Tuesday, October 11, 2005
The Angels can't celebrate too long after their victory over the hated Yankees, because they've got to hop on a plane and square off against the White Sox just 24 hours after game time last night.
These two teams are so evenly matched, it's scary. They both have tremendous pitching, with both of their staffs ranking in the top three in ERA this season. They both have very good bullpens, though LA has a distinct edge. And they both have lineups geared around an overrated "small-ball" philosophy. LA's batting order produced 761 runs, good for 7th in the AL, while Chicago's 741 runs scored ranked 9th.
The White Sox should win this series because their pitching is better and they have that home-field advantage. US Cellular Field is a great park to hit home runs in, and the Sox are perfectly suited to take advantage, having hit 200 dingers this season and featuring one 40-HR guy, one 30-HR guy, and two more 20-HR players. The Angels, meanwhile, are surprisingly bereft of power behind Vladimir Guerrero. After Vlad's 32 homers, Garret Anderson was the runner-up with 17.
At home this season, the Sox hit 115 homers, while the Halos hit 76. While the Angels like to tout their prowess with hitting with runners in scoring position (they hit .296 as a team) that statistic is highly combustible and has a great chance of crapping out in a seven-game series. Pure power tends to hold up better in the playoffs than a group of singles hitters, so given the Sox' ability to mash in their home park, I give them the advantage, although it must be said that the Angels plowed through the postseason in 2002 with largely the same offensive philosophy (albeit with better and younger hitters).
If Colon can't return and pitch effectively, it could spell big trouble for the Angels as well, because their only stable commodity now is Lackey. Washburn battled the flu and missed his LDS start, Byrd got bombed by the Yanks and gives up a lot of home runs, and Ervin Santana, despite pitching well against the Yanks, has thrown together brilliant starts and Scott Ruffcorn-from-Hell performances throughout the season. Facing a rested Contreras/Buehrle/Garland trio, the Angels might be in for a rough time of it if they can't get Colon back in 21-win form.
My expert (huah?!?) prediction: White Sox win the first two games, drop Games 3 and 4 in Anaheim, squeak out Game 5, and close it out again at home in Game 6, with Stankeye fave A.J. Pierzynski getting MVP honors. No, really.