Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Hunt for Red Soxtober

-Celebrating the right to get swept by the Yankees-

Current Standing: 3-1, 1st Overall

No self-professed sports blog would be complete without discussing the MLB playoffs, at the very least to discuss how boring baseball is. But, as you've probably guessed by now, I'm a big baseball fan. So as the Sox take on the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Who Previously Used the Geographic Moniker "California", I'll be wearing my lucky stirrups and hoping the hometown laundry team doesn't disappoint.

Because I am a pessimist by nature ("not cuz I hate ya"), I'm sick of all these uplifting previews talking about what a treat Nick F***ing Punto is to watch (even if it is sarcastic). Instead, I'm going to run through the AL playoff participants and talk about the biggest question marks they face over the next few weeks, in inverse order of record.

Minnesota (AL Central, 87-76): Fatigue - While everyone else in the AL hasn't had to play a meaningful game since Labor Day, the Twins had to scrap and claw their way back just to force the one-game playoff with the Tigers. On Sept. 6, Minnesota was seven games off the AL Central lead. Adding insult to injury, Detroit took 12 innings to concede the division in the tiebreaker Tuesday night, as eight pitchers took the Metrodome mound for the home team. Now the Twins have to face a rested Yankees team that won all seven of the teams' contests by a combined score of 41-25.

Boston (AL Wild Card, 95-67): Inconsistency - Somewhere, the ghosts of Fire Joe Morgan cringed. Perhaps "inconsistency" really isn't the right word, as the Red Sox consistently beat up on crappy teams (i.e. a 16-2 record against Baltimore), and consistently disappointed against quality opponents (i.e. losing season series to the Rangers, Angels, and Mariners, and splitting with the Rays and Yankees). The high hopes the team carried into the season -- seemingly justified with their 47-30 record after three months -- were dashed with a disappointing July against a soft schedule and a slow fade into second place. It's hard for a 95-win team making its sixth playoff appearance in the past seven years to be labeled "disappointing," but people outside New England predicted 100 wins for the Sox with a straight face. Boston's high-priced stars will need to show signs of life like they did in the spring, or winter will arrive a lot sooner than expected for Fenway.

Los Angeles (AL West, 97-65): Pitching - Don't talk about the fact that the Red Sox have won 12 of their last 13 against the Angels, dating back to Dave Henderson's homer in 1986. Boston is playing this year's squad, not those other ones, and this year's model has the offensive firepower to keep up. Mike Scioscia's clubs have always been among the league leaders in stolen bases, and this year the team is near the top in OPS as well, right up there with Boston and New York. Where the team hovers around league average, however, is pitching. Choose any stat you want -- ERA, strikeouts, WHIP, whatever -- and LA is right smack dab in the middle of the pack. Can Weaver, Saunders, and Lackey shut down the Boston bats? Is the back of the pen solid? If these questions can't be answered, the Angels better pack their lumber if they want to advance.

New York (AL East, 103-59): Expectations - This one was tough, as (hard as it is to admit) the Yankees are far and away the class of the American League. Tops in hitting, tops in pitching, even defensively by some measures, the Yankees will be tough to beat. Unless...

Well, CC Sabathia has imploded in the last few playoff series. And A-Rod is famously batting .143 in his last 16 playoff games. And Mark Teixiera struggled under the bright lights when he first arrived in New York. And even Captain Calm Eyes McGee has appeared unnervingly human in the last few postseasons. The Steinbrenners need their superstars to play like superstars when it matters most, but that's probably their biggest obstacle between here and the World Series.

LAA over BOS, 3-1
NYY over MIN, 3-0
NYY over LAA, 4-2

Part 2, on the National League, will be posted as soon as I learn some shit about the NL probably tomorrow.

1 comment:

  1. Honestly, I think lack of team unity has hurt the Sox. Has there ever been a rotation as revolving as 2009s? Injuries. "Breaks" for Varitek, Drew, etc. Big Papi-gate.

    These were not happy campers this year. I think you could see it.