Skip to content

Do the Red Sox or the Cardinals have the World Series pitching edge?

Oct 21, 2013, 2:10 PM EST

Adam Wainwright AP

This postseason has been dominated by pitching, so who has the arms advantage in the World Series?

During the regular season the Red Sox ranked sixth among AL teams in runs allowed and the Cardinals ranked fifth among NL teams in runs allowed, but overall totals can be misleading when it comes to evaluating the quality of a playoff pitching staff because lesser pitchers rarely make an appearance.

For instance, through 11 playoff games for the Cardinals and 10 playoff games for the Red Sox both teams have used four starting pitchers. That in itself is obviously a big change from the regular season and in the Red Sox’s case they’ve significantly shortened the bullpen pecking order too, essentially going with a four-man relief corps in anything resembling a high-leverage situation.

And that’s where the strength of these two teams really shines through: They don’t have any real, “oh no, this guy is coming into the game?!” weak links once the pitching staff is shortened. Rotation orders haven’t been announced yet, but here’s how the starters compare:

Cardinals:
Adam Wainwright: 242 IP, 2.94 ERA, 2.80 xFIP
Michael Wacha: 65 IP, 2.78 ERA, 3.36 xFIP
Joe Kelly: 124 IP, 2.69 ERA, 4.19 xFIP
Lance Lynn: 202 IP, 3.97 ERA, 3.66 xFIP

Red Sox:
Jon Lester: 213 IP, 3.75 ERA, 3.90 xFIP
Clay Buchholz: 108 IP, 1.74 ERA, 3.41 xFIP
John Lackey: 189 IP, 3.52 ERA, 3.49 xFIP
Jake Peavy: 145 IP, 4.17 ERA, 4.03 xFIP

(xFIP stands for Expected Fielding Independent Pitching, about which you can learn more by clicking here.)

Adam Wainwright is the best starting pitcher in this series and based on how he’s pitched so far in his brief MLB career Michael Wacha has made a strong case for second-best, but Jon Lester also has a lengthy track record of very good work and Clay Buchholz had a 1.74 ERA in the regular season.

Every starter who’ll take the mound in this series is at worst a solid mid-rotation guy and the Cardinals have so much starter depth that they aren’t even going to use stud rookie Shelby Miller. I’d give St. Louis a slight rotation edge based on the Wainwright-Wacha one-two punch, but in the (likely) three-four spots I actually trust Boston’s Lackey-Peavy duo a bit more than Kelly-Lynn.

Which brings us to the bullpens …

Cardinals:
Trevor Rosenthal: 75 IP, 2.63 ERA, 2.34 xFIP
Carlos Martinez: 28 IP, 5.08 ERA, 3.83 xFIP
John Axford: 65 IP, 4.02 ERA, 3.56 xFIP
Seth Maness: 62 IP, 2.32 ERA, 3.13 xFIP
Kevin Siegrist: 40 IP, 0.45 ERA, 3.00 xFIP
Randy Choate: 35 IP, 2.29 ERA, 3.30 xFIP

Red Sox:
Koji Uehara: 74 IP, 1.09 ERA, 2.08 xFIP
Junichi Tazawa: 68 IP, 3.16 ERA, 3.03 xFIP
Brandon Workman: 42 IP, 4.97 ERA, 3.18 xFIP
Craig Breslow: 60 IP, 1.81 ERA, 4.37 xFIP

Koji Uehara has basically been as dominant as a pitcher can possibly be, in the regular season and the postseason, but the Cardinals also have a stud closer in Trevor Rosenthal. And while the Red Sox may struggle to get consistently strong work bridging the gap to Uehara the Cardinals have no shortage of quality setup options from the right side and left side. I’d trust Uehara over anyone right now, but I’d trust Rosenthal and his assortment of setup men over Uehara, Junichi Tazawa, and whatever Red Sox manager John Farrell can piece together in the middle innings.

None of which is to say the Red Sox’s bullpen is a huge weakness or anything. It’s not, but if we’re splitting hairs here trying to find potential advantages in this series I think the Cardinals’ bullpen depth could play a big role. They have 5-6 good options, including a lefty specialist in Randy Choate who’ll no doubt be matched up against David Ortiz in some big-time situations.

So which team has the World Series pitching edge? I’d go with the Cardinals, however slightly, based on the strength of Wainwright-Wacha and bullpen depth. And of course me writing this post about all the good pitching in this series means we’re probably looking at a bunch of 9-7 and 10-8 slugfests.

Latest Posts
  1. The Brewers re-introduce the Beer Barrel Man

    Jan 26, 2015, 3:35 PM EST

    Beer Barrel Man

    Now, if they’ll bring back the beer mug Bernie slides into, everything will be A-OK.

  2. A-Rod is going to apologize, you guys

    Jan 26, 2015, 2:42 PM EST

    a-rod homer getty Getty Images

    I’m sure you’ve been worried about whether he would.

  3. Orioles sign Chris Parmelee

    Jan 26, 2015, 2:10 PM EST

    Chris Parmelee Getty Getty Images

    Parmelee was dropped by the Twins last month.

  4. Reds sign four-year contract extension with Devin Mesoraco

    Jan 26, 2015, 1:18 PM EST

    Devin Mesoraco AP

    Mesoraco is arbitration eligible for the first time at age 26 and filed for $3.6 million, while the Reds countered at $2.45 million.

  5. Wade Boggs shot a bull caribou without a license

    Jan 26, 2015, 1:00 PM EST

    Wade Boggs Horse

    Wade Boggs is . . . the World’s Most Interesting Man

  6. The Committee studying the A’s potential move to San Jose has . . . disbanded!

    Jan 26, 2015, 12:28 PM EST

    a's logo

    If it was a human it would’ve almost made it to the first grade. But now it is dead, aged just short of six years.

  7. Baseball’s 15th greatest general manager knew a bargain veteran when he saw one

    Jan 26, 2015, 11:29 AM EST

    Walt Jocketty AP

    If you made a trade with St. Louis in the 90s and 2000s, you likely got the bad end of that trade. Because of this guy.

  8. The Royals are monitoring James Shields

    Jan 26, 2015, 10:57 AM EST

    James Shields Getty Images

    Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not after you.

  9. Jered Weaver packed on 25 pounds during the offseason

    Jan 26, 2015, 10:15 AM EST

    Jered Weaver AP AP

    “I don’t know if my metabolism is slowing down from getting older or what, but I feel good.”

  10. The Yankees are going to try to get out of paying A-Rod his contract incentives

    Jan 26, 2015, 9:31 AM EST

    alex rodriguez head Getty Images

    Hey guys, if things break just right we may get another A-Rod lawsuit!

  11. Rob Manfred defends Fred Wilpon being put in charge of baseball’s finance committee

    Jan 26, 2015, 9:00 AM EST

    File image of New York Mets chairman and CEO Fred Wilpon talking to reporters at a news conference in New York Reuters

    Short version: The man knows how to budget. Mets fans can’t dispute that.

  12. Reminder: eliminating defensive shifts is a dumb idea

    Jan 26, 2015, 8:30 AM EST

    dodgers shift

    A solution in search of a problem. Or, at the very least, a solution that would be worse than the problem.

  13. Important: we have new data on Wade Boggs’ epic beer consumption

    Jan 26, 2015, 6:46 AM EST

    Wade Boggs Devil Rays

    We are approaching the day when a Hall of Famer with over 3,000 hits and a career .328 batting average will be best known for knocking back cold ones.

  14. Indians will consider extending Corey Kluber

    Jan 25, 2015, 11:15 PM EST

    Corey Kluber Corey Kluber

    Corey Kluber won the AL Cy Young Award for his great 2014 season and now the Indians will have to consider whether or not they want to sign him to a contract extension.

  15. Brewers GM Doug Melvin not looking to replace Yovani Gallardo

    Jan 25, 2015, 10:35 PM EST

    Jimmy Nelson Jimmy Nelson

    With Yovani Gallardo out of the picture, Brewers GM Doug Melvin said he’s not looking to add a notable starting pitcher.

  16. Alex Meyer willing to pitch out of the bullpen for the Twins

    Jan 25, 2015, 9:30 PM EST

    Minnesota Twins v Tampa Bay Rays Getty Images

    Twins prospect Alex Meyer is open to contributing out of the bullpen if he doesn’t win a rotation spot in spring training.

  17. Mariners sign Endy Chavez to a minor league deal

    Jan 25, 2015, 8:20 PM EST

    Endy Chavez Endy Chavez

    The Mariners added some outfield depth, signing Endy Chavez to a minor league deal. They’re reportedly close to signing Franklin Gutierrez as well.

  18. Brewers now interested in bringing back Francisco Rodriguez

    Jan 25, 2015, 7:10 PM EST

    Francisco Rodriguez AP AP

    With Jonathan Papelbon likely staying in Philadelphia, the Brewers are turning their attention back to Francisco Rodriguez.

  19. How Commissioner Rob Manfred Can Make Baseball More Appealing

    Jan 25, 2015, 6:05 PM EST

    Rob Manfred Rob Manfred

    Rob Manfred’s suggestion to ban defensive shifting isn’t the best way to address some of the problems facing Major League Baseball.

  20. Rangers doubtful to consider Josh Hamilton reunion

    Jan 25, 2015, 4:41 PM EST

    josh hamilton getty Getty Images

    MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez wrote earlier this month that it’s unlikely Josh Hamilton will finish out his five-year, $125 million contract as a member of the Angels and that a trade may even be coming this season — in the third year of the five-year deal. But we can probably rule out a reunion with the Rangers.

Top 10 MLB Player Searches
  1. R. Vogelsong (6083)
  2. J. Shields (5237)
  3. I. Suzuki (4231)
  4. J. Papelbon (4170)
  5. J. Gomes (3952)
  1. D. Fowler (3434)
  2. J. Santana (3411)
  3. J. Profar (3245)
  4. M. Scherzer (2817)
  5. G. Soto (2800)