Baseball Postseason, Volume III: World Series
Luckily for us, Boston and St. Louis did not face each other in interleague play this year, which makes the World Series a pure event.
What I have done during these playoffs to make my final predictions is to look at starters, bullpens, and offense. I will also consider managers if I believe this series is going to be close. I do not look at playoff experience, although I will mention who has it, but generally playoff experience hasn't been a factor at all (you might make a case for the Yankees, but then you'd have to consider their numerous losses to less experienced teams as well).
Home field. These teams are magnificent at home, and that factor is not always a given in baseball. Obviously, the Sox have the edge here since they potentially will play 4 games there. St. Louis has not lost at home in the playoffs.
World Series experience. The Cardinals have Tony Womack and Reggie Sanders (2001 D'Backs), Edgar Renteria (1997 Marlins), Julian Tavarez (1995 Indians), and although I'm not sure if he played or played that much, Woody Williams was on the '93 Blue Jays. Tony La Russa managed 3 World Series with the A's ('88-'90). The Red Sox have Curt Schilling ('93 Phillies, '01 D'Backs), Manny Ramirez ('95 and '97 Indians), Alan Embree ('95 Indians), Ramiro Mendoza ('96, '98-'01 Yanks), Mike Timlin ('92-'93 Blue Jays). World Series experience belongs to the Cardinals, but the Sox have faced more playoff action in the last couple of years than have the Cards.
Curt Schilling is hurt, and the pitching he did against the Yanks is to be commended. However, should he struggle slightly with his fastball to this lineup, he is likely to give up huge runs. Wakefield has an advantage in this series because no one on the Cards has really ever seen him. The only batter who has enough at-bats and has a good average against him is Jim Edmonds. No one is really that good against Pedro, but no one has faced the latter-day Pedro we know of the last couple of years. Against the Cards, the Red Sox have not much of a sample against Marquis, but have had success. Woody Williams has been decent versus the Sox batters. Boston's lineup has basically killed Jeff Suppan. Matt Morris simply isn't the same dominant pitcher, but the Red Sox have a mixed bag against him in limited action in their history. I think the pitching edge goes the Sox way.
Hitting is a Cardinals' edge. They have decent leadoff guys but they have Walker, Pujols, Rolen, and Edmonds in the middle. The Red Sox have been exposed this postseason, only getting real key hits from David Ortiz. But Damon and Bellhorn started turning around by Game 6, and Manny Ramirez was held to 0 RBI (a fact that is often followed by, well, Damon and Bellhorn didn't get on base in front of him). Last year, the Sox would get hits from Trot Nixon or Jason Varitek, but they've been quiet. Orlando Cabrera has been good.
Bullpens: The Cards and Sox used their bullpens liberally in the LCS games, and they all have to be tired. Both closers are horses. Both teams' middle relief has been shaky but recovered in the last couple of games. It's a draw here.
Managers: Even though I'm not a huge fan of Tony La Russa, he hasn't ever made a decision that I remember saying to myself, "What an odd and potentially devastating move he just made." He ran into Orel Hershiser in the 1988 World Series and who else would you have had on the mound but closer Dennis Eckersley to face Kirk Gibson in Game 1? He won the 1989 World Series easily. In 1990, the Reds swept his A's. I think in a 4-5 game series where you lose, you simply had no chance in the first place. Terry Francona has made some moves I've questioned, and this will hurt if he makes similar decisions. Edge to Cards.
The Cards and Sox both had to beat explosive offenses to get here, and they used good defense. All in all, this is one of the hardest series I've ever had to pick. With home field and pitching going the Sox way, they look primed to win, but with their potential hitting woes coupled with potentially shaky pitching, they may find themselves behind and unable to get back into games.
I want the Sox to win, but I don't think they will. Cardinals, 4-3. Which means a devastating loss at home for the Sox. But geez, guys, I sure hope I'm wrong.