This year’s World Series betting odds are extremely tight with the Sox a small favorite
Allen Craig is back.
And that generally creates bad news for any opponent the St. Louis Cardinals face.
In this specific instance, that opponent is the Boston Red Sox. And the stakes are the highest they could possibly be. That is why it is a particularly joyous occasion that Craig has pronounced himself healthy enough to play after sitting out almost seven weeks with a sprained left foot.
With apologies to people like Freddie Freeman, Andrew McCutcheon, Paul Goldschmidt and even his own teammate, Yadier Molina, Allen Craig may be the most valuable player in the National League. When you hit .454 with runners in scoring position, like he has, you always have to be smack dab in the middle of that discussion.
The Cards will settle for him being smack dab in the middle of their lineup on Wednesday night, when they begin the World Series in Boston against left-hander Jon Lester. He will be the designated hitter, which of course is a rule in effect when the games are played in the American League park.
Here are the odds on winning the World Series, as they are posted at BetOnline:
Boston Red Sox -145
St. Louis Cardinals +125
When you look at reasons the Cardinals are in the World Series, you have to consider not just what Craig has been able to do with runners in scoring position, but the other run producers in the lineup as well.
Out of all the players, in fact, who have come to bat more than 100 times with runners in scoring position, take a look at where these various Cards stand and prepare to be astounded. There are FIVE members of the batting order who are among the top nine in the major leagues in that category, and six in the top 25:
Allen Craig .454 (1st)
Matt Holliday .390 (4th)
Matt Carpenter .388 (5th)
Carlos Beltran .374 (8th)
Yadier Molina .373 (9th)
Pete Kozma .322 (25th)
As a team, St. Louis hit .330 with runners in scoring position. .
Maybe this gives you some perspective, but Albert Pujols’ lifetime average with runners in scoring position is .334, and his RISP averages were .329, .339 and .361 in his three MVP seasons. These guys have done a little better than that.
Also, in 85 at bats, Pete Adams, the youngster out of Slippery Rock who had 17 homers in 296 at bats in his first full big league season, had a .329 average with five homers with men in scoring position. Depending on what they do with Craig, he may be coming off the bench in the home games, as will David Descalzo, whose RISP average was .361 with 36 RBI in 72 at bats.
Ah yes, what will they do with Craig when the World Series leaves Boston? That’s a question baseball bettors at BetOnline will want to know the answer to. And that answer does not really have to be revealed by Mike Matheny until Saturday, when Game 3 happens.
At that point the Cardinals can’t have a DH, but they could conceivably put Craig at first base if they wanted to. Would his foot hold up on defense? There would seem to be no reason why it couldn’t, and if he is in the field that would put Adams on the bench. But if they wanted to hold Craig back, could you imagine a better “wild card” they could insert into the game as a pinch hitter in a critical situation – preferably one where the red Sox couldn’t afford to pitch around him – than a player who hit .454 with runners in scoring position?
No, you can’t. There’s no way you possibly could.
That might be one reason the Cards are a very live underdog in this series. They have the players like Craig who, in situational baseball, could make the difference between winning and losing. Just picture him coming up in the ninth inning, with the bases loaded, against someone like Koji Uehara, who has given up two earned runs in his last 58 innings.
That’s the kind of stuff World Series dreams are made of.
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