Being the oldest of the major professional sports, major league baseball has a long history of images that are indelible in our collective minds.
One such image is the red, white and blue bunting draped over the railings of a ballpark, and that image immediately conjures up thoughts of the World Series.
On Wednesday the Fall Classic begins with a pair of the game’s oldest franchises meeting for the fourth time to determine the game’s champion for 2013.
Stan Musial’s Cardinals got the best of Ted Williams’ Red Sox back in 1946 as did Bob Gibson’s 1967 Cardinals get the best of Carl Yastrzemski’s BoSox in the Impossible Dream year of 1967.
But Boston broke a nearly nine decade streak of World Series futility when they rode the momentum of their 2004 comeback from being down 0-3 to the New York Yankees in the ALCS to sweep the Cardinals in the World Series. And with a similar 4-0 sweep of Colorado in 2007 the Red Sox have won a pair of World Series over the past decade.
But St. Louis also has a pair of Fall Classic titles over the same time frame with wins over Detroit in 2006 and over Texas in 2011.
What is somewhat remarkable about Boston’s appearance in this World Series is that it comes just one season after a disastrous 69-93 2012 campaign marked by internal turmoil fueled by what was the almost universally criticized hiring of Bobby Valentine as manager to succeed the very successful Terry Francona, who was let go after Boston’s September 2011 collapse.
Francona resurfaced this season in Cleveland where he led the Indians to their first post season appearance this century that resulted in a Wild Card loss to Tampa Bay.
Thanks to Shane Victorino both Boston and St. Louis won their respective League titles at home in 6.
The World Series is played in a 2-3-2 format similar to the LCS format. Boston will host the first two games, and potentially games 6 and 7, by virtue of the American League winning the All Star exhibition game this past July.
The 2-3-2 format is interesting in that the home field advantage begins with the home team in the first two games. Even if the home team wins those first two games the Series switches to the road team that gets to host the middle three. If the home team holds serve, the Cards would take a 3-2 lead on the road back to Boston for the final game or games of the Series.
Both teams finished with identical 97-65 records to earn the top seeds in their respective leagues.
Both teams’ offenses struggled in their League Championship Series. Boston scored just 19 runs in 6 games, with 8 of the runs scoring on just two swings of the bat – grand slam home runs by David Ortiz in Game 2 and by Shane Victorino in the Game 6 clincher.
St Louis fared only slightly better, scoring 21 runs in its 6 games but with nearly half of them coming in the 9-0 Game 6 clincher led by the postseason marvel Carlos Beltran.
Both teams got excellent pitching from both their starters and their bullpens and this series sets up as one in which the pitchers figure to have the edge over the hitters. That may be especially true in the games in St. Louis when Boston will have to decide whether to play designated hitter Ortiz in the field at first base where he might replace Mike Napoli, normally a catcher, but who did not catch a single game for the Sox this season, playing in the field at first base.
Largely due to having the home field advantage Boston has been made the World Series favorite at prices that generally range from -125 to -140.
The Series begins on Wednesday with the Game 1 matchup featuring St. Louis ace Adam Wainwright against Boston’s Jon Lester.
Although not yet announced we should see a Game 2 matchup of Cardinal rookie Michael Wacha against Boston’s Clay Buchholz. Game 3 could have Boston’s John Lackey oppose St. Louis’ Lance Lynn with a Game 4 matchup of Boston’s Jake Peavy against St. Louis’ Joe Kelly or Shelby Miller.
Rainouts and the status of the series at any given point could alter those matchups and we might see a repeat of the first three games matchups occur in games 5, 6 and 7 if the series goes that far. It is possible that Wainwright or Lester could be called upon in a potential Game 7 on short rest.
Wainwright and Wacha have been brilliant throughout the post season. The duo has combined to pitch 44 innings over 6 starts, allowing just 5 earned runs on 25 hits and 5 walks while striking out 42.
That works out to a combined 1.02 ERA and 0.68 WHIP! Wacha’s contributions are slightly better (0.43 and 0.57) than Wainwright’s (1.57 and 0.78). If the pair make the expected four starts in this series the Cardinals will be very tough to beat.
Barring rainouts the first five games of the World Series will be played before next week’s issue of GamingToday hits the streets next Tuesday. If the Series does not result in a four game sweep next week’s issue will look at how the balance of the Series may play out based on its status through Sunday.
For now the preference is to take St. Louis as underdogs in each of the first two games in Boston, assuming that the Cardinals will be the underdogs in Game 2 regardless of the result of Game 1.
Lester and the Red Sox were -120 favorites in Game 1 with the total set at 7 including a -120 vig attached to the OVER.
The UNDER is the preferred play in Game 1 as it will be in Game 2 if Wacha does start against either Buchholz or Lackey and the Total is no higher than 7.
Boston would be the preferred play in Game 3 in St. Louis behind Lackey or Buchholz even if they are up 2 games to none and are made the underdog. If the Sox are down 2 games to none and are made the favorites in Game 3 they would be playable only if laying -120 or less. If the series is tied Boston would still be the play if Lackey or Buchholz starts.
OVER would be the preferred Totals play in both Games 3 and 4 provided it is no higher than 8. There is a significant drop off from the duo of Wainwright and Wacha to the remaining starters. There is not as huge a gap among Boston’s top trio of Lester, Buchholz and Lackey which is why the Sox would be the play in Game 3.
The OVER may be the best play in what should be Sunday’s Game 4 in which Boston’s Peavy is likely to oppose Lynn, Kelly or Miller.
A Game 5 rematch in St. Louis between Lester and Wainwright would also be playable UNDER 7 or higher with the side play on the Cardinals if the series is tied at 2 games apiece and they are favored by no more than -130. If the Cardinals are facing elimination Wainwright could be played up to -150. If Boston is facing elimination the Sox would be playable at +110 or more.
The call is for St. Louis to win the 2013 World Series in 6 games. Barring a four game sweep the Series will be revisited in a final 2013 baseball column next week.
Enjoy the culmination to what has been a truly entertaining and memorable 2013 season.
Andy Iskoe, and his Logical Approach, provides his popular and unique handicapping statistics to Gaming Today readers and online visitors. He has been a long time GT columnist, contributing weekly in-season columns on baseball, pro basketball and pro football. Contact Andy at [email protected]