The first pitch hasn't been thrown but the 2013 World Series is already one for the record books. In the playoffs the Cardinals needed one more game to dispatch of the Pirates and Dodgers than the Red Sox did to get past the Rays and Tigers, but during the 162 games from April through September each won 97 games, the most in their respective leagues.
The last teams with their leagues' top winning percentage to meet for baseball's crown was 1999 when the Yankees vanquished the Braves in four straight games. However not only did Boston and St. Louis reign with the best records in their respective fiefdoms in 2013, this marks just the third time in baseball history— and the first since the advent of baseball's playoff system in 1969—that teams are meeting with identical regular season resumes. The first was in 1949 when the New York Yankees and Brooklyn Dodgers each were 97-57 when they squared off in the Fall Classic. Nine years later the AL representative remained the Yankees, but the opponent was the Milwaukee Braves, each earning a shot at the title by going 92–62.
In both of those instances the AL team won, but ancient history has as much bearing on 2013 as Harry Breechen's three wins over the Red Sox in the '46 Series (or Bob Gibson's three wins over Boston in '67 for that matter). However what does offer some insight is how evenly matched these teams appear on paper. The raw numbers may be skewed a bit due to the NL's insistence on still having pitchers bat (which is why MLB Rank isn't used here), but the respective league ranks show that the Sox and Cards both have solid starting pitching, a sometimes troubled bullpen, and very good offenses.
Both franchises have experienced near total turnover since the last time they met in the regular season in 2008 for three games at Fenway Park, and only David Ortiz and Yadier Molina remain on the active rosters of each since the 2004 World Series. So with no head-to-head experiences of note to judge them by, a peek at the regular season success against their 12 common opponents for the 2013 season sheds some light. Along with home field advantage, the scale tilts ever-so-slightly in Boston's favor.
Here's a look at how the teams that we'll be paying so much attention to in the coming days stack up against each other.
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He has also authored or made contributions to many books, including the Sports Illustrateds 100 Fenway: A Fascinating First Century.
Now living in Marblehead, hes focusing his attention on the Boston sports scene, specifically delving into the numbers affecting the Red Sox, Patriots, Celtics and Bruins, with the goal of informing and entertaining real fans. You can follow him on Twitter at @SabinoSports.