Wednesday, October 24, 2007

World Series: Red Sox vs. Rockies

We have finally arrived at the show, the grandest of stages, the whole shebang and the whole kit and caboodle. I’d like to say that everything that has happened up until this point matters, but it doesn’t. Throw out the playbook, so to speak, leave any preconceived notions of what took place before or what will take place after at the door. This is the World Series.

21 games out of 22 means absolute dick right now. A previous World Series ring doesn’t matter either, and all the experience in the world will pale in comparison to sure fire grit and determination. When it comes down to it, seven games is nothing and even great teams can lose four straight and even bad teams can bounce their way into four wins. Knowing you can win is one thing, seizing your immortality is quite another and it is this fine line that separates the guys who hold the trophy and the other guys that let it slip away.

These are the two best teams in the Major Leagues from two completely different arenas, but they have a lot in common. Baseball at every level comes down to a couple of things; you gotta be good at situational hitting, you gotta field and throw the baseball at a high level and most importantly you have to have good pitching. Both teams field the ball well, and while there are wild card games every now and then where a single defensive blunder shatters the world, I have always been under the impression that one play never determines fate. Baseball as a game is a collection of opportunities for both teams and victory is the culmination of individual battles strung together. You may lose a battle but put together enough positive ABs and you’ll win the war. If stellar defense were that important, the Red Sox wouldn’t start David Ortiz in any game played in Colorado or Manny Ramirez at all, and that just won't happen. Situational hitting is key but, again, these are major league teams with professional hitters who understand their roles and the duties asked of them. Therefore, both of these aspects pale in comparison to the sole definition of a winning ball club, pitching.

I’ve said this before, but there is nothing more important that having good starting pitching when it comes to the postseason. A hitter gets the glory, but pitchers are legendary. It is because of this aspect that the Red Sox and the Rockies are still playing. The Rockies, as a staff, have an unheard of 2.08 team ERA in the 2007 playoffs. The Red Sox are not too far behind sporting a decent 3.60 ERA, which has been adequate while they have maintained a seven runs per game average.
What has been most impressive is the collective walks plus hits per innings pitched (WHIP) for both teams: Rockies 1.11, Red Sox 1.15. Both stats show us that the pitchers for each team have been able to limit the number of base runners and, when allowed, have limited the damage their opponents have been able to inflict on the base paths.

As starting pitching goes, the World Series typically allows teams, if they need to, run a three deep rotation. Beckett, Schilling, Matsuzaka will suit up for the Red Sox and Francis, Jimenez, Fogg and Cook will take the mound for the Rockies.
Beckett is simply unstoppable at the moment. His control is second to none and in addition to his electric fastball and hard overhand curve, he’s cutting the ball and sinking the ball better than he ever has in his career. Beckett has only walked one batter in his entire 2007 postseason, and has racked up 26 strikeouts. He’s pitching with the ball on a string and that kind of control will always result in wins. Francis has succeeded thus far in the postseason by having a uncharacteristic high number of strikeouts. A pitcher more inclined to pitch to contact, Francis has escaped giving up too much solid contact – 11 hits in 12 2/3 innings – by raising his regular season 0.76 strikeouts per inning ratio to almost a strikeout an inning (12 Ks in 12 2/3 IP).
I look for the Red Sox to win Game 1 as Francis continues to struggle and the more offensively potent Red Sox team makes him pay for his mistakes in a way the struggling Diamondbacks weren’t able to.

Beckett looks primed to potentially pitch three times in this series if necessary and with the emergence of Dice-k and the return of Schilling’s nasty splitter the Rockies are going to have their hands full. Some of these games could be close, which favors the Rockies’ dominant bullpen, but in the ALCS the Red Sox looked in command at the plate from top to bottom and able to handle just about any kind of pitcher that was tossed their way. This is something I can not say about the Rockies who have had key players go cold: Tulowitzki .179 BA, Helton .154 BA, Atkins .185 BA, Taveras .167 BA.

The Rockies can take one of the middle games probably at home against Dice-K, and maybe another game at home if Schilling pitches at Coors, but I’m gonna go with a strong five game Red Sox World Series win in which Beckett is too hot to handle and the Rockies are unable to muster enough offense to compete.

Two wild cards that could throw everything out the window is Game 2 starter Ubaldo Jimenez and failing setup man Eric Gagne. I really like the way Jimenez pitches and if he can remain healthy he’s gonna be a dominant starter in this league and will challenge Francis as the ace of the staff in as little as two years. However, for this postseason he has to rely on his 100 MPH fastball but at the same time lower his walk totals, he can’t give as many free passes as he did against the Dbacks (8 BB).
Gagne is also a wild card because he is simply horrendous. I don't know where the lights out closer went, but he has not been able to recapture the magic that made his stuff unhittable. If the Red Sox think they can use him to bridge towards Papelbon, the Rockies will be able to take advantage and put runs on the board.

Game 1: Sox 6, Rox 1

- The Hokie


DMG said...

Hitting Jimenez's 100 mph fastball is going to be a nightmare this time of year in Colorado and Boston.

Do you have a prediction for how this series will turn out, Hokie?

The Friendship said...

yeah yeah, I put it in there, second to last paragraph. I expect the Sox to win in 5 games. Although reports are now stating that Jon Lester will go against Aaron Cook in Game 4... not sure if I really like that move, but I'll still go with the 5 gamer.

DMG said...

Ah yeah, there it is. I had the Sox in 5 as well.