With this series being billed as a “World Series preview,” let’s take a look at the head-to-head positional matchup between these two squads (2011 Baseball Reference WAR in parentheses):
Catcher: Carlos Ruiz (1.3) vs. Jarrod Saltalamacchia (0.5) – Ruiz has the edge here, but it is certainly not a runaway. While Chooch is more established defender and pitch-caller, Saltalamacchia’s OPS is nearly 60 points higher.
First base: Ryan Howard (1.3) vs. Adrian Gonzalez (4.6) – I don’t know if I would take any first baseman in baseball over Gonzalez right now. Over the last month, his slash line looks like this: .443/.515/.784.
Second base: Chase Utley (0.9) vs. Dustin Pedroia (3.3) – Though Utley’s only played in 29 games this year, I’d start him over Pedroia if the World Series was tomorrow. The pair of two-baggers have similar production rates this season, but Utley’s OPS edges Pedroia’s by 19 points.
Shortstop: Jimmy Rollins (1.4) vs. Marco Scutaro (0.5) – Scutaro has played in just 38 games this season, but his averages are strikingly similar to his Philadelphia counterpart (Rollins .260/.332/.378; Scutaro .276/.343/.370). Regardless, I have more confidence in Rollins to hit a gapper in a big spot than I ever would with Scutaro.
Third base: Placido Polanco (1.0) vs. Kevin Youkilis (3.2) – Both of these players bring a lot of intangibles to their respective teams, and they are both incredibly savvy all-around ballplayers. But when it comes down to it, Youkilis offers more pop, and ultimately more value.
Outfield: Raul Ibanez (-0.9), Shane Victorino (2.5) and Ben Francisco (-0.3) vs. Carl Crawford (-0.4), Jacoby Ellsbury (3.3) and J.D. Drew (0.3) – Boston’s outfield takes this matchup pretty handily. Though Crawford got off to a slow start and is on the DL now, he will be healthy in October, and that gives the Sox the edge in speed, power and defense. Ellsbury is also having a quietly huge year, better even than Victorino, the Phils’ top outfielder.
Starters: No need for any kind of WAR analysis here. Halladay, Lee and Hamels over Lester, Beckett and Lackey.
Bullpen: Right now, with the Phils’ bullpen in shambles, Boston takes the cake without question. But with a healthy Ryan Madson and an effective Jose Contreras, the discussion has at least some merit. All told, however, the combination of Daniel Bard and Jonathan Papelbon at the back end of the Sox’s pen gives their stable of relievers the edge.