White Sox – Rays ALDS Preview
by Daniel Paulling
If someone told you the White Sox and Rays would be playing in the postseason, what would you have said? My guess is that your response would revolve around the words “You’re crazy.”
But here they are, the Cinderella of the 2008 baseball season hosting a White Sox team that had to win three straight against three different opponents to get in. How you begin to gauge how this series will play out? Let’s give it a try.
First, we gotta ask ourselves, What does it take to win in the postseason? It all starts with a top-heavy rotation, preferably guys who throw heat. That’s especially true in a short, best-of-five series. If a great pitcher can dominate two games, his team has to win one of the remaining three to advance.
The Rays and White Sox starters have about equal K/9 ratios (6.73 for the Pale Hose and 6.57 for the Rays). This stat is important, because it measures the quality of a pitcher’s stuff. The better his stuff, the better the K/9.
Next, let’s take a look at both rotations’ BB/9. The White Sox allow 2.57 per nine innings, while the Rays are at 2.33. That’s a difference, but not an incredibly appreciable one.
Considering that the pitchers atop the White Sox’s rotation and the Rays’ rotation are about equal, this is a very close race. However, the advantage should go to the Rays, who have had time to line up their rotation. The White Sox have started both of their young aces (Gavin Floyd and John Danks) on short rest. That could be a negative factor going forward.
A great bullpen can do wonders for your team in the postseason. If you can shorten the game, you give your offense that many more opportunities to break out against the opposing team’s pitching staff.
This competition isn’t that close. Tampa’s bullpen has about five-tenths of a lead in ERA over the White Sox. Their BAA is about 37 points lower than the White Sox’s. While Troy Percival’s availability is in question, the Rays bullpen should be ready to fill in.
You’ve gotta score runs to win. The teams that win in the postseason usually draw a lot of pitches per plate appearance (because they get starters out of games and get to face the team’s weaker middle relievers). The Rays drew about 90 more walks than the White Sox this season, who lived and died by the home run. That type of offense usually isn’t very good once the postseason and more quality pitchers are around. The Rays have to have an edge.
The Rays are 21-2 when they have more than 30,000 at the Trop. The White Sox have had so many emotional wins in a row that it could be enough to carry the team. The edge should go to the Rays. However, don’t be surprised if the White Sox continue their hot streak.
Pick: Tampa Bay in 4
Angels – Red Sox ALDS Preview
by Bjoern Hartig
For the third time since 2004, the Los Angeles Angels and Boston Red Sox meet in the AL Division Series. So far, the record stands at 6-0 wins and 44-16 runs in favor of the Red Sox. So understandably, Angels fans (including me) are not particularly psyched about this match-up. On the other hand, third time is a charm and indeed, there are some signs that point to a different outcome in 2008: The Angels have the better record this year (100-62 to 95-67) and therefore field advantage, they won the season series between the two teams 8-1 and they are relatively healthy and well rested while the Red Sox are quite banged up with Mike Lowell and J.D. Drew nursing a hip and a herniated disk, respectively, and Josh Beckett being pushed back to Game 3 due to a strained right oblique muscle. Plus Boston is without Manny Ramirez this year, who has punished Angels pitchers to the tune of .381/.519/.905 the past two division series.
But unfortunately (for Angels fans) the numbers tell a slightly different story: The Red Sox scored 845 runs this year, which puts them second in the AL behind the Rangers, while the Angels came in 10th only with 765 runs scored. On the pitching side, both teams are virtually equal. Boston has allowed fewer runs than L.A. overall (694 to 697), but one more of the earned variety in slightly fewer innings, so their team ERA of 4.01 (4th) is just behind L.A.’s of 3.99 (3rd). Therefore, not unexpectedly, Boston actually has the better Pythagorean Record, 97-65 to 89-73.
Francisco Rodriguez: In close games, the Angels closer may get called into action in tough spots in the eight innings since his set-up man Scot Shields historically has had trouble with the Red Sox hitters. To be successful, K-Rod will have to avoid issuing walks to the patient Red Sox lineup, which is something he had trouble with this season (34 BB in 68.1 IP).
Vladimir Guerrero: Vlad has started very slow this year, but found his rhythm during the summer, hitting .330/.391/.580 after the break. No he gets another shot at excelling in the postseason, where so far he has put up a very un-superstar-like .183/.269/.233 line in 60 at-bats. Maybe with Mark Teixeira and Torii Hunter around to help him shoulder the weight, he can finally relax and hit like he usually does.
Daisuke Matsuzaka: Dice-K will probably start game two and a potential game five. While the Japanese pitcher had a great ERA this year (2.90), he lasted only less than six innings on average and got shelled in his only start against the Angels (6 ER, 2HR in 5 IP). While Boston has a pretty good bullpen that will help them overcome a bad and/or short start by Matsuzaka, Terry Francona will surely prefer to keep an arm or two fresh with Josh Beckett’s health status a big unknown.
Despite having the worse regular season record, the Red Sox are the better team on paper thanks to their offense. But with Manny gone, Lowell and Drew banged up and Teixeira now an Angel, the difference is smaller than it used to be. Also, perennial post-season hero Beckett is only available for one game and did not pitch well at all in two starts against the Angels (11 ER in 13.1 IP) anyway. Plus the Angels have home field advantage, are rested and have the confidence of a 100-win-team. All this will help them finally tip the scale in their favor this year. So this is my prediction: The Red Sox will outscore the Angels over the series, but the Angels will win the ALDS in five games.