Baseball Playoffs: Take Two
ALCS Preview: Angels vs. White Sox
**Two of a Kind**
In a nutshell - Pitching vs. Pitching
Rich's Take: Rather than pitching vs. pitching, it should read Rested and Relaxed vs. Road Weary and Tired. C'mon, this is the most unfair schedule I have ever seen. Is it the Angels fault that Game Four of the ALDS was rained out? Blame it on the New Yorkers. It was their rain. But no way should it be held against the Angels.
The White Sox should get credit for sweeping the Red Sox and for having a better regular-season record than the Angels, but you may as well hand them Game One. They will have had three days off. The Angels get no time off. Worse yet, the Halos played in New York on Sunday night, then fly coast-to-coast in the wee hours of the morning, play the rubber match of the series Monday night, then turn around and take another red eye more than halfway across the country. Now that is downright silly! Moreover, it is blatantly biased in favor of the White Sox and against the Angels.
OK, I feel a little bit better now. . .but not much. Take a deep breath, hold it, hold it. . .now let it out slowly, Rich. Whew! OK, OK. I'm making some progress. I should be good to go by Game Three. The first two games don't really matter anyway, do they? I mean, the White Sox had best be up 2-0 by Wednesday night or they are going to be in a real hurt, let me tell you. The Pale Hose have home field advantage in this series, and they had better sweep in Chicago. If they don't, the Angels are going to beat them. It's that simple. I know the White Sox have a great record on the road and all, but I think they need to take advantage of the gift in the schedule in order to beat the Angels.
Absent the schedule, these two teams are about as equal as can be. Second and third best team ERA in the AL. Top two for starting pitchers only. The White Sox have the edge in bullpen ERA though. However, I wouldn't take the Angels relievers lightly. Led by Frankie Rodriguez, the Halos have a higher K/9 than the White Sox, plus LA's 'pen has been bolstered by the addition of Kelvim Escobar the past few weeks.
I'm inclined to throw the above stats out the window because what you've seen is not what you're going to get. Bartolo Colon and Jarrod Washburn are questionable. Colon's shoulder will be re-evaluated on Tuesday and Washburn, scratched from his Game Four start due to a throat infection and high fever, has strep throat. John Lackey and Ervin Santana both pitched more than five innings on Sunday and Monday, respectively, so neither will be available until this weekend. That leaves Paul Byrd to go in Game One and anybody and everybody in Game Two.
Bryan's Take: Oh pipe down, Rich. I thought you California folk were supposed to be laid-back? I'm kidding of course, but in seriousness, there is no reason to bring up the anti-West Coast bias already. I mean, can't we at least wait for the White Sox to win the first two games before accusing baseball of conspiracy?
Also, I think you are selling the Angels short here, I mean c'mon, these guys are professional athletes. On 18 different occasions this year, the Angels traveled out of state between games on consecutive days. Oftentimes, this meant little more rest than the 20 hours given between Game Five and Game One. The Halos record in these games? 12-6, with the average scoring 6 runs per game, significantly more than their seasonal average (4.7).
It isn't the schedule that is going to do the Angels in, but the pitching we highlighed at the top. Oh, or are you going to blame Bud Selig for Colon and Washburn's injuries? While Rich looked at just how similar these staffs have been, Los Angeles could hardly enter a series more vulnerable. Their three healthy starters had an aggregate ERA of 3.73, while the Sox Game 1-4 starters were at 3.52. And for once, it looks like the Angels might be out-manned in the bullpen, as the White Sox four best relievers (Cotts, Jenks, Hermanson, Politte) had a 2.12 ERA in over 220 innings this season).
Also, despite the numbers, I like the Chicago offense more in this series. The Angels had just one player hit more than 17 home runs this season, as the White Sox had five. Neither team walks very much, and both are fairly active on the basepaths. The difference? The Angels are a contact-first team, striking out 154 less times than the White Sox this year, while being out-homered by 53. So who gets the advantage in this series then, the team that puts pressure on the defense, or the one that depends on the long ball? Go for the latter, as the White Sox have one of the Majors best defenses, while playing in one of the Majors smallest parks.
At the top, we mentioned this series was about pitching against pitching. Problem for the Angels is, they enter the series with an issue of too little, while the White Sox come in with problems of too much.
Rich's Outtake: The Angels and White Sox are a bit more challenged offensively. They ranked seventh and ninth, respectively, in the AL in runs scored. Even though Ozzie Guillen and Scott Podsednik would like you to think these are the Go-Go Sox, I'm going to let you in on a secret. They are anything but. The White Sox hit 97 home runs in 1959 and 199 in 2005. I know, I know. . .there are more HR being hit today than back then, but double the amount? I don't think so. Today's Sox have some sock. Chicago ranked fourth in the league in dingers. Paul Konerko slugged 40, Jermaine Dye 31, Carl Everett 23, Joe Crede 22, and on and on. Every starter other than Podsednik hit 13 or more HR.
By comparison, the Angels only had four players hit 13 or more homers. Heck, the team's starting infield of Darin Erstad, Adam Kennedy, Orlando Cabrera, and Chone Figgins went yard a total of 25 times COMBINED! Their corner infielders muscled out 15 in 1,251 at-bats during the regular season. Did I mention that they both struck out over 100 times to boot? I mean, what's not to like? You either get home runs or you get the unshaven look with eye black and dirty pants.
Bryan's Outtake: One thing I ignored when evaluating the Angels-Yankees series was that L.A. simply had the Yanks number. It seems as if everytime the two teams had played since the Angels won the World Series, Los Angeles came out on top. The Angels also have an advantage over the White Sox from the beginning of 2004, albeit a narrow one at that.
The postseason is also when stars shine brighter, and the Angels are aided by the two best players in this series. Vladimir Guerrero is tops, by far, with his blend of fantastic contact and power skills at the plate. In the bullpen, the team also has Francisco Rodriguez, one of the American League's best closers. When on, K-Rod's stuff would have made Mariano Rivera a preferable choice. Expect these two to not go down without a fight.
Finally, in the last preview for the White Sox, of the ALDS, I mentioned Chicago's troubles against right-handed pitching. While the club had no such problems against the Red Sox right-handers, this could change as the White Sox are set to play a better group. In fact, besides Jarrod Washburn, it's unlikely the Angels will have another southpaw on their ALCS roster.
And believe me, the White Sox lineup looks a lot less frightening when the largest concern is A.J. Pierzynski.
Rich's Pick: The schedule favors Chicago. The home field advantage goes to Chicago. With the status of Colon and Washburn up in the air, Chicago gets the nod for starting pitching, too. Throw in the decided edge in power and what does that spell? Chicago in six.
Bryan's Pick: Starting out strong is important to the White Sox. They need to get ahead early in games to avoid facing Scot Shields and K-Rod, while also handing the ball over to their own bullpen to protect the lead. They also need to start strong in the series, to avoid Washburn returning to a tied (or close) series. Expect them to do both. White Sox in five.
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For more information on the ALCS, please be sure to visit the following sites...
Angels: 6-4-2 and Pearly Gates
White Sox: South Side Sox and Exile in Wrigleyville