In a word, this series will come down to pitching. Both teams are completely loaded with frontline starting pitchers (the Astros top three are better, but the White Sox have a fourth one to match against Brandon Backe). Here are the first four game matchups:
Game 1: Clemens (1.87 ERA) versus Contreras (3.61 ERA)
Game 2: Pettitte (2.39 ERA) versus Buehrle (3.12 ERA)
Game 3: Oswalt (2.94 ERA) versus Garland (3.50 ERA)
Game 4: Backe (4.76 ERA) versus Garcia (3.87 ERA)
Stuff wise, I feel like the Astros have the advantage in games 1 through 3, but the White Sox starters are capable of pitching more innings, and they have Freddy Garcia going against Brandon Backe in Game 4. Of course if the Astros are in trouble that could easily be Roger Clemens, and Backe has been able to pitch a pretty good game in his day. Garcia has also been known to do the opposite on occasion. Which brings us to the bullpens for the real tiebreaker with the pitching staffs.
Brad Lidge: 2.67 Run Average
Dan Wheeler: 2.21 RA
Chad Qualls: 3.73 RA
Russ Springer: 5.19 RA
Mike Gallo: 2.66 RA
Wandy Rodriguez: 5.74
Bobby Jenks: 3.43 RA
Damaso Marte: 4.17 RA
Cliff Politte: 2.00 RA
Luis Vizcaino: 3.86 RA
Dustin Hermanson: 2.67 RA
Neal Cotts: 2.24 RA
El Duque: 5.40 RA
The White Sox have more relievers that can be used with confidence, but the Astros should be able to survive as long as they do not have to use Russ Springer, and especially if they do not have to use Wandy Rodriguez. If it comes down to some sort of extra inning fiasco though, the White Sox will most likely have the upper hand. Who would have thought before the season that Cliff Politte would have the lowest Run Average of all of these pitchers?
Here are the lineups for the two teams, using AVG/OBP/SLG/mOPS and NRAA.
The Astros seem to have the advantage simply because they have both Ensberg and Berkman, while the White Sox only have Paul Konerko. Most of these players NRAA scores are brought up by their defensive capabilities, so the role players NRAA is deceiving when used as an offensive tool. For anyone not familiar with mOPS (modified OPS, a creation of our very own Sal B) the formula is (2.2*OBP)+ ISO. The White Sox would be wise to avoid trying to play "small ball" unless they absolutely know they need it, because they do not want to waste chances like they did in the first two games of the ALCS. The Astros pitching staff is much better than the Angels staff, and the results will most likely end up worse for Chicago.
So what do we have so far? Rotation: (Slight) Advantage Houston. Bullpen: (Slight) Advantage Chicago. Lineup: Advantage Houston. Defense: Advantage Chicago. Benches: Advantage Houston. Managers: Split. They both know how to react to particular situations. Ozzie has done a good job staying out of the way since the aforementioned Games 1 and 2 (and there wasn't much managing to be done in the easily won ALDS either) and if bullpen management comes into play he will most likely rise to the challenge. Phil Garner does a very good job keeping his bullpen down to the 3 or 4 guys I mentioned earlier, avoiding situations where a lower caliber player can blow a game. Garner has more of a bench to work with than Chicago, but unless this goes into a couple of extra innings games (just like the bullpen) than Chicago may avoid flashing that weakness. If there are extra inning games in Chicago, they are absolutely in trouble benchwise. Carl Everett is their only viable bench option, and he would be hitting as the DH. As Scott Long said earlier this week at The Juice, "The best statistical bat they have on the bench is Chris Widger, so do I need to say anymore." My personal prediction is Astros in 6 games. I feel like the Astros can take 2 out of the first 3 games, and I have a feeling that Backe will sneak out Game 4 in Houston, putting the Astros up 3-1. With Clemens-Pettitte-Oswalt to follow, winning a fourth game should not be a problem. Who knows in a short series though. What does everyone else think? I've attached a poll at the bottom, comment with details if you'd like, and remember that Anonymous Commenting is now available.
Who will win the World Series?
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