Thursday, October 8, 2009

Red Sox-Angels Preview

I've saved the best for last as without a doubt, this is the best of the four Division Series. Why you ask? Because the National League series' don't count and the Yankees-Twins is a mismatch on paper. On paper, this is fairly even and the history of past matchups make this series intriguing. Let's begin with the preview:

1B: Kevin Youkilis vs. Kendry Morales- The tough thing with doing position-based comparisons is that the Red Sox could have different lineups on any given day, such as Victor Martinez or Casey Kotchman (no chance) at first and Youk at third. As for this matchup, Morales has had a terrific year, among the list of players most responsible for the Angels success. As for Youkilis, he's probably the most important player on the Red Sox, mainly because his willingness to play multiple positions (something players of his statue feel are beneath them). This really should be even, but postseason experience plays a role in this matchup. Advantage Red Sox

2B: Dustin Pedroia vs. Howie Kendrick- At his best, Kendrick is as good a hitter as there is in baseball. Just ask the Yankees. If only he can play a full season, he can win a batting title. As for Pedroia, here's what I've noticed from him this year: at home, he swings to the Green Monster, however on the road he keeps that swing which usually costs him (especially at Yankee Stadium). His home/road splits reflect this (.318/10/49 at home, .273/5/26 on the road). However, Pedroia is a table setter and Kendrick is more depth in the lineup. Advantage Red Sox

SS: Alex Gonzalez vs. Erick Aybar- The trade for Gonzalez is one of the most underrated this year as he adds some stability at shortstop that the Sox haven't had since Orlando Cabrera in 2004. He also has history of being clutch in 2003 for the Marlins when he turned around the World Series with a home run off Jeff Weaver (Joe Torre's new BFF). Aybar has been the Angels most consistent hitter, leading the team with a .312 average. Also, anytime a shortstop is toward the top of a lineup, it's a positive for that team. Advantage Angels

3B: Mike Lowell vs. Chone Figgins- Lowell has been a good playoff performer for the Red Sox and is somewhat healthy for a change. He will always win this battle in terms of power as Figgins has none. However, Figgins does his damage on the basepaths with perfect hits down either line and his blazing speed. Finally, Figgins is the clear-cut better defensive player. Even

LF: Jason Bay vs. Juan Rivera- This has been a terrific season for Rivera, who's finally proving Jerome from Manhattan right. His season this year has made Rivera someone you must gameplan for. Despite the low average, Bay has had one of the best contract-year seasons of recent memory with 36 HR's and 119 RBI. Though, Rivera can mash them and drive them with a better average, I like Bay a little bit more in this one. Advantage Red Sox

CF: Jacoby Ellsbury vs. Torii Hunter- This is another battle between speed and power. Ellsbury has more of an impact on the bases seeing as he led the AL in steals. Hunter has had his share of injuries, but finally is appearing healthy for this ball club. Since Hunter's stats are similar to Lowell's, you would think I will even them. Wrong. Remember, Hunter is one of the best to play centerfield with the glove. Advantage Angels (has nothing to do with Hunter's mammoth 3-run HR tonight)

RF: J.D. Drew vs. Bobby Abreu- Drew is such a maddening player that I don't know what to expect from him. He could go .500/3/10 or he could go .150/0/1 in the series. Abreu isn't anything special, just very consistent putting up a .290 average with a .400 on-base. He's the man in the lineup that can take the pitches the way anyone on the Red Sox can. The only thing that Abreu can worry you is playing a fly ball played at the wall, while Drew is great with the glove. Advantage Angels

Catcher: Victor Martinez vs. Mike Napoli- Napoli has shown a lot of power for a catcher in his career and will probably end up DHing many games in the future. Martinez has already proven to be a versatile player playing catcher and first base regularly for the past couple years. He really has been the difference between the Red Sox being in the playoffs, plus they can put Jason Varitek on the bench. Advantage Red Sox

DH: David Ortiz vs. Vlad Guerrero- If you ask this question four years ago, you have the matchup of the playoffs. Now, both guys have fallen off from high levels, but still can hit from time to time. The difference is that good pitching always beats Ortiz, making his 28 HR's useless, while Vlad can still hit for average and hit the occasional home run. Advantage Angels

Starting Pitching: For the Red Sox, Jon Lester and Josh Beckett are their givens because Clay Buchholz and Daisuke Matsuzaka aren't. The series depends on the performance by both pitchers, unless Lester pitches on short rest. As for the Angels, the staff has been steady with John Lackey and Jered Weaver, but the trade for Scott Kazmir ups the ante since he has had success against the Red Sox. Advantage Angels

Bullpen: Unlike past years, the Angels bullpen is a question mark. Brian Fuentes is a downgrade from Frankie Rodriguez and the most reliable arm is Darren Oliver, I mean DARREN OLIVER. The Red Sox are much more organized with Jonathan Papelbon finishing strong and guys like Daniel Bard, Hideki Okajima and yes, Billy Wagner pitching well for them. Advantage Red Sox

Bench: Both benches aren't really going to get a huge hit that often, and more or less are there to fill in spots, such as Rocco Baldelli and Gary Matthews Jr. as fourth outfielder, Maicer Izturis and Nick Green for utility infielder and Jeff Mathis and Jason Varitek as backup catcher. Even

Manager: Terry Francona vs. Mike Scioscia- Both men have won World Series. Scioscia lead the Angels with his style of play, while Francona uses the Joe Torre "keep everyone in the clubhouse calm" approach. Even though Francona has achieved plenty of success against Scioscia, this matchup in my eyes is always down the middle. Even

Intangibles: The Red Sox history of beating the Angels each time they faced one another. The Angels have been dedicating this season to Nick Adenhart in almost every way. The celebration after winning the AL West, the vigil outside the stadium that I saw during my trip to the Big A all seem like this season has a purpose that's greater than just a championship. Even

The Red Sox will win if: Based on yesterday's results; win a game that isn't started by Beckett or Lester; the bullpen must pitch as good as 2007; the lineup gets clutch hits by veterans like Ortiz, Lowell; Angels tighten up the sphincters in these close games.

The Angels will win if: They got a win against Lester so if they can get one more against Beckett/Lester. Otherwise, if Beckett is still hurt; the bullpen for Boston isn't as sharp and the Angels one plays well; the starters go deep in games; the Angels can impose their style of baseball and run on the Red Sox catchers; Red Sox veterans look old.

Prediction: It was Angels in five before Game 1 and it hasn't changed.

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