Friday, October 22, 2004

Cardinals vs. Red Sox

Here is it - my preview of the World Series. As in the previous two series, I'll be using Win Shares Above Average, or WSAA, from the regular season to compare players. Why this measure? For starters, Win Shares takes both offense and defense into consideration for position players, and both pitching and hitting into consideration for pitchers. What's more, it also factors in park effects.

Furthermore, WSAA helps to take playing time out of the equation. A horrible 1st baseman that plays 100 games is going to have more Win Shares than an awesome shortstop that only plays in 20. WSAA takes the player and compares the number of Win Shares he has to what an average player would have in the same amount of playing time at the same position. So, if a player has 10 WSAA then he created 10 more Win Shares than an average player over the same amount of playing time. One more note - this metric works really well for players that are near average. However, a player that is above average but had limited playing time (see Larry Walker) does not have as much time to compile more WSAA than he might have garnered over more games.

Confused? Good, that makes two of us. For more information on WSAA, go here. All of the stats used in this article were obtained using The Hardball Times. If you don't visit that site often, you're missing out.

Now, on with the show.

Catcher
Mike Matheny -2
Jason Varitek, 4

Matheny is all glove, no hit. Varitek is all hit, no glove. (No glove is probably a bit harsh, but you get the idea.)

1st Base
Albert Pujols 21
David Ortiz 11
Kevin Millar 2

I list Ortiz here, since he's going to have to play 1st at least 2 games this series. Kevin Millar has been getting the starts in the field during the playoffs, with Doug Mientkiewicz being used as a defensive replacement. Ortiz has been mashing the ball in the post-season, hitting .429/.529/.810, 1339 OPS, 4 HR, and 15 RBI. Which helps put what Pujols has been doing into context, as he's hitting .442/520/.907, 1427 OPS, 6 HR, and 14 RBI. And he can catch the ball to boot.

2nd Base
Tony Womack 2
Mark Bellhorn 6

Womack's efforts last night with an obviously hurting back have really upped his reputation in St. Louis. He'll have to continue to battle this series in order to help make up some of the difference between himself and Bellhorn, who's had a solid year. If nothing else, they cancel each other out via the ex-Cub factor.

3rd Base
Scott Rolen 21
Bill Mueller 0

While I expected Rolen to win this comparison hands down, I fully expected to see Mueller be an above average third baseman rather than simply average.

Shortstop
Edgar Renteria -1
Orlando Cabrera -1

Even up, as Renteria wasn't quite himself with the bat. You have to like Edgar's chances in this series, however, as he's returning to the World Series, whereas it's all new for Cabrera.

Left Field
Reggie Sanders 2
Manny Ramirez 12

This one surprised me as well. I fully expected Manny to be well above Sanders, but his WSAA is quite low overall. And you just know that his defense is going to come into play this series.

Center Field
Jim Edmonds 19
Johnny Damon 9

Edmonds is better looking, too. I already know that between Fox and ESPN, everyone will say this is a close race. Forget it. It's not.

Right Field
Larry Walker 3
Trot Nixon 0

Nixon has struggled this year, including in the playoffs. This race would be even more of a blowout if Walker had played more this season.

Bench/DH
John Mabry 1
So Taguchi 1
Roger Cedeno 0

Kevin Millar 2
Doug Mirabelli 2
Kevin Youkilis 1

This is kind of convoluted, as Millar will be on the bench in the NL park, starting in the AL. Bench wise, the Red Sox are slightly deeper. DH wise, if you do the following:

1B Pujols 21
DH Mabry 1

DH Ortiz 11
1B Millar 2

You can see that the Cardinals aren't likely to get much production out of their DH, but the Red Sox likely won't get much out of their 1st baseman in the AL park, either. It also wouldn't surprise me to see Sanders DH, with Taguchi starting in the outfield to give the Cards some defensive help.

Rotation
Woody Williams -1
Jason Marquis 5
Jeff Suppan -2
Matt Morris -3

Tim Wakefield -2
Curt Schilling 9
Pedro Martinez 4
Derek Lowe -5

Several notes on the rotation. One, I have no idea if Jason Marquis will start, or even be on the playoff roster. He's been brutal for a month, including 2 playoff starts. Two, if they do plan on starting him, you'd think they'd start him in Game 4, holding him to one start and allowing him to swing the bat. Dan Haren had -1 WSAA on the regular season, and he is the guy that will likely start if Marquis doesn't.

Curt Schilling, as we know, will be pitching with his leg literally sewn together. And of course, even though Lowe appears to be the worse starter of the bunch, he had a brilliant Game 7 in the ALCS on just 2 day's rest. Anything can happen.

Closer
Isringhausen 4
Foulke 7

Much like the last series, the other team has the better closer. Thankfully, Foulke is a changeup artist rather than a guy that can strikeout 2 out of every 3 guys he faces (inning after inning after inning....)

Bullpen
Tavarez 3
King 3
Carpenter 2
Calero 2

Timlin 1
Mendoza 1
Lescanic 1
Arroyo 0

I left Kline off of this list despite 3 WSAA. Personally, I think the Cardinals would be crazy to leave him on the World Series roster, being the question mark that he is. I mean - he didn't pitch after Game 2. With Ortiz in the lineup (1082 OPS vs. right, 784 OPS vs. left regular season), the Cards could use a 2nd lefty in the pen, whether it's Flores or Ankiel. And I'm simply speculating that Carpenter will be in the pen and ready to go this series in short stints. Other relievers to remember are Al Reyes and the afore mentioned Randy Flores, each of who had 1 WSAA during the regular season in limited work.

Conclusion

So, what does it look like? The Red Sox are better at Catcher, 2nd Base, and Left Field in their regular lineup. What's more, they have a better closer, and a slightly better bench. However, the Cardinals are better at 1st, 3rd, Centerfield, and Right Field. Additionally, they have a deeper and better bullpen. (And even though I said the same thing about the bullpens last series, I'm confident that the last 10 innings of relief - giving up 1 earned run - is more indicative of the Cards' pen.)

The starting rotations? Well, it's really hard to call. By name recognition alone, how could you not go with Schiling, Pedro, Lowe, and Wakefield? But with Schilling banged up, Lowe and Wakefield not being great this year, and the starts that Williams and Suppan have been putting up? Who knows which rotation will step up the biggest?

Ultimately, I think this series will be similar to the one the Cardinals just won. Lots of offense, lots of bullpen action required. And if that is the case, I honestly think the Cardinals have to be favored. Their lineup, especially the middle, is a little better and a little deeper. And their bullpen is quite a bit better and quite a bit deeper.

Cardinals in Six

4 Comments:

At 3:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

One thing that your WSAA comparison ignores is that David Ortiz isn't really a 1st baseman, because the Sox have the luxury of playing him at DH. If they didn't, he would have played there and picked up a couple extra win shares just by putting a mitt on every day. Not enough to even the score between him and Pujols, but the divide is not quite as big as it appears in the comparison.

The other problem here is that it assumes that WS are transferable from league to league. Since WS = a teams wins times three, the Cards will have a total of 315 WS to pass out. What we don't know is if the Cards would have won 105 games if they played in the AL. Or if they had played in a different division.

Blah, blah, blah. Too much hair-splitting for what should be a great series, even if we have to put up with two partisan and incompetent hacks in the booth, and even if we have to put up with incessant pandering to "the greatest baseball town in America" or "Red Sox nation trying to lift the curse."

My prediction: entertaining series until Pedro buzzes one past Edmonds' ear. Then it will get really interesting. Go sox.

Mark

 
At 4:02 PM, Blogger Robb said...

Hello Mark,

Good points, as usual. First baseman, in general, got around 2 win shares for their defense during the regular season. But to be honest, I'm not sure that Ortiz would have actually been average, so it may have actually lowered his WSAA if he had played there every day. (Still a good point, though, since we don't know.)

Bill James has assured me - well, in print - that win shares are a fair comparison between leagues, as well as not penalizing great players on awful teams, or making awful players on great teams look great. With that being said, it's the best, quickest, dirtiest comparison I can run, so that's what I did.

As far as the Cards winning 105 as an AL team? Who knows? They were, however, 11-1 in interleague play. And although they didn't have to play the Yankees 19 times, they did have to play the Cubs 19, Astros 18.

Should be a fun series. And even though I picked the Cards, I won't be shocked if the Red Sox win the series. I will be shocked if the Cards don't win at least 2 games, however.

 
At 8:13 PM, Blogger Len said...

It also wouldn't surprise me to see Sanders DH, with Taguchi starting in the outfield to give the Cards some defensive help.Good call; you weren't surprised tonight I see (exactly how TLR filled out the lineup card).

 
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