The White Sox defeated the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim last night 6-3, and took the American League Championship series four games to one as well. Chicago did an excellent job pitching in this series, but Anaheim sure did as much as they could to ease their burden. The Angels hit only .175 all series, scoring 11 runs. They had 8 XBH the entire series, and none from Vladimir Guerrero, the only real threat in the lineup (but not on the team, as Juan Rivera and Casey Kotchman both would've made more of a difference if they had started more). Enough to win the series? Maybe not, but protecting Vlad may have helped somewhat. Apparently this was not something the Angels had in the plans, as Darin Erstad (.275/.325/.371 with 7 homeruns and 43 XBH overall in 2005) batted fifth. Incase 43 XBH doesn't really mean much immediately to anyone reading this, Mark Bellhorn had 57 XBH out of the 9th spot in the lineup for the Red Sox in 2004. Erstad responded to his manager's confidence in him by hitting .270/.289/.351 with an mOPS of .717. That might not seem so bad for OPS, but with mOPS the league average is .878 (mOPS being ((2.2*OBP)+ Isolated Power) by the way). As I've stated before, if the team intends to keep Erstad around, then he needs to go back to centerfield and replace Steve Finley. Finley was benched in Game 5, but it was a case of too little too late in those regards. Sitting at first base and taking up a position that Casey Kotchman (.278/.352/.484/.994; the fourth column being mOPS) could fill much better limits the offensive potential of this Angels team. This series exploited their limitations in the lineup. If Bartolo Colon had not been injured it still may not have mattered too much for Chicago, because Colon was not about to hit homeruns and drive in runs for the Angels. Of course he probably could have matched Vlad's postseason production or .184/.244/.184/.537.
This is not to say the White Sox did not play well, because they did well vanquishing the Angels and neutralizing Guerrero with their pitching staff. They will face either the Cardinals or the Astros, who may finish their series as soon as tonight as Andy Pettitte and Chris Carpenter have their rematch of Game 1. The Astros lead 3 games to 1. Both of these potential opponents may cause some problems for the White Sox. First of all the Astros pitching staff is capable of completely negating whatever advantage the White Sox rotation may hold. Their lineup is not strong, but they do have two premium hitters in Morgan Ensberg and Lance Berkman rather than the one of Chicago in Paul Konerko(or Anaheim with Vlad for that matter). Andy Pettitte is having his best season since 1997 (and if he was not a hitter in the NL, it might be his best total value season of all) and Roy Oswalt is just as good. Clemens of course is the core of the rotation, and seems to be holding up much better this postseason than last. Brad Lidge would also be an advantage that Chicago does not match outright, although Bobby Jenks has done well this year. Chicago's bullpen as a whole seems stronger though, and Ozzie Guillen has done an excellent job with his handling in those regards. They are also obviously well rested, since they have not had to pitch in four straight games.
The Cardinals present a different type of problem. Their pitching staff resembles Chicago's more than Houston's, as they have 4-5 solid-to-excellent pitchers. The difference between these two teams is that St. Louis has a prolific offense, and they will present much more of a challenge (if not a problem) for the Chicago pitchers. This is not to say that St. Louis is going to walk all over Chicago; the Red Sox had an even better offense than the Cardinals, and they are watching the rest of the playoffs at home thanks to Ozzie's arms.
Does anyone know if Frank Thomas could be moved from the 60-day DL to the World Series roster? If he could be available for pinch hitting only, he would make an interesting weapon in the road games of the series. He could pinch hit for the pitcher when he is going to be lifted, and possibly hit a homerun. Take a look at his season line:
By the way, that EqA is second among starting players behind Paul Konerko's .298, and the slugging percentage is first. His mOPS is 1.094. Without throwing anymore numbers out, let's just say that if Thomas got a few at-bats in the series, it is very likely he would hit a homerun or two. Maybe someone should show Ozzie a tape of Kirk Gibson's homerun in the 88' series over and over. Of course, this whole set of paragraphs is wasted ink (or memory I guess) if Thomas is not eligible or able to join the team.
Pettitte versus Carpenter at 8 PM EST on FOX. Make sure to watch and not be distracted by something like Monday Night Football.