The S13 World Series opens tomorrow, with the Portland Rain visiting the New Britain Bombers. This is the first World Series appearance for the Bombers and the second one for the Rain. The cast of players in this October classic is a mix of the young rising stars of the game and a handful of veteran faces, but both teams' youth and recent rise to the top have the makings of future Octobers between these two well-matched teams.
How the numbers compare:
New Britain won 103 games in the regular season, tying for the best record in the majors. Portland won 99 and finished 2nd behind S12 World Series champion and the other team to win 103 games, the Columbus Flatlanders.
Portland had a team season ERA of 3.88 (3rd in the NL) while New Britain had a 3.91 ERA (1st in the AL). New Britain allowed 668 runs (least in the AL), while Portland allowed 680 (3rd in the NL).
New Britain's mighty offense hit .288 AVG (1st in AL), had a .351 obp (2nd in AL), hit 240 HR (6th in AL), while scoring 904 runs (3rd in AL), and scoring 236 more runs than their pitching allowed
Portland hit for a .260 AVG (11th in the NL), a .328 OBP (8th in the NL), 273 HRs (2nd in NL), and scored 841 runs (5th in NL), which is 161 more runs than their pitching allowed.
Prediction: Although the overall numbers seem to slightly favor New Britain, the teams are actually very evenly matched for a 7 game series that is likely to be defined by key performances from individual players. Portland is very capable of hitting the long ball, which is easily overlooked when only comparing average and OBP.
Who to watch for?
Bip Bartee (19-8, 2.76 ERA) - Bartee logged 250 innings in the regular season and has pitched well in 5 starts this postseason.
Sammy Ugueto (14-2, 2.65 ERA) - In his first complete season as a full time starter, Ugueto did not disappoint, with 160 Ks in 176 innings. His four postseason starts so far have been disappointing (5.14 ERA), but Ugueto can pitch and his success is key to Portland's chances.
Art Sweeney (55HR, 138 RBI) - the young outfielder had a power surge this season, which carried his team offensively. His power will be essential to the Rain's success. Sweeney in an excellent defensive outfielder.
Andres Beltre (1B) - (.323 AVG, 48 HR, 105 RBI) - The sophomore almost doubled his HR totals from his rookie season and has shown much better patience at the plate, with a .431 OBP and a .658 SLG. Beltre is likely to run away with the NL 1B Silver Slugger award, unseating perennial winner Parker McIntyre despite being snubbed out of the All-Star game.
Robb Gant (CF) - Fan favorite Gant is a spectacular CF who will win this season's Gold Glove award after his prowess with the glove has become legendary. At 25, Gant is a seasoned veteran who has hit 20 or more HR while swiping 20 or more bases in each of the last 5 seasons. Although his batting average and SLG dipped slightly this season, Gant's balance of defense, power and speed are key to the Rain's winning ways.
George Crandall (20-5, 2.99 ERA) - The sophomore pitcher is the leading AL Cy Young candidate, and if he pitches like he did all season, it will be difficult to beat his team when he starts. In his 3 postseason starts so far, Crandall has shown that thsi 21 yr old has what it takes to compete and succeed in big games.
Louie Gonzalez (12-7, 3.32 ERA) - traded mid season from Vancouver, Gonzalez went 7-2 for the Bombers and made two amazing starts in the playoffs, winning both games.
Cesar Rincon (C) - The Bombers's 24 yr old catcher had a breakthrough season, reaching career highs in at bats, HRs (30) and RBIs (87), batting AVG (.327), OBP (.417) and SLG (.571).
David Lee (ss/3B) - Lee split time between 3B and SS, but it is his bat (.320 AVG, 29 HR, 101 RBI) that is worth watching.
Kareem Nunnally (1B/DH) - The 35 yr old veteran and future hall of famer was the veteran presence around which this team anchored its success, but Nunnally's bat shows no evidence of slowing down (44 HR, 132 RBIs). Nunnally only committed 1 error at 1B in 148 games played in that position.
Vasco Picasso (13-9, 4.82 ERA) The 6-7 giant from Wellington, Ohio needs to step up and show why he was a first round draft pick a few seasons ago. Hampered by injuries, Picasso has been a great ML pitcher, but he is capable of being a superstar. This season was characterized by a tendency to give up the longball, with 28 HRs allowed in 32 starts. Picasso has pitched well in the postseason, and his previous experience in big games should serve him and his team well.
Marcus Perry (10-7, 3.96 ERA) - Perry is likely to get the start in game 3 for the Bombers. Perry has been good but inconsistent all season, and the Bombers will need him to step up if they are to go deep into the World Series.
Although these teams are evenly matched in defense, Portland holds a slight but significant edge. Portland fields two gold glovers in the outfield, with CF Robb Gant being a nightly highlight reel.
New Britain's main defense up the middle in the postseason has been good (2B D'Angelo Gil, ss David Lee and CF Rob Cox/ Thomas Serrano), but Portland's (2b Rigo Plata, CF Rob Gant and ss Willie Lopez/Rob Bailes) has been better. New Britain's catchers threw out less than 20% of potential base stealers, and this is a distinct disadvantage against a team with at least 5 base stealing threats. Although New Britain has 6 potential base stealing threats, Portland's Derrek Silva's 36% caught stealing percentage (2nd in the ML) should discourage them from using base stealing as an offensive weapon.
While Nunnally has been very good at 1b, with only one error committed, the career catcher and DH has a somewhat limited range, and he is unlikely to compensate for errant throws from his infield partners.
THE BOTTOM LINE:
This is a very evenly matched world series, and it can go either way even if New Britain carries a slight edge due to overall pitching and offense. Look at performances from key players and surprise role players to give their team the edge. This should be an exciting series, featuring some of the young All-Stars of the game who will be the face of the league for years to come.
BEYOND THE STORY
The National League has won more World Series (7) than the American League (5) in the 12 year history of the Fall classic. No league has won it in two consecutive years, and only two teams have won the World Series more than once.