World Series Defense Preview

With the 2013 World Series underway on Wednesday between the Boston Red Sox and St. Louis Cardinals, it seems like a great time to take a look at how each team stacks up against one another defensively.

Baseball Info Solutions estimates that the Red Sox saved 24 runs with their defense this season.  That is 63 runs better than the Cardinals, whose defense cost them 39 runs. The Red Sox were tied with the Rays and Yankees for the 4th-highest total of Defensive Runs Saved in the American League, trailing only the Royals, Rangers, and Orioles. The Cardinals on the other hand, come in at 14th in the National League, ahead of only the Phillies.

Here is how the Red Sox and Cardinals stack up against each other by position using Defensive Runs Saved:

Position

Boston Red Sox

St. Louis Cardinals

P

-13

-4

C

-4

10

1B

6

-5

2B

15

-3

3B

-18

-10

SS

-4

0

LF

-5

-16

CF

9

-5

RF

23

-6

The Red Sox have four positions (1B, 2B, CF, RF) in which they have positive Defensive Runs Saved, whereas the Cardinals only have one (C). The biggest contrast between the two teams is in their outfield, where the Red Sox have saved 27 runs defensively, whereas the Cardinals are on the complete opposite end of the spectrum with -27 Defensive Runs Saved. In fact, the Red Sox have two players ranked in the top-10 in Defensive Runs Saved at their respective positions. Shane Victorino saved 24 Runs, and was second only to Gerrardo Parra’s 36 in right field. Jacoby Ellsbury also has the sixth-most Defensive Runs Saved for a center fielder with 13. Amazingly, as good of a hitter as Matt Holliday is, he has actually cost the Cardinals an estimated 13 runs with his poor defense.

The discrepancy between the Red Sox and Cardinals on defense is not limited to the teams’ players.  Strategy has also favored the Red Sox, particularly when it comes to the defensive shift.  The Red Sox had 477 shifts on balls in play this season, the seventh-highest total in baseball.  Their heavy shifting helped Boston save an estimated 15 runs.  Meanwhile the Cardinals shifted on only 107 balls in play, the eighth-lowest total, and did not save a run by doing so.

At the end of the day, the World Series will be a great matchup between two heavyweights. It looks as if the Red Sox have focused a little bit more on the defensive side than the Cardinals this season by utilizing quality defensive players and effective shifts. It will definitely be a battle of good pitching, good hitting, and of course good defense. So be sure to watch the 2013 World Series beginning this Wednesday night.

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