Note: Leverage Index is an average of the leverage of situations, with 1 being average, below 1 being low-pressure, and above 1 being high-pressure.
The 2007 World Series had intrigue at the onset. It featured the Boston Red Sox in their first post-drought Series, able to play without an 86-year old elephant in the room. They faced possibly the hottest team to ever reach the Series, the Colorado Rockies, appearing in the Fall Classic for the first (and as yet, only) time. After a 10-2 loss to the Marlins on September 15, the Rockies were 76-72, 6.5 games out of first and sitting in 4th place in the NL West, and 4.5 games out of the Wild Card, in 4th place there as well. But then they salvaged the last game of the Florida series. They came home and pulled off a 4 game sweep of the Dodgers. Then they went into San Diego and swept the Padres. Then they swept the Dodgers in Chavez Ravine. Arizona ended their winning streak, but they took the final two games of the regular season from the D-Backs to force a Wild Card playoff game against the Padres, which they won in 13 innings. They swept Philadelphia in the LDS and then swept Arizona in the LCS. When the World Series began, Colorado had won 21 of their last 22 games. Unfortunately, by the time they got to Boston the gas tank was empty.
The Colorado Rockies (90-73), as mentioned earlier, for almost the entire season, were not among the NL’s better teams, but a long winning streak pushed them into Wild Card position, and they rode the hot streak into the World Series. As with most Colorado teams, they won with offense and hoped the pitching could avoid losing games. The team’s best hitter was OF Matt Holliday (.340/.405/.607), who finished 2nd in the NL MVP race thanks to 120 runs, 137 RBI, 50 doubles, and 36 homers. The best all-around player was rookie SS Troy Tulowitzki (.291/.359/.479), who hit 24 home runs and drove in 99 while playing excellent defense; Tulo was the NL’s best rookie but lost the ROY to the more offensively potent (and defensively helpless) Ryan Braun. Veteran 1B Todd Helton (.320/.434/.494) was his dependable self, though not the offensive force of his prime. 3B Garrett Atkins (.301/.367/.486) homered 25 times and RF Brad Hawpe (.291/.387/.539) hit 29. The pitching staff got by. Jeff Francis (17-9, 4.22) led the rotation, followed by Josh Fogg (10-9, 4.94), Aaron Cook (8-7, 4.12), and a bunch of other also-rans. How many teams reached the World Series with only 1 11-game winner and only 3 pitchers starting even 20 games? Perhaps “getting by” was generous.
The Boston Red Sox (96-66) weren’t really in danger of not reaching the playoffs, finishing tied for the best record in the AL. The Sox claimed the AL’s 3rd best offense (5.35 r/g) and best pitching staff (4.06 r/g). DH David Ortiz (.332/.445/.621) was the team’s only truly elite hitter, ripping 52 doubles and 35 HR en route to a 4th place MVP finish. His fellow everyday players more than held their own, and above average players were everywhere: C Jason Varitek (.255/.367/.421 / 17 HR), 1B Kevin Youkilis (.288/.390/.453/ 16 HR), rookie of the year 2B Dustin Pedroia (.317/.380/.442/ 39 2B), 5th-place MVP finisher 3B Mike Lowell (.324/.378/.501/ 21 HR), LF Manny Ramirez (.296/.388/.493 / 20 HR), and RF J.D. Drew (.270/.373/.423) were all contributors to the offense. The rotation was anchored by former Marlins WS hero and 2007 AL CYA runner-up Josh Beckett (20-7, 3.27). Daisuke Matsuzaka (15-12, 4.40) led the team in innings and strikeouts. 40-year old knuckleballer Tim Wakefield (17-12, 4.76) ate innings, and Curt Schilling (9-8, 3.87) was effective in an injury-abbreviated season. Coming on strong late in the season was rookie Jon Lester (4-0, 4.57), forcing Wakefield to the bullpen for the postseason. The 2007 Red Sox had a particularly deep bullpen: Hideki Okajima (2.22), Mike Timlin (3.42), Kyle Snyder (3.81), Javier Lopez (3.10), Manny Delcarmen (2.05), and Kason Gabbard (3.73) all sported ERA’s at least 25% better than league average. Closing out games was their best reliever, Jonathan Papelbon (1.85, 37 saves), who struck out 84 batters in just 58.1 innings. After overcoming a 3-1 LCS deficit to the Indians in a repeat of their 2004 magic, the Red Sox, having won the final 3 LCS games by a total of 30-5, were just as hot as the Rockies when the Fall Classic began.
What an ugly way to start the World Series. Jeff Francis was believed by many to be the only Rockie starter capable of engaging in a pitching duel with Boston, and he instead turned in the worst start of the Series. Pedroia led off the game with a HR and Boston pushed home 2 more on 4 subsequent hits in the inning. The Rockies got one back in the 2nd on a RBI double from Tulowitzki, but Ortiz answered in the bottom half with a RBI double of his own. In the bottom of the 4th, a bases loaded ground rule double from Varitek made it 6-1, and the game was no longer interesting. An inning later, the barrage of Red Sox offense continued: Single, out, out, balk, double, double, single, double, walk, single, walk, walk, walk, out. When the dust settled it was 13-1 and the game wasn’t simply uninteresting but unwinnable for Colorado.
Average leverage: 0.39
With 2004 hero Curt Schilling on the mound for Boston, Colorado actually got some spark back early in game 2, with a Lowell error allowing the Rockies to plate a runner for their first lead of the Series. It would be their only lead. A Varitek sac fly tied things in the 4th, and a Mike Lowell RBI double gave them the lead an inning later. Both bullpens pitched brilliantly, combining for 7 shutout innings of 4 hit ball, and Boston held on for a 2-1 win. It was the best game of the 2007 World Series.
Average leverage: 1.295
Another dud. Rockies starter Josh Fogg had a 3rd inning meltdown that resembled that nightmare inning from game 1: Double, single, double, intentional walk, single, out, single, walk, single, and double before being replaced by Franklin Morales down 6-0. In the 6th, the Rockies cut it to 6-2, and a 7th inning 3-run homer from Holliday made it a 6-5 game. In the top of the 8th, however, Boston would expand the lead as Brian Fuentes allowed a walk, a single, and back to back doubles to give the Sox a 9-5 lead. They added another in the 9th and won 10-5.
Average leverage: 0.795
Rookie Lester took the mound for Boston and gave them 5.2 shutout innings, endearing himself to fans forever. A 1st inning RBI single from Ortiz gave Lester a 1-0 lead, and Varitek would double it in the 5th with a RBI single. In the top of the 7th, Mike Lowell homered for a 3-0 lead, but Brad Hawpe homered in the bottom frame, to cut it to 3-1. In the 8th, Red Sox OF Bobby Kielty homered to make it 4-1, which would be all Boston needed. A 2-run HR from Atkins in the bottom of the inning would make things more interesting, but Papelbon set down the Rockies in the 9th to finally deliver Boston a World Championship, ending the devastating 2 year title drought that had wrecked the spirit of a fanbase and defined a city.
Average leverage: 1.02
The Sox outscored the Rockies 29-10, hitting a WS record 18 doubles. Jacoby Ellsbury led both teams with 7 hits, Varitek drove in 5 runs, and Lowell was named MVP with 6 hits, 3 doubles, and a HR. Boston’s pitching staff struck out 36 batters in 36 innings, with a 2.50 ERA.
Average leverage: 0.875