Here are the first of the playoff previews, with the others to follow as the next two days progress. The Red Sox and the White Sox are squaring off, with the Pale Hose holding home field advantage over the Crimson Liederhosen (a username on John Sickels' Minor League Ball, and an excellent one at that.)
This series features a theme that we should get used to in a real hurry. We have team number one who might be able to strike out Jesus, and we have team number two who actually has a higher slugging percentage than the aforementioned deity. The White Sox, with a staff anchored by Mark Buerhle and the extremely hot as of late Jose Contreras, along with Jon Garland, who has been no real slouch this season himself, holds the pitching advantage by a long shot. The Red Sox a sometimes dominant/sometimes awful Curt Schilling and David Wells along with Matt Clement and Tim Wakefield, who until his shellacking Saturday in Fenway was riding one of the best months of his career into the playoffs. I have an interesting idea with regards to this series though. The Red Sox lineup is capable of beating up on the White Sox pitching, while their pitching is capable of turning out 3-4-5 dominating pitching performances in a row to counter the White Sox normally excellent pitching. The exact opposite could also happen, but I feel like the Red Sox rotation has a better chance of succeeding in this series than the White Sox lineup. The problem with this analysis is that both teams sort of limped into the playoffs, the Red Sox partially in thanks to a 30 game in 30 days trip, and I am not entirely sure what to expect of them. Most likely the series will rest on which bullpen can hold leads the best. Unless Jonathan Papelbon continues to look like K-Rod lite for the Red Sox (I know he hasn't looked that good, but he is doing the same type of job for them), and someone else can step up to have a good series, I might have to go with the White Sox pen. Let's check out the matchups:
On a player-by-player basis, the Red Sox beat the White Sox at 7 different positions. On the team as a whole level, the Red Sox are only up by 4.18 for one reason: Edgar Renteria destroys the EqA and the Rate2 of the Red Sox. When the White Sox lost positional battles, it is mostly due to excellence by a Red Sock rather than plain old suckitude by a White Sock. Not the case with shortstop, where Uribe's defense saves his lack of bat while Renteria's defense puts him further in the hole. Of course anything can happen in a short series, and Renteria is hitting .298/.389/.489 since September 20th, so his hot streak might be able to negate some of his awful rates. Advantage: Boston
- Clement 21.6 VORP
- Wells 24.1 VORP
- Wakefield 32.9 VORP
- Schilling 1.3 VORP
- Contreras 41.5 VORP
- Buerhle 54.2 VORP
- Garcia 45.6 VORP
- Garland 50.1 VORP/McCarthy 13.3 VORP(?)
As previously mentioned, unless the Red Sox have Schilling and Wells get hot as they have done on occasion this past season, the battle of rotations is not even close. Arroyo moved to the pen for the Red Sox, which strengthens the pen but could weaken the rotation, while the White Sox are busy juggling between two guys the socks of the Red variety might kill for. Advantage: Chicago
The White Sox bullpen features 3 of the top 30 in Inherited/Bequeathed Runners scored, while the Red Sox first appear on the list at #49, with Jeremi Gonzalez, was a question mark for the playoff roster, and next at 72 with Alan Embree...who is no longer on the roster. Advantage: Chicago.
As for the benches, it is mostly a toss up. The Red Sox are strong with Doug Mirabelli, Alex Cora, John Olerud/Kevin Millar, and Kevin Youkilis. There is one problem there though...the Red Sox fourth outfielder at the moment is Adam Hyzdu (.194/.286/.250 in 36 at-bats; EqA of .227, career Rate2 of 103.) The White Sox have some undesirables with players like Timo Perez, Geoff Blum, Willie Harris and Pablo Ozuna, but at least they have warm bodies. As long as the Red Sox do not need more than one pinch hitter in a place with no real replacement, they will be fine. Advantage: Red Sox due to quality over quantity.
My personal prediction for the series? Sox in 5.