Are Cardinals Lying Suppan? Or Will Sox Get Martinized?
by Mike Carminati
There is no calamity…which equals that which follows a supine submission to wrong and injustice and the consequent loss of… self-respect and honor, beneath which are shielded and defended a people’s safety and greatness.
—Pres. Grover Cleveland Speech to Congress re. the Venezuelan Boundary Dispute with Great Britain in 1895.
Game three of the World Series returns to Busch Stadium which, of course, has great impact in the series. It means that Tony LaRussa can no longer complain about the hotel accommodations (Evidently Quincy—pronounced Kwin-zE—is too far on the T and LaRussa prefers the North Shore).
But seriously, we are being told that the Cardinals are in a real hole. Only seven teams have been able to lose the first two games on the road and win the World Series, and none have done it since the 1981 Dodgers (the others being the1956, '58, and '78 Yankees, the 1955 and '65 Dodgers, and the 1971 Pirates). Overall, 37 of the 48 teams that won the first two games have gone on to win a World Series crown. The Red Sox have won six games straight. The Cardinals have not even owned a lead so far in the series. And god is on Curt Schilling's side—the big man hates QuesTec too it appears. Actually, they covered all of their theological bases with a blessing from a Navajo Code Talker. Heck, the Sox fans probably even view the death of Robert Merrill as some sort of divine intervention. Meanwhile, the Cards are sending a failed starter for last year's Red Sox to the mound (Jeff Suppan) to prevent falling to the brink at 0-3. They might as well just call it a series already.
But since they are going to play game three, we may as well take a look at it. The biggest change is the change of venues. With three games at home, the Cardinals could easily find themselves up three games to two by Thursday (or maybe I should say early Friday morning). Well, maybe not so easily, but they could do it.
Keep in mind that these are two great home teams. The Red Sox were 55-26 at home and the Cardinals were 53-28, second and third behind the Yankees (57-24) on the year. This postseason the Sox are 5-1 at home and 4-2 on the road. The Cardinals are 6-0 at home and 1-6 on the road (the one win coming game four of the Division Series with LA, 6-2, on October 10). It's odd because the Cardinals were the best road team in baseball in 2004 (52-29). The Red Sox were barely above .500 (43-38) and eleven teams had record better than or equal to them, including every other playoff team.
On the road the Red Sox became beatable in the regular season. Their ratios on the road (.260/.342/.441/.783) are nowhere near their home performance (304/.378/.504/.883). Their OPS drops 100 points, 63 from slugging and 36 from on-base (and one from rounding), and their batting average is 44 points lower. The Red Sox scored the most runs (517) and had the best OPS (.883) of any major-league team at home this year. On the road, they were tied for seventh in runs (432) and had the sixth-best OPS (.783).
It's even more dramatic when you look at certain individuals. Kevin Millar: home 350/.425/.592/1.018, away .242/.338/.351/.689. Trot Nixon: home .343/.420/.586/1.005, away .291/.337/.443/.780 (though in just 79 at-bats). Bill Mueller: home 344/.413/.579/.993, away .225/.319/.319/.638. Jason Varitek: home .336/.431/.528/.960, away .256/.348/.436/.784.
Also consider that game three starter Pedro Martinez is much better at home (9-3 with a 3.22 ERA) than on the road (7-6 and 4.61). That's almost a run and one half difference. Then there's game four starter Derek Lowe, who's been abysmal on the road (6-8 with a 6.21 ERA as opposed to 8-4, 4.55 at home). Game five starter Tim Wakefield has been equally mediocre at home (6-6, 4.99) and on the road (6-4, 4.70).
Then again game three starter Jeff Suppan is lighting the world on fire with his 6-8 record and 4.75 ERA at Busch this year 1.2 runs higher than on the road (3.55, 10-1). However, game five starter Woody Williams has been much better at home (5-3, 3.36 vs. 6-5, 5.01). Game four starter Jason Marquis is a push (9-5, 3.76 vs. 6-2, 3.65). The Cardinals batters are about the same at home as on the road (.812 vs.796 OPS). The biggest difference is with Reggie Sanders (.738 road OPS and .858 home) and Mike Matheny (.580 road (!) and .702 home). Then there's Scott Rolen who's been slumping so far in the series (thanks in part to some bad luck outs in game two). His home stats don't inspire much confidence of his pulling out of the downward spiral (club-leading 1.156 OPS on the road vs. .866 at Busch).
Of course, the biggest difference on the field with be the fact that Boston DH David Ortiz will move to first base, where his immaculate glove once developed a hole earlier this season. First baseman Kevin Millar will either have to move to right field, shared time there with Trot Nixon, or sit on the bench. With his road stats, perhaps that's best. Also, Tony LaRussa will no longer have to overthink the DH slot and end up putting one of his tail-end bench players (Marlon Anderson anyone?) in the lineup.
Also, keep in mind that Pedro Martinez has not had a hit since his Montreal days. He is 0-for-19 since joining the Sox in 1997. His career ratios are .094/.138/.121/.259 with 121 Ks in 265 at-bats. Jeff Suppan is no Barry Bonds but at least he has respectable pitcher numbers (.181 .215 .188 .403 with just 33 Ks in 138). Lowe is 2-for-20 (.100/.182/.150/.332) at the plate in his AL-only career. Tim Wakefield is 1-for 21 since joining the Sox in 1997 (.119/.149/.179/.328 in 84 career ABs with 30 Ks).
As far as strategy, Terry Francona had been a manager in the NL for years with the Phils, so I don't expect him to flub the double-switch. He'll be his usual undistinguished, mediocre self. LaRussa will continue to pull his Wile E. Coyote Super Genius-type moves, but without the DH, there's less for him to overthink and he will no longer have the room service problems he had in Boston, or rather Quincy.
Lastly, the weather in the Gateway City may be a concern. They are calling for some showers tonight and perhaps even wose weather tomorrow. If the cancel one game, they might be able to play a game on the travel date like they did in the ALCS. However, this is not just a trip up the Merritt we are talking about. Playing on the travel day may require moving the game to earlier in the day, something Fox would surely balk at. Then again, they don't want to be playing baseball in the Back Bay of Boston in November. You can barely complete the Freedom Trail then. I have no idea what they'll do if both games are rained out. My bet is that they will do everything within Bud Selig's power to get the games in—full speed ahead and damn the weather-induced Bill Mueller errors.