As Internet rumor has it, the Red Sox are headed back to Boston with a 3-2 lead over the Cardinals in the 2013 World Series. Thus far, this year's Fall Classic has been notable for a pair of preposterous endings and -- as our own Danny Knobler examined -- the inability of anyone not named David Ortiz to do much in the way of hitting the ball.
On that point, some overall numbers for the series to date ...
|Offensive indicators, 2013 World Series|
|Team||AVG/OBP/SLG||AVG w/ RISP||K/BB||Runs/game|
|Red Sox||.205/.268/.317||.250 (8-for-32)||50/14||4.2 (21 total)|
|Cardinals||.218/.274/.303||.242 (8-for-33)||37/12||2.6 (13 total)|
As you can see, the two teams in terms of AVG/OBP/SLG for the series are roughly even, as is the case for the commonly cited statistic of batting average with runners in scoring position. As well, the Cardinals have the better K/BB ratio from the offensive standpoint. However, the run tally is where you see the most crucial divide between the Sox's and Cards' offenses in this series.
Here's another table that will shed some light on that curious disconnect ...
|Situational production, 2013 World Series|
|Team||AVG/OBP/SLG w/ bases empty||AVG/OBP/SLG w/ runners on||AVG/OBP/SLG w/ RISP||XBH with runners on|
|Red Sox||.180/.219/.240||.246/.338/.443||.250/.341/.438||6 (3 HR, 3 2B)|
|Cardinals||.215/.243/.327||.224/.324/.259||.242/.350/.273||2 (2 2B)|
The key difference, then, has been Boston's knack for hitting for power in RBI situations. The Cardinals have been better with the bases empty, but when runners are on or in scoring positions, the Red Sox are out-slugging St. Louis by 184 and 165 points, respectively.
To be sure, all of this is almost certainly a function of the small sample size at work. Beyond the fact that we're talking about a mere five games, levels of production in these kinds of situations are yoked to a team's overall ability to hit -- i.e., there's no evidence that "hitting with runners on" is any kind of repeatable skill, particularly at the team level. Beyond that, the Cardinal staff during the regular season was one of MLB's most effective at pitching with runners on (as measured by opponents' OPS), so there's surely not anything like "teamwide ineffectiveness when pitching from the stretch" at work here.
Unsatisfying as it may be, it's probably just "one of those things," which is an explanation that comes up quite a bit in this curious game of baseball. In broad terms, the Cardinals are doing roughly as good of a job hitting the ball as the Red Sox are -- which is to say, not a very good job at all. Boston, however, has been sequencing its power hits better than the Cards have. That's very likely a function of blind luck, but it's been the difference-maker thus far in the 2013 World Series.