Before we get to the ALCS preview, I want to say a few things about the NL. I know we at Log's Blog tend to rip on the National League quite frequently (especially myself and Biglots), but there were several teams in the NL that I thought could have at least given an AL team a run for their money. Never in my wildest dreams did I consider that we would be watching (or not watching) an NLCS matchup of Rockies-Diamondbacks. Just for entertainment purposes let's look and see what I wrote about these teams in my "Midseason Report".
About the D-Backs:
Well, Randy Johnson hasn't pitched since July, but they did get some more power out of their corner positions. But not much.
They really could go either way. Randy Johnson has been good when healthy but that’s saying a lot. Its great the Eric Byrnes is hitting so well but its not great that he’s been their leading power guy. They need more power and production out of the typical power positions like 1B, 3B and the rest of the outfield.
So what did I write about the Rockies....?
Absolutely nothing. I didn't even include them in my midseason report. But before you call me a dumbass, quick, name four players for the Rockies. I'm going with Todd Helton, Matt Holliday, Josh Fogg and.....and....Yorvit Torrealba!
Alright, onto the Championship Series where one of the teams has a chance to win it all.
The Red Sox and Indians are two very hot teams. They both made pretty quick work of two very good clubs, albeit two clubs who were somewhat flawed (Angels were injured and lacking power and the Yankees were lacking pitching). The fact Eric Wedge and Paul Byrd proved everyone wrong by winning game four means we get to see an ideal matchup with both Sabathia and Carmona well rested. Let's look at how the teams matchup.
Carmona is scary good, but so is Beckett. I'll call them a wash. Sabathia is better than the Red Sox number two, whether you want to say its Schilling or Dice-K. (It looks like Dice-K is going to start game 2 again.) I would say that Westbrook is about equal with Schilling, although I personally would have more confidence in Schilling, given his past postseason success. Game 4 is where it gets tricky. As bad as I think Paul Byrd is, he is exactly the type of pitcher who could give the Red Sox trouble. They are a team who is patient, sees a lot of pitches, and wears opposing pitchers down, much like the Yankees. Paul Byrd is the type of pitcher who just pounds the strike zone repeatedly, and we saw it work against the Yanks. The Red Sox have difficult dilemma. Beckett could start game 4 on short rest and still be lined up to pitch game 7 if necessary. He did it twice in the 2003 WS going 16 innings and giving up only 2 runs. The other option would be to start Wakefield if he is healthy. He has historically done well against the Indians and they have only seen twice in the last three years, and not at all this year. I still vote for Beckett. Regardless...
Papelbon is a comfort blanket, Borowski inspires terror. Perez and Betancourt are very good, as are Okajima and Delcarmen.
Advantage: Red Sox
Varitek is the Red Sox captain and leader but he's been a virtual black hole offensively.
Advantage: Martinez, Indians
Garko and Youkilis are both solid hitters and superub defensively. Youkilis hasn't made an error all season, Garko has a better range factor.
Cabrera has done much better than Barfield but Pedroia is a shoo-in for rookie of the year.
Advantage: Pedroia, Red Sox
Mike Lowell has had an outstanding year, picking up the slack for Manny and Ortiz when it comes to driving in runs. Also plays excellent defense at third.
Advantage: Lowell, Red Sox
Not too much to say about Lugo. Jhonny Peralta's parents are idiots.
Advantage: Peralta, Indians
Manny looks dialed in. Even worse for Tribe fans: Manny's average vs. his former team is .357 with 15 HRs. Having Lofton out there is a nice throwback though.
Advantage: ManRam, Red Sox
No contest. Grady Sizemore is a five tool player who is the key to Cleveland's offense. And he's hot.
Advantage: Grady, Indians, female fans
I've given up on waiting for Drew to live up to his potential but his high OBP and defense makes him a wash with Gutierrez.
Both Hafner and Ortiz are coming off of relatively disappointing years powerwise. Both have looked like they turned the corner in the postseason. Ortiz's OPS in the Angels series was 1.571! For that reason and his past history, Ortiz gets the nod.
Advantage: Ortiz, Red Sox (slightly)
Both teams have a fairly solid bench. I'm thinking there is one player on each team who will make a major contribution. For the Indian's my bet is Kelly Shoppach. His bat off the bench gives Wedge the ability to pinch run for Martinez late in the game with little to no drop-off. For the Sox, look for Jacoby Ellsbury to factor in as a pinch runner (he can play all three outfield positions) or as a late inning defensive replacement for Ramirez.
Another thing to consider is the advantage that Red Sox pitching coach John Farrell will provide. This year is his first year with the Red Sox and previously he served as the Indian's head of player development. I think it would be safe to say that he probably knows most of the Indian's players very well and will be a tremendous help to the scouting department.
These teams are very even and I think this is the most entertaining matchup baseball fans could have hoped for. As a Red Sox fan I'm hoping the series is decided by some late games where we have the bullpen advantage. However, the Indian's SP advantage could be the difference, especially if either Schilling or Dice-K revert to their late regular season form, or lack thereof.
My prediction: Red Sox in 6