- Boston Red Sox (95-67) 2nd place, AL East (Wild Card Winner) vs Los Angeles Angels (97-65) 1st place, AL West:
Keys for the Red Sox: The starting pitching; David Ortiz.
It would concern me greatly that Josh Beckett is starting the second game rather than the first. To me, this is an indication that the back spasms that caused him to miss his start last week and that he didn't pitch particularly well in his final tune up against the Indians are a bigger issue than they're letting on. Given Beckett's history as a post-season horse, wouldn't the Red Sox want him ready to pitch game 5 if necessary? The only way to do that is if he starts game one.
As good as Jon Lester's been, he doesn't have Beckett's post-season cachet and if this series is a prolonged brawl, the Red Sox could face the sudden shortness of their starting pitching and it would be a bad ending. On the bright side with Lester, he hasn't been affected adversely by the bruise from getting hit with the line drive against the Yankees.
That they've resorted to young Clay Buchholz in what could be a make-or-break game 3 start would make me even more skittish if I was a Red Sox fan. Buchholz has gotten pummeled in his last two starts; has pitched okay this year----not great; and has never pitched in one post-season game in the majors. You never know how a young pitcher will react to such a circumstance. You could get a Beckett performance from the 2003 World Series; or you could get a Rick Ankiel performance from 2000----you never know; and if he's pitching game three in Boston with the entire city panicking after losing the first two games of the series? Watch out.
The Angels presumably learned their lesson last year with Jason Bay as Bay exploded from the cage he'd been in with the Pirates and batted .412 with 2 homers and 5 RBI in last year's ALDS. Bay won't get the chance to beat the Angels again. The Red Sox key is David Ortiz. Even though he enjoyed a solid second half after an atrocious start that led some to believe he was finished, he's still not the same Big Papi he was five years ago. He's going to be forced to produce some big hits for the Red Sox because the Angels aren't going to let Bay, Kevin Youkilis or Victor Martinez beat them. Ortiz must deliver if the Red Sox are going to win.
Keys for the Angels: The bullpen; being patient.
The one Achilles heel for the Angels this season has been their usually superlative bullpen. If Angels fans thought Francisco Rodriguez used to give them heart attacks, wait until they have to watch Brian Fuentes come in to close a game with Youkilis, Martinez, Bay, et al staring out at him. Fuentes's strikeout numbers went into the toilet this year (46 in 55 innings) and he allowed far too many baserunners. If Fuentes pitches well, the Angels will do well; if not...
Manager Mike Scioscia was able to patch things together with the talented and hard-throwing Jason Bulger, Matt Palmer, Keven Jepsen and Darren Oliver, but if the Angels starters get knocked out early and they have to rely on the bullpen, they're in trouble. They need the starting pitching to go very deeply into the games.
John Lackey's been money in the post-season for the most part and he's singing for his free agent supper, so he should do well. Jered Weaver has blossomed into a horse and his funky windup makes him a tough assignment; he's pitched very well against the Red Sox this year (1 earned run in 13 2/3 innings). Scott Kazmir and Joe Saunders are scheduled to start games 3 and 4 in Boston.
One of the biggest downfalls of the Angels in 2008 weren't the failures of the bullpen----Scot Shields and K-Rod specifically----but the overaggressiveness that the manager sometimes exhibits. After the Angels acquired Mark Teixeira at mid-season 2008, the Angels made the mistake of not tweaking their game to account for the newly acquired basher. They still played the National League-style of inside baseball that Scioscia was reared on playing for Tommy Lasorda with the Dodgers and against the likes of Whitey Herzog with the Cardinals. It was a gaffe. The botched squeeze play in game four of last year's ALDS cost the Angels a chance at game 5 and possibly winning the series.
The Angels have improved their plate discipline this season and if they take their foot off the pedal just that tiny bit, they're going to be a lot better off.
What will happen:
The Angels are working with a little magic this year. After the death of Nick Adenhart, they could've packed everything up and had a season of misery on and off the field----and everyone would've understood. Instead, they used their late teammate as an inspiration and, led by their manager, recovered to win their division easily ignoring the trivial issues that were affecting them as the season wore on. A friend and teammate dying in such a stupid and senseless way puts everything into perspective very quickly as bullpen meltdowns and injuries are rendered meaningless in the grand scheme of things.
The Red Sox pitching issues are going to be a problem. The lineup will score, but will they be able to count on Beckett? On Buchholz? On the bullpen? The Angels are not going to allow Bay to beat them again; they're not going to let Martinez or Youkilis or Dustin Pedroia beat them----it's going to come down to Big Papi and I don't know if he can handle that responsibility at this point in his career. His bat has slowed down and with the adrenaline of the playoffs increasing the velocity of the pitchers, will he be able to catch up to a hard fastball inside as he used to? I say no.
The prevalent belief is that the Red Sox have beaten the Angels in the playoffs the past two years that they have their "number". Well, Red Sox fans should know better than anyone from their dealings with and losses to the Yankees that if you play a team often enough and beat them over-and-over again, eventually they're going to get you. The Red Sox starting pitching will be their downfall as will be the fade of David Ortiz. It's going to be different this time. The Angels are on a mission.
They're going to take out the Red Sox.
PREDICTION: ANGELS IN THREE.
- A note about the Tigers-Twins one-game playoff:
- Firing the first base coach would do wonders...if the first base coach actually did anything:
Here's the problem with the Mets doing little else than firing first base coach Luis Alicea and re-assigning Sandy Alomar Sr within the organization----it's meaningless!!!
People don't want to hear this truth, but the only coaches who have any import on a staff are the pitching coach (to a large degree) and the third base coach (because of his job sending runners home or not). The other coaches are easily replaceable and don't have very much impact on the success or failure of the players.
For obvious reasons, the pitching coach is a key position. Dealing with the pitchers is one of the most important aspects of an organization. This is why the Cardinals have been so successful under Dave Duncan----he can make something out of nothing and fix issues with upper echelon talent.
As for the other coaches? The hitting coach is only given credit if what he says works. If he provides a tip or spots a flaw and mentions it to a hitter and said hitter goes on a tear, then he's a good hitting coach; otherwise, he's more of a sounding board and an overseer. Veteran players take advice at their convenience. The bench coach? He's only useful if the manager listens to him and, in general, the manager has already made his decision before even discussing it with his bench coach. The bench coach is a security blanket/friend.
So if the Mets are trying to sell the idea that making changes for appearance-sake are going to solve what was wrong with the manager and coaching staff this season, think again. Since they're bringing back the same cast that was running things in the dugout, GM Omar Minaya had better have some big time moves on his agenda or the Mets are already in trouble for 2010.
- Viewer Mail 10.6.2009:
Joe writes RE statistical-based analysis:
Please explain in detail what your issue is with statistical-based analysis. Please try to avoid simple talking points like "the Oakland A's suck" and "VORP bad" and try to provide some details.
Is it your position that a high OBP is bad? Is it your position that players who create more runs than other players are bad?
If you want to point to a previous post on this subject, that's fine. I like to think I can be open-minded and if you can convince me there is something wrong with using statistical evidence, I'm all for it.
Has anyone, anywhere who's read something I've written ever read the words: "the Oakland A's suck" or "VORP bad"? I don't waste my time or energy or writing skills (such as they are) on that kind of nonsense.
This implication that I'm some crusty, Bob Feller-style miserable old bastard who doesn't want to hear about anything that's happened after 1985 is a total misconception probably because they've never taken the time to read what I write. Not only do I use statistics, but I don't think any organization can effectively function without a group of stat zombies analyzing and crunching numbers. In today's game it would be idiotic to ignore the stats----old and new----that are popping up every day.
My issue with stat-based analysis is not the endeavor in and of itself, but the way the adherence to the numbers, computer printouts and "optimal" usage for players has permeated the game and taken experience, knowledge (about players and people) away, ignoring and ridiculing those that look at other aspects because there's no "hard data" to quantify them. There's nothing wrong with statistical evidence as long as it's not used at the expense of other methods of building a team; methods that have just as much----and sometimes more----value. Sometimes a veteran scout's eye is a better judge of a player than said player's numbers. He might like the way a player moves; runs; throws; or even behaves----there's nothing wrong with that and it's worked before.
The arrogance and pomposity inherent with the new blood that's infecting the game has degenerated us into the current situation. Warring factions within organizations unable to find common ground; people thinking that because they can read numbers from a sheet that they can tell an experienced and successful baseball man what to do and getting abusive when they're dismissed; using numbers as the end-all, be-all when flexibility and interpretive skill is required----all have created this battle between belief systems where they shouldn't be one.
This idea----that gained prominence in the farce that is Moneyball----that the Ivy League educated "geniuses" are going to reinvent a game that's impossible to quantify was absurd on the surface. No one is dismissing the importance of a high on base percentage; but it's not the final word in all things. Sometimes chances have to be taken that aren't cut and dried in the numbers.
Have the Yankees had success with their research and development in how to use Joba Chamberlain? On paper, they insist what they're doing is right, but what about in practice? Has it worked? Would Chamberlain be better if they loosened up a bit, lost their paranoia and let him pitch?
Did the Mets make a mistake in trading a player they didn't want in Ryan Church for Jeff Francoeur? All we heard at the time was how much of a "better" player Church is than Francoeur; but what did Church do for the Braves? Almost nothing. Francoeur, aggravating because of his lack of patience, is five years younger and is a thoroughbred who needs to be bridled. The Mets may not be able to tame him, but if they do, they'll have an MVP-quality talent who lit up the clubhouse with his personality, hustle and enthusiasm. It's not just about OBP. It's about building a team of people. It's about maximizing what a player can do and using him accordingly instead of dismissing and dumping him for what he can't do.
The stats aren't the problem; the people who are elbowing their way into the game armed with no knowledge aside from numbers are. If you look at the comments on BBTF about whatever subject is broached, there's no discussion; no exchange of ideas; no debate----just lame attempts at abuse and it's not helping the cause for those who believe in statistics. The reasonable stat people know that there's more to building a team than just applying numbers----it's failed miserably when it's been attempted most notably with Paul DePodesta and the Dodgers and Sandy Alderson with the Padres.
As long as the situation is "us against them" with no room for consensus, nothing's going to change and neither side will gain anything from such a war of attrition until one side is completely dead. Both schools of thought should agree that that won't help anyone or advance either side of the debate and until this condescension and arrogance ends such a consensus won't be reached.
Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes RE Mariano Rivera:
Couldn't get on your blogspot site today (maybe you typed in the wrong url?), so here I am. I sure wish Mo could win the CY Young. What other pitcher has had his amazing consistency over such a long period of time? Doesn't that count for something?
Wrong url? The Prince has never (to my knowledge) made a mistake; I doubt I'd start there. I think Blogspot was having trouble yesterday.
Rivera's time to win was 2005. He got screwed out of it because of those that are hypnotized by the "magic" number of 20 wins (achieved by CYA winner from that year Bartolo Colon); and those that don't believe a reliever deserves the award under any circumstances. For him to win in the twilight of his career, it would take a seriously down year from starting pitchers and he'd have to dominate as he always has. He'll get his reward for the consistency in the Hall of Fame, but he should have at least on CYA on his resume and that should've been in 2005.