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ALDS Preview - Angels vs. Red Sox
by Asher B. Chancey, BaseballEvolution.com
October 3, 2007

The Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim face off in the ALDS in a series featuring the two best all-around teams in baseball. The Angels have a dynamic pitching staff and solid hitting, while the Red Sox were the third best hitting team in the AL and featured the best pitching staff in the league.

For the Angels, the key is simple – they simply must win on the road. Los Angeles won twice as many games at home as they lost in 2007 (54-27) but finished one game under .500 when playing in other people’s parks. The Red Sox finished the season with the best record in baseball, which means the Red Sox won home field advantage, so the Angels have to win at least one game at Fenway if they want to move onto the ALCS.

The Red Sox led their division by a significant margin over the New York Yankees all summer before surviving a late season run by their bitter rivals and winning the AL East by two games. The Red Sox have the advantage over the Angels in that they have played meaningful games in the last three weeks, but they must be careful, because losing one of the first two games of the series would give the Angels a significant advantage.

The matchups:

Catcher – Jason Varitek vs. Mike Napoli/Jeff Mathis

Varitek brings all the intangibles plus a solid bat.

Advantage – Red Sox

First Base – Kevin Youkilis vs. Casey Kotchman

A festival of hard C-sounds these two are. Not until I compared them straight up did I noticed what similar players they are. Youkilis had a terrible second half – he finished with a .288 average after hitting .330 as late as June 27th – while Kotchman is significantly better at home than he is on the road. Either player could get hot and provide a solid bat in the series, but neither is likely to be a difference maker.

Advantage – Toss-up

Second Base – Dustin Pedroia vs. Howie Kendrick

Both of these players are apparently excellent hitters with deceptive flaws – Pedroia only hits at home, and Kendrick wouldn’t take a walk if you promised him a date with Jessica Simpson.

Advantage – Toss-Up

Third Base – Mike Lowell vs. Chone Figgins

Mike Lowell is not a good defensive third baseman, but neither is Chone Figgins. Mike Lowell had a good offensive season, but so did Chone Figgins. Mike Lowell can’t hit away from home, but neither can Chone Figgins

Advantage – Toss-Up

Shortstop – Julio Lugo vs. Orlando Cabrera

Some announcers from ESPN have taken to citing Lugo’s 73 RBI as evidence that his .237/.294/.349 is not indicative of his value. I think we should all be tired of explaining why RBI can be deceptive. Cabrera is a better defender and hitter than Lugo. Lugo went .190/.241/.306/.547 on the road this season, which falls into the category of “like we needed more reasons to favor the Angels at home.”

Advantage – Angels

Left Field – Manny Ramirez vs. Garrett Anderson

Even with Anderson achieving more than we ever thought he could, and Ramirez coming off of an injury plagued career worst season, this matchup is without a doubt . . .

Advantage – Red Sox

Centerfield – Coco Crisp vs. Reggie Willits

Perhaps the best thing that could have happened to the Angels is Gary Matthews, Jr., missing the post-season due to injury. Willits is an on-base machine who ignites the offense and plays a capable defense. Crisp is an all defense centerfielder who provides little on offense.

Advantage – Angels

Right Field – J.D. Drew vs. Vlad Guerrero

There is a chance that the Angels will DH Vlad and put Figgins in right, with Macier Izturis playing third. Vlad had a typically great year, while Drew was atypically bad.

Advantage – Angels

Designated Hitter – David Ortiz vs. ???????

Actually, playing Vlad at DH could be the only way to matchup with the Red Sox. At least it isn't Shea Hillenbrand still.

Advantage – Red Sox

Starting Pitchers – Josh Beckett, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Curt Schilling vs. John Lackey, Kelvim Escobar, Jered Weaver

The hitting is why this series will be good, but the pitching will be what makes it great. Game One features Lackey vs. Beckett in a matchup of Cy Young candidates. Game Two features Escobar vs. Matsuzaka, pitting one of baseball’s most underrated pitchers against one of its most overrated. Game Three features Schilling and Weaver, one of the game’s grizzlied veterans against one of its exciting youngsters.

With the Angels requiring a win in Fenway, they have to feel good about potentially having Escobar face Dice-K in Fenway Park twice.

Advantage – Angels

Bullpen – Jonathan Papelbon, Hideki Okajima, Javier Lopez, Eric Gagne, Kyle Snyder vs. Francisco Rodriguez, Scot Shields, Chris Bootcheck, Justin Speier, Dustin Moseley.

Both bullpens are great, but the Red Sox have a decided advantage. Do not expect lots of runs to be scored in the late innings of this series.

Advantage – Red Sox

Overall

It would take a miracle for the Red Sox to win a game in Anaheim. Too many of the Red Sox hitters fall apart on the road, and the Angels are simply dominant at home. Thus, the series will be decided in Fenway Park, where the Angels will see their two best starting pitchers get three shots at the Red Sox. The series could be over after one game if Lackey can top Beckett, but the Angels have three very good shots at it. All of the pressure is on Boston.

Prediction – Angels over Red Sox, 3-1




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

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