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Tuesday, August 31, 2004

NOT YOUR FOREFATHER'S TEA PARTY
Well, before the Minnesota series, I went and did a series preview, but then Kelvim got booted to heal from Beckettitis and all my match-ups were torn asunder. Call me crazy: I tempt fate once again.

                                     Park Adjusted

Team W L RS RA PythW PythL RS RA
BOS 76 53 739 601 78 51 700 570
ANA 75 55 677 600 73 57 692 613
Unlike the Minnesota series, it seems clear that Boston is better than us. But the advantage is not-so-much with the offense, as you might expect. Fenway has inflated run-scoring by 11% this year, while Anaheim has diminished scoring by about 4% (see all park factors here).

Acknowledging the ballpark really puts the pitching in perspective. The Boston rotation has a 4.17 ERA this year, which falls to 3.95 once you take the park into account. Not too shabby, and downright scary when you consider the Angel starters have an ERA of 4.81 before you take the park into account (4.92 after). Also, the Boston bullpen, which last year did its best French Army impersonation, has a raw ERA of 3.77 this season -- 3.57 after adjusting for the park; Anaheim is at 3.48 before and 3.56 after -- a very even match-up.

And whereas Boston's defense has been much maligned this season, and was the cause of Theo Epstein's deadline moves, their Defensive Efficiency Record (the amount of outs recorded per ball in play) just edges out the Angels. Defense is not really a strength for either team.

So you have two teams with good offenses, very good bullpens, and mediocre defenses. The main difference is Boston's advantage in starting pitching. You can see why many are picking Boston to win the wild card (though Eric Neel demurs here, and says some things I agree with). Let's take a look at the match-ups as to what promises to be an exciting and promising series:

Pitcher    ERA   Adj  K/BF  BB/BF  HR/BF

Lackey 5.00 5.11 .158 .063 .030
Schilling 3.38 3.20 .214 .038 .026
No Duh Alert: Curt Schilling is one of the best pitchers in the game, and John Jekyl/Lackey Hyde one of the most inconsistent. This doesn't really bode well for the Angels, but Lackey has demonstrated the ability to step up in big games before. If Jekyl shows up, this could be a great game.

Pitcher    ERA   Adj  K/BF  BB/BF  HR/BF

Sele 4.35 4.45 .093 .089 .032
Arroyo 4.07 3.86 .192 .064 .021
On paper, it's impossible to see how Aaron Sele wins anything. Watching him pitch, it's impossible to understand how he manages to get people out. He's like Kirk Rueter or someone, a finesse pitcher in extremis, who can sometimes make it work. Bronson Arroyo, in the meanwhile, is having quite a good season himself (though his 7-9 record betrays Kelvimesque run support). You can see that he's better than Sele in every rate stat. But if Sele can keep the Lads in the game ...

Pitcher    ERA   Adj  K/BF  BB/BF  HR/BF

Colon 5.38 5.50 .173 .082 .046
Lowe 5.22 4.95 .122 .083 .019
Looking at the season numbers, you see that both pitchers have been big disappointments to their teams. But we can dig deeper. Lowe has been very inconsistent (just check out his game log and how the ERAs jump around like they're at a House of Pain concert). Derek Lowe is also the posterboy for the struggles of the Boston defense, as he has allowed 26 unearned runs this year. Now, we can probably blame him for some of those. And despite his struggles in his last start, I still have a good feeling about Colon. On paper (or computer screen), this is the one game where the Angels have a big advantage.

This series' importance for the Angels is clear. One-and-a-half games out of the wild card right now, they cannot afford to be swept. Winning only one game wouldn't be the end of the world, and winning the series just keeps us in it. This is another one of those series that can only break, but can't by itself make, your season. I honestly think we have the guns to take this thing, and to knock around Arroyo and Lowe. Schilling may be a tall order, but stranger things have happened.

Best of all, we've got two hot teams playing in September with postseason implications -- this is baseball at its finest.

Comments:
Sorry, Sox fan here. This should be a terrific series. I'm most surprised to see that the Angels' and Sox defenses are almost the same. I'm not sure if DER takes it into account, but it seems like everyone in the Angels' outfield has a cannon, whereas the Sox outfielders have average to below-average arms at best. The Angels' better outfield arms should be especially dangerous at Fenway in particular, which I believe is a big doubles park; not to mention the Sox have been running into all kinds of outs at home plate recently. I can't believe the bullpens are even close to similar, either, with the Angels' relief depth. I don't know if I'd agree that Boston looks like the superior team, but that might just be idiotic Sox fan in me. They look better on paper, but the Red Sox certainly have their hands full. With Glaus back, I think the teams could be pretty evenly matched.

I'll be at the game on thursday, and I can't wait to get a good look at Colon and Guerrero especially. The Angels are such an exciting team to watch, and now the seasons of both teams are really hanging in the balance.
 
Sorry, Sox fan here. This should be a terrific series. I'm most surprised to see that the Angels' and Sox defenses are almost the same. I'm not sure if DER takes it into account, but it seems like everyone in the Angels' outfield has a cannon, whereas the Sox outfielders have average to below-average arms at best. The Angels' better outfield arms should be especially dangerous at Fenway in particular, which I believe is a big doubles park; not to mention the Sox have been running into all kinds of outs at home plate recently. I can't believe the bullpens are even close to similar, either, with the Angels' relief depth. I don't know if I'd agree that Boston looks like the superior team, but that might just be idiotic Sox fan in me. They look better on paper, but the Red Sox certainly have their hands full. With Glaus back, I think the teams could be pretty evenly matched.

I'll be at the game on thursday, and I can't wait to get a good look at Colon and Guerrero especially. The Angels are such an exciting team to watch, and now the seasons of both teams are really hanging in the balance.
 
The main difference is in ... starting pitching? Sure, they've got Pedro and Schilling, but come on, they've also got a bunch of guys who can and do hit the ball out of the park. We've got a gimpy Glaus, Salmon's on the DL, and the rest of the club is hitting singles. Unless you think Adam Kennedy's going to turn into Barry Bonds, the difference can be found in the outfield and corner infield positions.
 
The outfield and corner infield positions are a part of it, but that ouftield gap isn't as big as you think.

(sorry for the non-html)

Position OPS /Adj
ANA LF 880 900
BOS LF 966 916

ANA CF 731 747
BOS CF 831 788

ANA RF 977 999
BOS RF 782 741

See? Vlad makes up for a lot.

ANA 3B 837 855
BOS 3B 787 746

I should have ben more clear; we're not quite as good as them offensively, but it's a *lot* closer than you think.

As for the defense question ... yes, arms accounted for. And you may be right that Fenway will increase the value of the Angel outfield arms.
 
"and how the ERAs jump around like they're at a House of Pain concert"

can I please get that on a t-shirt?
 
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