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2008 Angels Red Sox Preview
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Angels Red Sox ALDS Preview
by Asher B. Chancey, BaseballEvolution.com
October 2, 2008

What does Angels-Red Sox make you think of? The two teams that have bludgeoned the Yankees in the playoffs for the better part of this decade? Coast-to-coast rivalry between one of the original American League teams and one of baseball history’s more anonymous expansion teams?

I’ll tell you what Angels-Red Sox makes me think of – Dave Henderson. Red Sox folklore is such that when you mention the year 1986, what everyone remembers is Bill Buckner and the error that cost the Red Sox a chance at their first World Series Championship since trading Babe Ruth. But so often people forget that the Red Sox' come-from-behind victory in the American League Championship Series leading up to that World Series was far more wrenching for the team they beat, and the fallout far more grave when Donnie Moore took his own life three years after giving up a homerun to Dave Henderson when the Angels were one pitch away from going to the World Series.

I also think about the fact that Bill Buckner moved to the Angels after being released by the Red Sox midway through the 1987 season.

Red Sox-Angels makes me think of Devon White and Ellis Burks, two 1987 Topps All Star Rookies who will forever be united in my mind’s eye.

One of the great things about the Boston Red Sox and the Anaheim Angels matching up in the first round of the playoffs is that it guarantees that one of baseball’s wealthiest teams will be out of the playoffs after one round. For all the talk about how the Detroit Tigers and New York Yankees were unable to buy success in 2008, these playoffs are still a tale of financial girth and economic imbalance. Consider – one of baseball’s wealthiest teams in Boston, two teams from Los Angeles, the nation’s second largest city; two teams from Chicago, the third largest city; the Phillies from the nation’s sixth largest city, and then the Brewers and Rays. Only if the Brew-Crew and Tampa Bay end up in the World Series will we be able to say for sure that you don’t need money to find success, and this series gets us one step closer.

While this series certainly features two of the game’s biggest payrolls, it also features two of baseball’s best run teams, both in the front office and in the manager’s office. Theo Epstein and Bill Stoneman/Tony Reagins have both/all developed fantastic reputations as top developers of minor league talent, and Terry Francona and Mike Scioscia have demonstrated time and again that they are two of baseball’s elite on-the-field strategists. The fact that these teams can also afford to sign the big names is icing on the cake.

On the Fan Forum, Tom and I engaged in a bit of a mix-it-up over whether the Angels or the Red Sox were the better team (Tom had the Red Sox, I had the Angels). The arguments are pretty simple. For him, the Angels way over-achieved with respect to their Pythagorean Projection (plus 12 wins) and played in a terrible division, while the Red Sox were monsters who scored tons of runs in an excellent division. For me, the Angels had the better record on the road, against winning teams, and against AL East teams, and were better at the end than the beginning, while the Red Sox were not. I think we could see each other’s points, and I think we may have been arguing different things. At the end of the day, I think this is one of those “the home team wins every game” series, in which case the Angels will take the series.

Predictions

As far as Predictions go, I am hesitant to make any, considering the fact that my playoff predictions in recent years have gone horribly awry.

I can tell you this with certainty – there is no doubt in my mind that the Red Sox win Game One in Anaheim on Wednesday night.

(For those of you impressed with this feat, check the date of this article).

So, with my playoff predicting prowess so low as to fall into the “non-existent” range on the 1-to-10 scale, let me just say that I think the Angels are too well-balanced and too well-coached to lose to the Red Sox in the playoffs. Despite their recent history (the Angels have been eliminated by the Red Sox in two of their last three playoff appearances), this year’s Angels have solid pitching up-and-down the order who can pitch, unlike the last few years, away from home as well as they pitch at home (4.07/3.92 home/road ERA split), an offense which has performed very well in the second half, and a bullpen that makes scoring runs hard to do after the sixth inning.

The X-Factor, however, may be "recent tough games played". If there is one thing we’ve learned from Francisco Rodriguez’ new saves record, it is that the Angels gave him an abundance of opportunities for saves. Intuitively, this makes one think that the Angels played lots of tough games; don’t be fooled. What it really means is that the Angels comfortably won a lot of games. The Angels opened up a ten game lead in the AL West in late July, and were never challenged again. It is to their credit that they continued to win games, but they haven’t play a game they felt they needed to win in months, and they probably haven’t felt that their season was on the line since July of 2007.

All too often in recent baseball history, we’ve seen teams that run away from their division during the season fizzle in the playoffs, while seeing teams that barely eeked into the playoffs either as a division winner or wild card go deep into the playoffs. In this series, the Red Sox clearly have an edge here, having not conceded the AL East until the final days of September. The Red Sox played important games all month, and may be more tuned up for gritty October baseball.

For the record, the “important games at the end of the season” factor should play a role in this series as well as in the Cubs-Dodgers Series. However, in the Phillies-Brewers and Rays-White Sox series, you have four teams who fought through the final weeks of the season, and I wouldn’t expect it to impact those matchups.

In the end, give me the Angels. I think they have all the advantages over the Red Sox. My picking them probably means the Red Sox will win. But so it is in October, and so it is in baseball.


Questions? Concerns? Comments? Asher lives in Philadelphia, PA, and can be reached at asher@baseballevolution.com.

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