5 Reasons Boston Red Sox Won’t Win the World Series
5 Reasons Boston Red Sox Won't Win the World Series
The Boston Red Sox will host the St. Louis Cardinals Game 1 of the 109th World Series tomorrow night. Both teams won 97 games this regular season and have relied heavily on superior pitching to advance to the final series of the 2013 season. But who holds the edge? Which team can continue to shut down their opponents and push across enough runs to claim the title of “Baseball’s best team”?
For my money, these are the two best teams in MLB. They proved it all regular season long and have controlled their postseason series’. That being said, both of these teams have their own flaws that could stop their magical postseason run cold in its tracks. The Cardinals lack the depth of rotation that the Red Sox have and have less “star power” in the middle of their lineup. They rely heavily on players like Carlos Beltran and Michael Wacha who have never played in a World Series and will be forced to play four games at crazy Fenway Pahhhk should this series go the distance.
Those are real concerns, but the Red Sox have a quintet of flaws that scare me considerably more. Anything can happen in a seven game series (that’s why they play 162 games in the regular season in an effort to determine who the best teams in the league are), but if you trust trends, the Red Sox are a tough team to back if you don’t have a dog in this fight. One team will build on its storied history while the other will spend the offseason wondering what they could have done to earn an extra victory or two.
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5. Sacrifice Hits
The Red Sox put a ton of people on base, but they managed to rank dead last in all of baseball in sacrifice hits against right-handed pitching this regular season. Now is part of that the fact that they simply get hits instead of sacrificing and playing station to station? Yea, but still. The playoffs are about getting one run when you can. We aren’t looking at 9-8 games, and if it wasn’t for timely grand slams by David Ortiz and Shane Victorino, this flaw might have cost the BoSox a chance to be in this series.
The Cardinals boast an elite righty in Adam Wainwright, a currently unhittable righty in Michael Wacha, and are loaded with right-handed pitchers in their pen and/or at the backend of their rotation (Shelby Miller, Joe Kelly, Lance Lynn, Carlos Martinez, and closer Trevor Rosenthal). If the Red Sox struggle to advance base runners and continue to count on clutch hits, it could be a long series against this red hot pitching staff.
4. Runners In Scoring Position with 2 outs
Speaking of clutch hits, are the Red Sox truly clutch? Sure, we all know what David Ortiz has done in the past and the public seems to have forgotten that Shane Victorino looked about as lost at the dish prior to running into a hanging curveball and winning Game 6, but the season statistics paint a different picture. The Red Sox ranked eighth in all of baseball in batting average with runners in scoring position with two outs (.249), a very respectable ranking. But that isn’t good enough when you’re opposing a team in the Cardinals who led the league by a wide margin in the category (.305). Despite the “clutch” hits for the Red Sox this postseason (the few that they have had have been replayed on TV shows on repeat), their batting average is actually lower in “clutch” situations (.239) than it was during the regular season. Mike Napoli (.222 batting average with RISP and two outs in the regular season) and Jacoby Ellsbury (.207) are two of Boston’s big time hitters who have struggled in these spots, something that could cost them a handful of runs and a game or two.
3. Left-Handed Batters
The Cardinals boast an impressive core of players that can bat from the left side (Carlos Beltran, Matt Carpenter, and Matt Adams). Though the Red Sox' pitching has been solid this postseason, they’ve surrendered a .717 OPS to lefties (82 points higher than their number against righties). For the most part, Boston has done a good job at limiting the damage of these hits, but St. Louis is a team that is more than happy to pass the bat along, as they are an elite team with runners in scoring position. It’s been more of a bend but don’t break mentality, but with three very good left-handed hitters among the Cardinals' first six hitters, a .717 OPS from Boston pitchers is going to result in more runs than it has up to this point in the postseason.
2. Strikeout Rate
The Red Sox get a lot of attention for the runs they score, but what about the runs they leave out on the field? They recorded the eighth most strikeouts in the league this season, including the third most with runners on base. The Cardinals' pitching has been surprisingly good this postseason, making every opportunity against them a must when it comes to run production. Boston has struck out a playoff high 85 times this postseason (in only 231 at-bats), a trend that should concern their fans if St. Louis’ pitching continues to give up very few hits. They struck out 198 more times than the Cardinals this regular season, and the extra ball or two put in play per game could very well be the difference in a nip and tuck series.
1. Starting Rotation
Last but not least, the Cardinals had an extra day of rest, thus allowing them to align their rotation. Adam Wainwright is getting the ball in Game 1 (and theoretically in Games 4 and 7), the ideal setup for a player who has a storied playoff history. They will also get Michael Wacha twice in this series, which means the Cardinals could win this series even if they lose a start by one of their studs. Jon Lester has had an up and down season and will get the ball in Game 1, not the perfect setup for the Red Sox. He can be very good, but at best, he’s the fourth best (at worst, you could argue he’s the sixth best) pitcher in this series. The Red Sox may have the best closer going in the game right now, but does it matter if they don’t have a lead to protect? Pitching has been winning this year, and there is no argument that the Cardinals have their rotation lined up exactly how they want it.
The Red Sox will battle, but like I said earlier, I've got the Red Birds in a seven game series.