Playoff Preview: Red Sox vs Angels
This will mark the fourth time in the last six years that the Red Sox and Angels have met in the postseason. In the first three series Boston came out the winner (and twice went on to win the World Series). This year though I wouldn’t be booking my Boston ALCS tickets just yet though. The 2009 Angels are a better team than they were in the past. At the same time the Red Sox are falling, due to injury and ineffectiveness.
David Ortiz salvaged his year with a late power surge, but his offensive numbers were way down this year. Ortiz was awful this year against LHP’s which is something he’ll face quite a bit of in this series, as two of the Angels starters and their top two relievers are southpaws. Alex Gonzalez and Jason Varitek have become automatic outs in the Red Sox lineup. Mike Lowell has battled injuries all year, and while his offensive numbers have been solid, his defensive numbers are way down. Defense has become a big problem across the board on this team, as with the exception of Drew, Gonzalez, Youkilis (only at 1B) and Pedroia, everyone else is well below average defensively. Now to be fair those four players are all very good defenders at their positions, but they don’t make up for how bad the rest of the team is. Teams can run all day on Varitek and Martinez behind the plate, and moving V-Mart to 1B significantly weakens the defense as well. For all Ellsbury’s speed and range (and surprising good arm) he has been a liability in centerfield for Boston. Jason Bay, like many other outfielders before him, as looked completely lost playing in front of the Green Monster. On the pitching side of it, the Red Sox will need to rely on Dice-K to continue to overcome the control issues that plagued him at the beginning of the season, and Clay Buchholtz will need to give them a big time quality start in Game 3. Boston’s bullpen was thought to be their strength this season, but has overall been a bit of a disappointment. When they are on and have control they are devastating, because of the number of power arms they have. Unfortunately they have seemed to disappear in a number of big games down the stretch.
The best news for Anaheim is that their strengths are Boston’s weaknesses. While the Angels have some power hitters, they put more balls in play that should drop for hits against a weak Boston defense. Anaheim also relies on taking walks and speed which works pretty nicely against a Red Sox staff that has control issues right now, and a catching tandem that can’t throw anyone out. The Angels have a fairly strong defense across the board, with Bobby Abreu the only real liability in right field. The Angels have a strong staff four deep, but its not a dominate playoff staff. The best thing going for it is the two lefties (Kazmir and Saunders) that should make Big Papi completely ineffective in Boston. Which is huge considering he hit two-thirds of his home runs at Fenway this year, and batted 50 points higher. If he’s out then that means that Varitek is likely starting (with V-Mart at 1B, Youk at 3B, and Lowell DH’ing) hurting the lineup offensively and defensively.
The bad news for the Angels is in the end they are still going up against a lineup of Ellsbury, Pedroia,Youkilis, Bay, V-Mart, Lowell, and Drew. Not to mention facing a battery of Lester and Beckett in the first two games, with Papelbon closing the door. I do think in the star power and experience of the Red Sox will in out in the end. No they might not have the best bench, or defense. And there are more questions in their lineup and bullpen than in years past. But at the end of the day they are still the Boston Red Sox, and at the end of the series I think they will be advancing after squeaking by 3-2 in the matchup.