A new era is upon us.
This is an era where Red Sox fans do not have to quiver in fear. Where they have an answer for ‘1918’ – well, for one more week, anyways. Then they have nothing to say. But now, when they say ‘1918’ or ‘Curse’ or any of that … we get to say “Cho-Kers, CHO-KERS” and they are rendered … silent.
The Yankees are human. They have baggage, like every other team. They are nothing special anymore. They’re the New York Yankees. I can even type out that without a bitter taste in my mouth now – never happened before. The New York Yankees. Okay, just another team.
And who else is just another team? The Saint Louis Cardinals who, as I speak, are hugging each other on the field after coming back in the late innings to defeat the Astros. The House of Cards is about to collapse!
Oh, did you hear? It’s Tim Wakefield, Curt Schilling, Pedro Martinez, and Derek Lowe in the rotation for the World Series. Works out well. Tim is a knuckleballer, and therefore odd to the Cardinals. Schilling will know the Cards very well, and it’s been ages since Pedro pitched against the Cards. Lowe has been on recently, and this allows us to put Arroyo in the bullpen where he has helped plug the hole that was created with Scott Williamson being hurt in the regular season.
I’m still having difficulty grasping this. We are in the World Series!
Know Thy Enemy
C Mike Matheny/Yadier Molina
Matheny does not have much contact or power, is actually a light hitting catcher and also has a lousy OBP. This year, he hit .247/.293/.336. Not much to worry about here. Matheny had 385 AB, as he was injured for a portion of the year. Molina, a 22-year old rookie, went to the plate 135 times and chopped to a tune of .267/.329/.356. The catching position is not going to be one to worry about on the offensive side. On the defensive side, both of them have great game-calling skills and Molina does not have an arm, he has a gun.
1B Albert Pujols
He can play third. He can play left. And he’s settled in at first this year, and is extremely dangerous at the plate. The dude slams homers when he feels like it. This year he hit .331/.413/.657. 46 HR, 51 2B, and 123 RBI. Very dangerous. He’s the Cardinals’ answer to David Ortiz.
2B Tony Womack/Marlon Anderson
Tony Womack was traded by the Boston Red Sox to the St. Louis Cardinals in the off-season (a blurb about him by me here) and he did pretty well for himself, hitting .307/.319/.362. He led off most of the year, but now is at the bottom part of the lineup for Edgar Renteria. Did you know this is Womack’s highest professional average since 1996? (33 AB, .333!) And if we don’t include that, then it’s his highest ever. And his highest slugging percentage was also in 1996. So he basically had his best season – at the age of 35! He also had 26 stolen bases and 5 caught stealings. Meanwhile, Marlon Anderson became a bench player after being a starter for the Devil Rays last year. His average took a large dip to .237 from .270, same with his OBP. His slugging percentage, however, stayed constant.
SS Edgar Renteria/Hector Luna
Renteria had a lousy season (compared to last year) and finished up with .287/.327/.400, 84 runs, 72 RBI, 17 SB and 11 CS. He’s dangerous, especially lead-off. (But not as dangerous as Johnny Damon!) Hector Luna is strictly a utilityman, and made the jump from AA this year. He is a 22-year old rookie, formerly from the Cleveland Indians. This year he hit .249/.394/.364.
3B Scott Rolen
Rolen had his best season ever, hitting .314/.409/.598 with 34 HR and 124 RBI. Tonight, he hit the killer against the Astros, a two-run homer to break a tie that had just been forged. This guy is the extra masher the Red Sox do not have.
LF Reggie Sanders/John Mabry
Reggie Sanders is in the first year of a two year contract with the Cardinals, which will mark the first time since 1997 that he has stayed with a team he had been with the previous year. He had an off-year, but was still dangerous at .260/.344/.495 with 22 HR and 67 RBI. John Mabry was an Athletic last year and did horrible. He came to St. Louis and boom, he hit. He had 240 AB, .296/.363/.504. He’s a dangerous pinch-hitter and should be watched out for.
CF Jim Edmonds/Roger Cedeno
Ever since coming over from the Angels, Edmonds become an absolute masher. This year, he mashed 42 HRs with 111 RBI. A .301 AVG, .418 OBP, .643 SLG! This guy is the Cardinals version of Manny Ramirez. Cedeno is another base-stealing threat, making a lot of money to be lousy. He had 200 AB with a .265 AVG, .327 OBP, .374 SLG.
RF Larry Walker/So Taguchi
Larry Walker again is another prolific hitter. For the Cardinals, in 180 AB, he hit .280/.393/.560. Yet another masher. They mash. All day long. Our pitching is going to have to step up, and we will have to keep pace during said mashing. So Taguchi is 35, and a back-up outfielder. He (not surprisingly) posted a career year this year, hitting .291/.339/.440 in 179 AB. He has pretty good defense, also.
SP Woody Williams 11-8, 4.18 ERA/Jason Marquis 15-7, 3.71/Matt Morris 15-10, 4.72/Jeff Suppan 16-9, 4.16
Here’s where we have to make our damage. They don’t have an especially great starter. (Emphasis on the word starter.) We need to score, and a-plenty, off the starters. If we can do that, and keep their bats in check enough to squeeze out wins, then we can win this thing. The Cardinals are very good at home (and so are we) but it is very important that we win all games at Fenway. If we can go up 2-0 before heading to St. Louis, we are in good shape. I temper this by reminding you the Yankees were up 2-0. Even when we are up 2-0, we can’t let the slack off. But we can’t go 0-2. We can’t get away with it twice. That would be too crazy. A split would obviously be better than 1-1, but I again stress the importance of going up 2-0 before heading to Busch. The Cardinals had the third best home record (Yankees, Sox) at 53-28, and their road record was 52-29. They lost all games against the Astros in the NLCS in the Astros’ home games.
Win the games!
RP Kiko Calero/Cal Eldred/Danny Haren/Ray King/Steve Kline/Julian Tavarez
Calero is 29, 45.1 IP with a 2.78 ERA. It doesn’t stop there. His Strikeouts per Nine Innings (K/9) was 9.33. 36-year old Cal Eldred pitched 67 innings with a 3.76 ERA and a K/9 of 7.25. Danny Haren pitched 46 IP (5 starts, 9 relieves) with a 4.50 ERA and 32 Ks in 46 innings. Lefty Ray King posted a 2.61 ERA in 62 innings with a K/9 of 5.81. Steve Kline, their primary lefty, had a K/9 of 6.26, an ERA of 1.79, in 50.1 IP. And the big one – Tavarez. Blossoming as a relief pitcher and in his first year as a Cardinal, he had a 2.38 ERA with 64.1 IP and a K/9 of 6.72 (and he is throwing serious heat). This bullpen is astounding.
CL Jason Isringhausen
Isringhausen pitched 75.1 IP, a 2.47 ERA 47 saves with a K/9 of 7.35. That’s all you can say right there.
I’m not going by position, I’m going by batting order position, because people usually go by position when doing match-ups and measure the match-up offensively. However, it’s not by position, it’s by batting order how well we do. Anyways, I’m yapping. Onto the match-ups.
Johnny Damon had a better regular season .304/.380/.477, and also postseason. Damon had a .171/.216/.343 AVG with a huge bust-out in Game Seven. Renteria did not have a bust-out in Game Seven of the NLCS and hit .167/.231/.167.
Mark Bellhorn and Larry Walker? It’s no contest here. Walker.
Ramirez and Pujols are a wash. Rolen and Ortiz gives an advantage to Ortiz, but Jim Edmonds has an large advantage over Jason Varitek. So far, the match record has 2 Sox – 2 Cards – 1 wash.
Nixon and Sanders gives an advantage to Nixon. In the regular season, Nixon was a lot better, and also in the post-season so far. And then you have Millar. But we are going to skip Millar and pretend he is in the nine-slot. No matter who the Cardinals slot in when they have an extra hitter (even if it’s John Mabry) the Sox will have the advantage. So far the count is 4 Sox – 2 Cards – 1- wash.
Tony Womack and Bill Mueller. Mueller had a solid post-season, Womack did not. Mueller also edges Womack in the regular season. Finally, you have Orlando Cabrera and Mike Matheny. Not even close. Cabrera.
So for all the firepower the Cardinals have, the Red Sox best them at 6 Sox – 2 Cards – 1 wash. Let’s change the Nixon/Sanders into a wash because that was so close, and you still have 5 Sox – 2 Cards – 2 washes. I now feel better after doing this matchup than I did while doing the position blurbs.
Wakefield/Williams – Williams had a similar regular season as Wakefield. In the post-season, Wakefield had an 8.59 ERA, but last pitched 3 IP 1 H 1 BB 4 K against the Yankees. Also, when’s the last time the Cardinals faced a quality knuckleballer? Considering Tim is the only quality knuckleballer in the major leagues … I can see it happening. But you have to give the advantage to Woody Williams, as he has a 2.77 ERA.
Schilling/Marquis – Not even close.
Martinez/Morris – Not even close.
Lowe/Suppan – We’ll call this a wash. Suppan had a lousy season for the Sox last year, and just cannot pitch against an AL team if his life depended on it. He’s had a good postseason so far, but Lowe has bettered Suppan. It’s fair to call it a wash.
2 Soxs – 1 Card – 1 Wash
Calero and Mendoza goes to Calero. Eldred and Leskanic goes to Eldred. King and Kline also best Myers and Embree. Arroyo bests Haren, and Tavarez bests Timlin. We will assign each person .5 points in this match-up, however, so the total sum of points doesn’t place too much weight on the bullpen, although the bullpen WILL be important.
0.5 Sox- 2.5 Cards – 0 Washes
Keith Foulke and Jason Isringhausen. In my opinion, it’s not even close. In Game Six, Tony La Russa asked Isringhausen to pitch three innings – first time since May he pitched more than one inning. Isringhausen also has injury issues.
Foulke pitched 83 IP with 79 K. Isringhausen pitched 75.1 IP with 71 K. Foulke had 32 saves, Isringhausen had 47. This means something. This means Isringhausen had more chances for a save and therefore had more close games than the Red Sox. This means the Red Sox offense (and is proven, as a matter of fact) is more vaunted than the Cardinals. In the regular season, the Sox scored 949 runs (Cards 855), the Sox hit 222 HR (Cards 214), we had a .360 OBP (Cards .344), a .282 BA (Cards .278), and a better slugging percentage – .472 to .460. Now, not only that, but Foulke is like Mariano Rivera, as Sam Killay once told me. However, Foulke has to be better than Rivera because Rivera can afford to pitch to contact, while Foulke can’t. So I’m going with Foulke here. I would sign Foulke strictly on statistics alone before Isringhausen.
1 Sox – 0 Cards – 0 Washes
And now, to total it up…
9.5 Sox – 5.5 Cards – 2 Washes
There you have it.
Believe, folks. We will do it.
ADDITION Thanks to Mike Brunell for pointing this out:
The Cardinals all season (including post-season) went 112-61 for a .636 winning percentage.
The Red Sox went 105-67 for a winning percentage of .610.
Since August 1 (including playoffs), the Red Sox have gone 49-22, .690 winning percentage.
The Cardinals went 46-24, .657 winning percentage since August 1.
Believe. For real.