The St. Louis Cardinals accomplished their goal in Boston and that was to shift home-field advantage their way in the World Series. The Boston Red Sox are certainly not intimidated by playing outside of Fenway Park but there are some distinct benefits swinging the Cardinals’ way.
First, the Cardinals won 54 games at Busch Stadium this season, the second most home wins in the majors. They won 21 out of their last 26 regular season games in St. Louis and are 5-1 at home thus far in the postseason.
The Redbirds hit better at home than on the road -- .274/.336/.403 versus .264/.328/.400 -- while the Red Sox offense slows down just a bit -- .285/.354/.464 at Fenway, versus .269/.344/.429 away from Boston. Matt Holliday (.318/.419/.559 with 14 HR in 283 PA) and Matt Carpenter (.360/.432/.540, 73 R in 345 PA) excelled at Busch in 2013.
On the mound, the Cardinals boasted a team ERA of 3.10 in St. Louis and 3.77 elsewhere. The staff held runners off the bases at a much better clip at home as well -- 1.149 WHIP at Busch and 1.345 on the road. For the Red Sox, their staff ERA jumped from 3.57 in Boston to 4.03 on the road, and their team WHIP rose from 1.256 to 1.346 once away from home.
Apart from the regular season team stats favoring the Cardinals when they play on familiar ground, the Red Sox will be losing their second best power/impact bat in the lineup as Mike Napoli will ride the pine so that David Ortiz, the team’s regular designated hitter, can play first base and stay in the lineup. The Red Sox are in a bit of a bind here as they need Ortiz in the lineup at all costs, but there is a distinct disadvantage here for the Red Sox.
The most obvious argument is there could be some fielding deficiencies with Ortiz manning first base, but he’s proven able to not kill the team’s chances in limited time at first over the last few seasons. That being said, limited reps are surely an issue that cannot be completely discounted.
So while Red Sox are able to keep Big Papi’s bat in the lineup, it comes at the cost of losing 3-4 plate appearances for Napoli, which could prove to be damaging. Potentially more important in the long run, the Cardinals should be able to pitch around Ortiz a bit more effectively without fearing that Napoli’s bat is due up down the line. This is the time of year that Ortiz ramps up an already powerful bat, and if the Cardinals can successfully work around him, they essentially miss two potent hitters. It is true the Red Sox have plenty of formidable bats, but after Ortiz, there is little to suggest Boston's next best basher is anyone but Napoli.
Additionally, Ortiz’s bat went cold in the six games he played the field in 2013, going just 3-for-19 with one homer and a .673 OPS, versus .964 OPS as the DH. Normalcy matters in baseball and playing first base for Ortiz is simply not common. To go back further, since 2007 he’s had 127 plate appearances as the first baseman in the regular season and has hit .231, though he drilled nine home runs among his 25 hits. Ortiz has 4 hits in 14 ABs in World Series play as the first baseman in the National League parks.
Do the Red Sox gain any edge with Napoli as a pinch-hitter? Nope. He’s 4-for-38 with a .132 slugging percentage in such circumstances in his regular season career, and 0-for-3 in postseason pinch-hitting attempts.
Of lesser note, but it’s worth mentioning, the Red Sox pitchers in 2013 had one hit in 29 plate appearances, while laying down three sac bunts. The Cardinals staff (370 PA, .126 AVG, 39 sacs) is obviously more used to handling the bat and thus gain another edge, albeit slight. If it comes down to the need to generate scoring opportunities with the pitcher at the plate, the Cardinals have more experience than the Red Sox.
Of course, these advantages may prove to be minute once play begins. But, it is not hard to speculate that the Cardinals could make the most of their time in St. Louis if they can hold Ortiz at bay and the trends established by both teams hold true.
Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference
World Series logo courtesy of sportslogos.net