In World Series, riveting matchups to keep eye on
Cardinals-Red Sox offers contrasts that excite from a scouting perspective
The 2013 World Series features two iconic baseball teams. Both the Boston Red Sox and St. Louis Cardinals boast some of the most loyal and knowledgeable fans in the game. High expectations come with the territory.
There are a few matchups in the days ahead that could tip the balance of the series. There are a few potential team contrasts that intrigue me.
From a scouting perspective, I'll be looking at how well Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina handles the running game of the Red Sox. Especially Jacoby Ellsbury.
During the regular season, Ellsbury stole 52 bases while being caught stealing only four times. He sets the table for the heart of the batting order by getting on base and stealing second. The antidote for Ellsbury's poison pill could be Molina. He threw out an outstanding 43 percent of runners trying to steal this past season. Molina has a career average of 45 percent over his 10 Major League seasons.
Much will depend upon whether the Cards' pitching staff can keep Ellsbury from getting too great a lead on his stolen-base attempts.
A slow pitcher will get the ball to home plate in 1.5 seconds or more from the time his hands separate in his stretch. To nail a runner like Ellsbury, three things have to occur: The pitcher must keep him close to first base, the pitch must reach the catcher's glove in 1.2 to 1.3 seconds at the most, and the catcher must get the ball to second base in less than 2.0 seconds. If any of those three factors are not realized, Ellsbury should be standing on second, the base stolen.
I'm also intrigued at how well David Ortiz will hit against Adam Wainwright and Michael Wacha.
Ortiz is the hitter in the Red Sox's lineup who can do the most damage. Ask the Detroit Tigers.
Left-handed batters hit .242 against Wainwright this past season. That was less than the .254 produced by right-handed batters. He issued only 10 walks, while striking out 111 right-handed hitters. The ratio was good against lefties as well. Wainwright struck out 108 left-handed hitters, while walking 25.
Ortiz hit .339 against right-handed pitching. He struck out only 54 times in 384 plate appearances. Ortiz also hit 23 home runs.
How Wainwright and Wacha in particular handle Ortiz could be telling. If the World Series goes seven games, the slugger might see both those pitchers twice.
Finally, I think the closers for both clubs will play crucial roles in this series. They are extremely different in their approach.
Boston closer Koji Uehara has an elastic arm. I believe he could pitch every day if needed. Uehara is the type of pitcher who can get warm in the bullpen quickly, needing little time to prepare to enter a game.
Uehara has outstanding command and control of two pitches. He throws a devastating split-finger pitch at 81 mph and an 89 mph fastball. But everything moves. And Uehara throws strikes.
Cardinals closer Trevor Rosenthal's fastball sits at 98-99 mph, with an occasional 100 mph for good measure. He also throws an 89 mph changeup along with an 82 mph curveball that changes the balance and the eye levels of the hitters. But Rosenthal can tend to lose control at times.
While the closers couldn't be more different in their approaches, they have one thing in common. They can both slam the door shut on the opposition by making great pitches under pressure.
Those are some of the things I'll be watching as the World Series unfolds.
Bernie Pleskoff has served as a professional scout for the Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners. Follow @BerniePleskoff on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.