often than not, the effects of that are seen in the next start. On top of that, David Ortiz will be playing first base. Lowe's opponent, Jeff Suppan, is the type of pitcher the Sox crush. He allows the ball to be put in play and lets his defense make the plays. The defense can't do much if the ball is over the fence. The runs scored in this game could top the total from the previous three.
Given the home-field advantage and the advantage that is Curt Schilling, the edge has to go to the Red Sox. It will come down to the end, either game six or seven with Schilling or Martinez on the hill. But the Sox have been waiting longer and have the more dominant pitching. Boton last made an appearance in the World Series in 1986 and will finally win one in 2004, 86 years since their last win in 1918. Let's just hope that 80 years from now, the anti-Sox chant doesn't involve 2004.
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