The Red Sox managed to put up 887 runs this year (tied for second in the American League), so their offense is still quite formidable, but their home run totals had to be a little disappointing. David Ortiz's 35 were his lowest total since 2003; Manny's 20 were the fewest he's hit in any season where he played more than 91 games, and new signings J.D. Drew and Julio Lugo combined for just 19 (after hitting a combined 32 last year). The Red Sox put together their stellar year by getting guys on base (.362 OBP - second in the A.L.) but seems like it could be a challenge against Carmona ( 2.55 BB/9), Byrd (1.31 BB/9) and Sabathia (1.38 BB/9 and a 5.65 K:BB ratio). If they want to score the Sox are going to have to hit and especially get extra base hits.Cleveland's most obvious offense strength is their depth. The Indians had six players who had 18 or more home runs; of those six, five had at least 21 (by comparison the Red Sox had one hitter, Ortiz, who hit 21 or more). Not only are there no easy outs in the Indians line-up - there are a half dozen guys who turn one bad pitch into a big inning.
Advantage: Cleveland. Both teams have solid pitching staffs, and especially solid starters so it's going to be critical to capitalize on every mistake. The Indians, with their lineups depth, will be in a better position to do so.
Rotation: Josh Beckett has received a lot of press for his lights-out season which has continued into the playoffs, but has he really been that much better (or at all better) than Cleveland's ace C.C. Sabathia? Sabathia has a better K:BB ratio, a lower ERA, a WHIP equal to Beckett's and allowed only three more home runs in 40 more innings. Beyond Beckett, Schilling has always been good in the postseason and should keep Boston in the games in his starts at the very least, but Matsuzaka and Wakefield have been inconsistent all season. On the contrary Cleveland's rotation has been largely consistent, and still gets a good number of strikeouts and doesn't walk many opposing batters.
Advantage: Cleveland. Sabathia takes Beckett in ERA 3.21 to 3.27; Carmona takes Schilling 3.09 to 3.87, Westbrook takes Matsuzaka 4.32 to 4.40, Byrd takes Wakefield 4.59 to 4.76. Plus the consistency thing.
Bullpen: Boston's closer has an ERA that is \n3.22 runs lower than Cleveland's. Other than that Cleveland matches up fairly well with the Sox, but no one should have faith in a closer with a 5.07 ERA, going against the Red Sox, I don't care how many saves he has.
Advantage: Boston. Period.
Boston: Kevin Youkilis had the second OPS and OBP on the Sox this year and could step up at a crucial time for the Red Sox
Cleveland: Joe Borowski. The Indians may not be relying on one player to win them the ALCS, but it wouldn't be shocking if Borowski brought back memories of Byung-Hyun Kim in the 2001 World Series, and in turn loses the series for the Tribe.
Prediction: Cleveland in six. The Indians have more depth than the Sox both in the lineup and the rotation. The only real weakness for Boston to exploit is Borowski and it's unlikely they will be able to do so enough to steal more than one game.
Players to Watch: C.C. Sabathia (Cle), Grady Sizemore (Cle), Fausto Carmona (Cle); Josh Beckett (Bos), John Papelbon (Bos).
Friday, October 12, 2007