How we might match up in the playoffs


Despite Derek Jeter’s comments, most simulations and predictions at this point show that the Red Sox have a 90% or greater chance of making the playoffs. So with the trading deadline coming up, it might be time to see how we match up against other contenders, and how we might improve our team.

By all rights, whatever AL representative goes should beat the NL champion, so I won’t get into those teams here. We have no clue who’s going yet anyways. But in the AL, three competitors are posting strong showings. Here they are:

Detroit Tigers (52-34)
4-3 against Boston

Lineup: Edge Detroit.
The Tigers feature a strong lineup which has produced the most runs in the majors this year by a wide margin (41 runs). The team as a whole can not continue to hit .290 (can they?), but they are still formidable. One possible weakness could be the lineup’s youth and aggressiveness, as Gary Sheffield is the only truly patient hitter. The Tigers rely more on getting hits than drawing walks, but have managed a team OBP of .352 because their high averages. Looking at career numbers, the Red Sox should improve offensively, but now we know that Papi is playing hurt, which is not a good sign.

Starters: Even.
Boston’s had the best rotation in the majors this year. That could change if Curt Schilling can’t return at 100%, or someone else goes down with an injury. Detroit features two guys with top-of-the-rotation stuff in Jeremy Bonderman and Justin Verlander, and three left-handed starters, which tend to give the Sox trouble. Still, I’d take Beckett, Schilling, Dice-K and Wakefield in the post-season.

Bullpen: Slight edge Boston.
Boston’s bullpen has been the best so far, and the Tigers have struggled there this year, but Detroit has also been without star setup man Joel Zumaya since May 3 and Fernando Rodney the past few weeks. Both are expected to be back shortly, and will tighten up the pen, though closer Todd Jones can still be an adventure. My guess is that the advantage for Boston will not be very sizeable here as of now. Getting another solid righty should upgrade this to a significant advantage for us.

Defense: Slight edge Boston.
The Tigers lost the World Series last year due to a lack of clutch hitting and a lack of defense. The much publicized record five errors by pitchers in the Series was most likely an aberration, and the Tigers have worked to remedy that. Still, the young club makes too many errors, though they are capable of great plays as well. The Sox are much steadier on defense for the most part, with established fielders everywhere except left field and second base.

Manager: Even.
Terry Francona has been to the post-season regularly with Boston, but Jim Leyland is no newbie, either. Leyland has been a stellar fit for the young Tigers.

Conclusion
Detroit is a tough matchup, because they feature a good lineup as well as some good pitching. They recently swept the Sox in a three game series going into the All-Star break.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (53-35)
0-3 against Boston

Lineup: Edge Boston.
I’m sorry, but outside of Vladimir Guerrero, this lineup is not very intimidating. They are 6th in runs produced, just ahead of Boston so far, but they have been dependent on two young, unestablished hitters to carry them in Casey Kotchman and Reggie Willits. Orlando Cabrera is hitting 55 points over his career average, and that won’t last. Getting Juan Rivera back should help some, but my guess is that they regress a lot offensively in the second half, unless they make a big move at the deadline.

Starters: Edge Boston.
The Angels feature five right-handed starters, four of which can be deadly if fully healthy and in their grooves: John Lackey, Kelvim Escobar, Bartolo Colon and Jered Weaver. That being said, only Lackey and Escobar are performing well and Escobar has a history of inconsistency. If Colon can get healthy, this could become an even category, but for now, Boston can take these guys.

Bullpen: Even.
The Angels are one of the few teams who have a more established 1-2 punch than Boston in Scot Shields and Francisco Rodriguez. Once Justin Speier returns from the DL, they will be hard to beat late. That being said, they run only three deep, really, in their pen, so if we can knock out their starters early, they will be in trouble.

Defense: Even.
The Angels are an average defensive team in terms of errors, but I don’t see us having any clear advantage over them. Now if we had Alex Gonzalez, that’d be a different story…

Manager: Even.
Mike Scioscia has 8 years of experience, like Tito, and has been to the post-season three times already.

Conclusion
The Angels don’t worry me very much as presently constituted. Their Pythagorean, second- and third-order won-loss records at Baseball Prospectus suggest that they are playing 4-5 games over their heads right now and are due for a slide. They do have minor-league talent that they could deal, however, to become scarier.

Cleveland Indians (52-36)
1-2 against Boston

Lineup: Even.
They have a pretty balanced lineup, with 5 guys having hit 14 or more HR. I’m willing to call this even because the Indians have produced very well so far (2nd in runs scored), and Travis Hafner has yet to hit his stride. If Pronk gets it together, watch out. But then, if Manny and Papi get it together…

Starters: Edge Boston.
C.C. Sabathia is for real, and Fausto Carmona is having a great year. Cliff Lee is a quality lefty, but after that, there’s not much there, unless one of their young pitchers really steps it up. The fact that two of their top three are lefties keeps this from being a huge mismatch.

Bullpen: Big edge Boston.
The Indians’ bullpen has been adequate, but is suspect at best. Rafael Betancourt and Aaron Fultz have pitched well, but a closer with a 5.35 ERA? Come on.
Defense: Even.
Cleveland is a little weak on the corners, but very solid in the outfield, and Victor Martinez has worked hard to improve his defense at catcher.

Manager: Edge Boston.
Eric Wedge has never been invited to the post-party party.

Conclusion
The Indians are an interesting team, but they will need some help if they really want to win it this year.

Seattle Mariners (49-36)
4-2 against Boston

Lineup: Edge Boston.
Richie Sexson has not buoyed this lineup enough, and they do not produce enough extra base hits, though they have hit for average (.283 team average). A big part of that average, of course, comes from Ichiro Suzuki, who is hitting .359.

Starters: Big edge Boston.
Felix Hernandez can dominate any team if he’s on, and Jarrod Washburn and Miguel Batista have not been bad. But this rotation can’t measure up to any of these other teams here.

Bullpen: Slight edge Boston.
Seattle has J.J. Putz closing out games, who Boston has yet to get a hit off of this year. Beyond that, they have a lot of young arms who have gotten the job done.

Defense: Edge Seattle.
Seattle plays some pretty good defense, and is strong up the middle and at third base.

Manager: Big edge Boston.
Mike Hargrove just resigned, leaving the Mariners without a manger. Not a good sign at all. The team hasn’t been to the post-season since 2001.

Conclusion
Seattle has played well, but I wonder if the M’s can even make the playoffs under a new manager. More likely to me is either Oakland or Minnesota having a good second half (again) and sneaking into the post-season.

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5 Responses to How we might match up in the playoffs

  1. firedannyainge says:

    The Boston bullpen is ten times better then any other bull pen. There is no comparison.

    http://firedannyainge.wordpress.com

  2. donchoi says:

    Hey, I appreciate your enthusiasm, but let’s not forget that Okajima’s a rookie with an especially low BABIP and Papelbon’s shoulder issue. Donnelly and Lopez have been pretty solid, but Timlin is far from a sure thing for 2007. Pineiro has been no good. So why are they 10 times better?

    Just trying to temper my wild enthusiasm. I still think they have the best bullpen out there.

  3. firedannyainge says:

    PAPELBON! Plus don’t forget Delcarmen and I agree about Okajima being a rookie but I think its unfair how everyone says the Red Sox will fade. Not this year baby”)

  4. donchoi says:

    Delcarmen has looked great recently, let’s hope he can stick so we can dump Pineiro for a bag of baseballs.

    I am hoping you’re right about the Sox this year, FDA.

  5. firedannyainge says:

    I like Pinero. I think we should keep him for awhile at least. I like him better then Lopez

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