Thursday, September 18, 2008

Looking Towards the ALDS

Take-aways from the Tampa Bay series - some good, some bad


1) The Red Sox will not win the division. They will go to Anaheim to start the postseason and then if they can make it into the ALCS they will be the road team there as well. Not catastrophic, but given the difficulties they have shown beating good teams on the road, it certainly must be considered a factor in the negative.

2) Is Mike Lowell done for the year? Who knows. While that may sound pretty bad on face value, how much will the Red Sox really miss him? Yes, he plays great D and is an upgrade over Lowrie or Youkilis there, but will taking somebody who has sported an OPS+ of 70 since the All Star break out of the lineup really going to kill it? Probably not. Sean Casey and Mark Kotsay are not really setting the world on fire but are more than capable replacements. (And if you wonder where that logic comes from, you'd put them at first and then move Youk to third.)

3) Tony Mazz mentioned it on last week and I just can't get it out of my head. What's worse is how twice now it has been proven to be true - at least so far. Can the Red Sox win close, late inning games without Manny? I don't know, but it seems a lot tougher these days doesn't it? Maybe my mind is just skewing things though because Manny actually went through a few big slumps earlier this year most famously including the famous Mariano K so the difference may not be as large as it seems.

4) Some noise was made about no Jason Bay for the final two games of the series and no Bay or Lowell for the series finale. I guess I could include Jason Varitek in there for the series finale and JD Drew in there for both too, but I am going to refrain. Either way, the Rays were without their third and fourth best offensive players, BJ Upton and Carl Crawford for all the games of the series so that more than cancels out what the Sox missed. Sorry, not buying the injury excuse.

(But in a related note, what happens to the lineup when JD Drew returns? I actually think that will quietly be a huge development. They can give him all of next week to get tuned up and then hopefully he will be ready to pickup where he left off last October. Or he could hit .100 for the playoffs and strand countless runners. Such is life with JD Drew.)


1) The Red Sox will win the Wild Card. To put things in perspective, in order for the Red Sox to take the division, if Tampa goes 7-5 over their final 12 games, which seems reasonable to me, the Sox will need to go 10-0. That just isn't likely. Not impossible, but unlikely. Therefore, with the division out of reach and the Wild Card a few days away from being clinched, they can take the last 10 days of the regular season to focus on limited inning/pitch counts for their starters and relievers and plenty of rest for their position players. Sure the division would have been nice but healthy and fresh are both nice things too.

2) Papi crushed the ball and Beckett pitched another gem in a huge game. 'Nuff said. That's what you like to see heading into late October.

(Remember last year when Manny slogged his way through the regular season due to nagging injuries only to finally feel "good" - according to him - for the first time in October? Remember what he did last October, namely the K-Rod walk-off? Exactly. Let's not write off Papi just yet.)

3) This series proved that the Red Sox and Rays are about dead even. Both teams won a blowout and the Rays won the middle game which could have gone either way. I call it more or less a wash with of course the slight edge going to the Rays.

So, how do the Angels fit in? Well, through 9/18 their offense is about equal to the Rays (they've actually scored two fewer runs) and their pitching staff is inferior allowing twenty-one more runs. The difference is not huge, but might that be enough to inch the balance of power towards the Red Sox in a first round matchup? Considering that the AL East is a much tougher division than the AL West - the AL East features four of five above .500 teams to the AL West's one of four - I think you can safely say that the Rays are the better team than the Angels by a decent margin making the Red Sox a better team than the Angels too because they are about equal to the Rays.

Oh, and the great Angels pitching staff has allowed exactly nine fewer runs than the Red Sox on the year in one less game while the Sox have scored 104 more runs than the Angels. That's a compelling argument for the Sox too don't you think?

And a Random ALDS Prediction...

Assuming that Dice-K and Ervin Santana get matched up in Game 3, I see that as one of those brutal 4.5 hour 9 inning playoff games where the final score is 4-3, each team leaves about 12 runners on base, and neither starter makes it through the fifth inning. Because that game will be at Fenway, the temperature will probably be in the low 50's too. Games like that make HDTV all the better.

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