by Keith Glab, BaseballEvolution.com
October 2, 2008
Records - Rays 97-65,
White Sox 89-74
Third order records - Rays 97-65, White Sox 88-75
Runs Scored (ML rank) - Rays 774 (13th), White Sox 811 (6th)
Runs Allowed (ML rank) - Rays 671 (3rd),
White Sox 729 (14th)
Okay, raise your hand if you predicted that the Rays would face the White Sox
in the playoffs this year? Two teams that combined to go 138-186 (.426)
last year went 186-139 (.572) in 2008. The White Sox improved via starting
pitching and home run power, while the Rays improved both their pitching and
their defense. Many people would be surprised to learn that the Rays
actually scored eight fewer runs this season than they did in 2007.
The Rays are far better suited to win in the postseason. The Sox cannot
count on hitting enough home runs against the excellent Rays staff, nor in
Tropicana Field, which suppresses home run output by 15% over a neutral park and
40% over US Cellular Field. The Sox have virtually no other means of
manufacturing runs, whereas the Rays led all of baseball with 142 regular season
stolen bases (both teams shun the sacrifice bunt). Add in the fact that
Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski is absolutely the worst starting catcher in baseball
at throwing out baserunners, who are 96-for-117(82.1%) against him, and you have
a huge mismatch here.
Additionally, many of the Sox' big boppers are either slumping or will not
appear in the series. Jermaine Dye hit .242 in August and .269 with just
two homers and 13 RBI in September after being an MVP candidate in mid-summer.
Nick Swisher has hit .191 in the second half, falling so far out of favor that
Dewayne Wise is now the team's everyday left fielder (why he is not playing
center and the defensively-challenged Ken Griffey Jogger in left, I simply
cannot say). Carlos Quenttin, easily the team's best player, will
not appear in the series.
Moreover, the Sox rotation is exhausted and only Matt Thornton and Bobby
Jenks are even remotely reliable out of the bullpen, although those two have in
fact been dominant. The Rays have three bullpen arms to turn to with an
ERA at 2.22 or less, and that's before they even get to Troy Percival and Dan
Wheeler, who have split the closer's duties this year. Wheeler has been
better than Percival of late, but Percy's success in the 2002 playoffs could be
a factor. As well as their starting pitching is likely to perform,
however, one wonders whether this great bullpen will get rusty by the time the
ALCS rolls around.
Game 1 - Javier Vazquez (12-16 4.67) @ James Shields (14-8 3.56)
Vazquez has been unfairly vilified my Chicago fans and media. It was
Ozzie Guillen's fault for starting him on three days rest twice in his last
three starts. His BAA in the 6th inning is .300 for his career, with an
OPS of .867... so predictably, he lost his effectiveness in the 4th and 5th
innings in his two recent starts on short rest. He is now 0-4 with an 8.10 ERA
on three days of rest.
None of this matters here, because Shields is 20-8 3.23 career at Tropicana
Field, including 9-2 2.59 this year.
Big edge for the Rays
Game 2 - Mark Buehrle (15-12 3.79) @ Scott Kazmir (12-8 3.49)
Kazmir has allowed four homers in two of his last three starts, but still
remains the most dominant pitcher in this series. Mark Buehrle is 4-9 5.05
away from The Cell this year and 0-4 4.09 on artificial turf.
Big edge for the Rays
Game 3 - Matt Garza (11-9 3.70) @ John Danks (12-9 3.32)
John Danks is 6-12 5.34 after the All-Star break in his young career.
Matt Garza has a 3.51 ERA since the end of April. Tampa Bay is one game
under .500 on the road and one game over .500 against southpaws, so there is
some hope for the White Sox in this one.
Slight edge for Rays
Game 4 - Andy Sonnanstine (13-9 4.38) @ Gavin Floyd (17-8 3.84)
Sonnanstine tossed a complete game shutout against the Sox earlier this year.
Gavin Floyd has a 4.67 RA and a 4.78 FIP, making his ERA one of the most
misleading in all of baseball this year.
Moderate edge for the Rays
Game 5 - Mark Buehrle (15-12 3.79) @ James Shields (14-8 3.56)
The Sox are fortunate to be able to use Mark Buehrle twice on his normal
rest. They are unfortunate to face James Shields twice in Tampa.
Moderate edge for the Rays
Don't let the Sox' three game win streak fool you into thinking that they
have momentum; they went 11-15 in September. The Sox are 75-55 (.577) when
MVP candidate Carlos Quentin plays and 14-19 (.424) when he does not. He
is inactive with an eye towards the ALCS, which is convenient, since he'll be
watching it from home
Prediction: Rays in three
Disagree with something? Got something to add? Wanna bring up something totally new? Keith resides in Chicago, Illinois and can be reached at email@example.com or found at the Baseball Evolution Forum