The Cardinals obviously didn’t make the postseason this year. If they had, though, it would be interesting to see how they would match up against the game’s best. Namely, the American League Champion Boston Red Sox, who are clear favorites to take home the World Series trophy.
This will be a good way to not only see how the Cards would fare had they made the Fall Classic, but also to see just how far they are from getting back there.
Starting Rotation: Red Sox
This is one place the Cardinals could’ve given the Sox a run for their money. Ultimately, the Redbirds don’t have the arms that Boston does, but it’s actually close.
Obviously, Chris Sale is the best pitcher between both teams. Even though he only threw 158 innings this season, he still piled up 237 strikeouts, 12 wins and posted a 2.11 ERA. The Cards would counter with a very good Miles Mikolas, who won 18 games this season behind a 2.83 ERA and 200.2 innings, but he’s just not Sale. According to baseball reference, even with the innings difference, Sale has a WAR of 6.9. That’s over two wins better than Mikolas’s 4.3.
After the aces, it gets close. The Cards might actually have the edge in a game two matchup of Rick Porcello and Jack Flaherty. Even though Porcello won 17 games, he posted an ERA of 4.28, a FIP of 4.01, only averaged 8.9 strikeouts per nine innings and a had a WAR only 0.7 points higher than Flaherty’s, despite starting five more games. Flaherty only won eight games, but his ERA was much better at 3.34, as was his 3.86 FIP and 10.8 strikeouts per nine. He also struck out just eight fewer batters than Porcello in 40 less innings.
From there, though, it’s pretty much all Red Sox. The third and fourth rotation spots easily go to Boston. David Price is better than anyone else the Cardinals have, except for a healthy Carlos Martinez, and he wasn’t healthy enough to start at the end of the season. Eduardo Rodriguez would then be better than John Gant for the Cardinals. Rodriguez’s 3.65 FIP trumps Gant’s 4.07, and his 3.0 WAR is far better than Gant’s 0.6, despite nearly the same amount of innings.
The fifth spot also goes to the Red Sox and Nathan Evoldi, no matter who the Cardinals would throw. Wainwright, Gomber and Weaver would all be outmatched against Evoldi at this point.
Bullpen: Red Sox
St. Louis’ bullpen leaves a lot to be desired. They have Jordan Hicks, and Dakota Hudson did a nice job for the most part, but that’s about it. Boston, on the other hand, has Joe Kelly, Matt Barnes, Brandon Workman, Hector Velazquez and that guy that closes games named Craig Kimbrel. That’s about all that needs to be said about who has the edge in the bullpen.
This one is about the only matchup that is lopsided in the Cardinals’ favor. Boston has had a combination of three catchers this season,,and none of them separately — or combined — even touch Yadier Molina. Of the Sox’s three catchers, the highest OPS is .613, the highest home run total is 5 and the highest average is .229. Yadi hit .261 with a .750 OPS, 20 home runs and 74 RBI this season. He also caught 1017.2 innings, even with his injury. None of the Red Sox catchers caught more than 685.2 innings this year.
As biased as this could be — everyone knows how much Cardinals fans love Yadi — it’s not. Even just a quick look at the numbers shows how much better off the Cards are at catcher than the Red Sox. That says a lot for Molina, seeing as the Sox won 108 games this season.
First Base: Cardinals
For the sake of this piece, Jose Martinez will be considered the Cardinals’ first baseman and Matt Carpenter the third baseman. Either way, though, both guys are better than the Red Sox’s only option, Mitch Moreland.
Defensively, Moreland has the edge, but offensively, Jose Martinez had a better year. Martinez hit .305 with an .821 OPS, 17 homers, 83 RBI, a 124 OPS+ and a WAR of 1.5. Moreland hit just .245 with a .758 OPS, 15 homers, 68 RBI, a 102 OPS+ and a 0.9 WAR.
Though not as clear cut as catcher, the Cardinals do come out on top here based on the statistics. That’s not to say some people might want Moreland over Martinez, which is fair, but statistically, Martinez has the advantage.
Second Base: Cardinals
This is a tricky one. Based on names, most people would take Ian Kinsler over Kolten Wong. However, a look at some numbers might steer them in a different direction. Kinsler has the advantage in power with 14 home runs to Wong’s nine, but that’s about it. Wong hit .249 with a .720 OPS, 97 OPS+ and a 3.5 WAR. Kinsler hit just .240 with a .681 OPS, 87 OPS+ and a 2.4 WAR.
Defense is what really sets them apart though. Kinsler is no slouch at second base. He had 10 DRS, 9.4 UZR/150 and an 11.6 Def this season. However, Wong played like a Gold Glover. Kolten ended the year with 19 DRS, a UZR/150 of 17.6 and a 15 Def.
Wong was better than Kinsler this season on offense and defense. He’s not head and shoulders better, but enough better that the Cardinals get the edge at second base.
Third Base: Cardinals
Rafael Devers is a very good young third baseman, but Matt Carpenter was better than a lot of people this season. He played like an MVP for three months of the season and held his own on defense at third and first.
Carp hit .257 with an .897 OPS, 35 home runs, 81 RBI, a 143 OPS+ and a WAR of 4.9. Devers hit just .240 with a .731 OPS. He did hit 21 homers and drive in 66 runs, but his numbers don’t come close to Carpenter’s.
Shortstop: Red Sox
Paul DeJong is a solid big league shortstop, but this one goes to Xander Bogaerts hands down. DeJong did hit 19 home runs this year, but he slashed just .241/.313/.433 with a 102 OPS+. His defense was better than his hitting though. He put up 14 DRS and a 9.3 UZR/150. Actually, his defense was much better than Bogaerts. Offensively though, it’s not close. Bogaerts slashed .288/.360/.522 with 23 home runs, 103 RBI, a 135 OPS+. Their respective WAR’s are both 3.8, but the offensive production from Xander is more than enough to give him and the Red Sox the edge at shortstop.
Left Field: Red Sox
Boston has a loaded outfield, and it starts with Andrew Benintendi. Marcell Ozuna was serviceable in left for the Cardinals, but he wasn’t near as good as Benintendi.
Ozuna hit .280 with 23 homers and 88 RBI, but he had just a .758 OPS, a 102 OPS+ and a 2.9 WAR. His defense wasn’t bad, with eight DRS and a 4.2 UZR/150, but his arm wasn’t what it has been in the past. Benintendi on the other hand, had an ARM rating of 6.1, 4 DRS and a UZR/150 of 5.8. He also hit very well, slashing .290/.366/.465 with 16 home runs, 87 RBI, an OPS+ of 123 and a 3.9 WAR.
All around, Benintendi is a better player than Ozuna, and the statistics back that up. Anyone would and should take him over Ozuna in left field.
Center Field: Cardinals
Harrison Bader came on to the scene later in the season, but he provided a spark for the Cardinals and played like an All Star. The Red Sox also have a good centerfielder in Jackie Bradley Jr., but he didn’t have the year that Bader did.
Bader hit .264 with a .756 OPS, 106 OPS+ and 12 home runs. Bradley, despite almost 100 more at bats, only hit one more home run. He also hit for just a .234 average, .717 OPS and a 92 OPS+. Defensively, Bader blows Bradley out of the water. Bader had 11 DRS in center this year, and had a UZR/150 of 20.1. Bradley posted -2 DRS and an 8.8 UZR/150. Overall, baseball reference has Bader and Bradley at a 3.8 and 2.1 WAR, respectively.
Right Field: Red Sox
The Red Sox had the best right fielder in all of baseball this year in Mookie Betts. He might have even been the best player in baseball. The Cardinals didn’t really have a right fielder after Fowler went down, and he wasn’t exactly getting the job done while healthy. Martinez played there some, as did Tyler O’Niell and Bader. It doesn’t make much of a difference in this matter, though. Betts was better than any of them at any point this season.
Betts had a 10.9 WAR this year, slashing .346/.438/.640 with 32 homers, 80 RBI, 30 stolen bases and a 186 OPS+. His average, SLG and 124 runs scored all led the American League this season. He was equally as impressive in the field, too, putting up 20 DRS, a UZR/150 of 21.1 and an ARM rating of 5.8. The Red Sox far and away have the advantage in right.
Designated Hitter: Red Sox
Not that the Cardinals have a designated hitter, but anyone they could put there would not live up to what the Red Sox have. This article also wouldn’t be a fair comparison if J.D. Martinez was not mentioned.
Martinez had a monster year after signing with the Bo Sox this past winter. He hit .330 with an OPS of 1.031, 43 homers, 130 RBI and an OPS+ of 173. He led the AL with his 130 RBI and posted a WAR of 6.4, which is higher than that of any Cardinal by a whole win and a half.
Advantage: Red Sox
This conclusion seems rather obvious, but the comparison was worthwhile to show how far behind the Cardinals really are. Of the 11 positions covered, the Sox have the edge in seven of them. The other thing to note is, even where the Cardinals have advantages, aside from catcher, none of them are all that clear cut. Where the Red Sox have the upper hand, it’s by a long shot.
The bottom line is, most teams that go to the World Series are going to be better than teams that miss the playoffs. However, the Red Sox are much better than the Cardinals, and they still have to win four more games to win the World Series. If Mozeliak is doing the same kind of comparisons, he should realize just how much work is ahead of him to get the team back to where it needs to be.
Featured Image by Charles Krupa/AP
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