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Tuesday, October 11, 2005

SERIES PREVIEW: ANGELS VS. WHITE SOX
Two speed-defense-pitching teams meet for the American League Deathmatch.

MEET THE TEAMS
                          Pythag  Park-Adjusted  
Team W L RS RA W L RS RA
Angels 95 67 761 643 94 68 794 671
ChiSox 99 63 741 645 91 71 722 629
You are likely to hear about how the White Sox have more power than the Angels. In terms of home runs, that is true, as they hit 200 homers to the Angels 147. But the Angels scored more runs despite playing in a pitchers’ park.

Where the White Sox excelled this season was in run prevention, where they did even better than the Angels.

POSITION PLAYERS
Here’s how the teams’ frontline position players match up, using Baseball Prospectus' Equivalent Average for hitters (.260 is league average, and the figure is park-adjusted); that's Caught Stealing Percentage for catchers and zone rating for fielders:
              Angels                   White Sox
Pos Player EqA CS% Player EqA CS%
C BMolina .269 .313 Pirznski .243 .225

EqA ZR EqA ZR
1B Erstad .246 .913 Konerko .298 .845
2B Kennedy .264 .836 Iguchi .266 .834
3B Quinlan .228 .753 Crede .251 .799
SS Cabrera .243 .843 Uribe .240 .852
LF Anderson .254 .864 Podsdnk .252 .898
CF Figgins .272 .859 Rowand .253 .939
RF Vlad .324 .880 Dye .277 .891
DH Rivera .254 Everett .250

C JMolina .223 Widger .225
IF Izturis .235 Ozuna .226
OF Finley .224 Perez .191
DH Kotchman .284 Blum .155
Like the Yankees did against the Angels, the Halos have an offensive advantage at nearly every position. That may increase if Garret Anderson can continue his 2002/2003 impression. But the White Sox make up for some of that with defense, maintaining edges at most positions, though some of those advantages are pretty slight.

Yes, I still consider Steve Finley part of the bench, despite the fact he’ll start every game that doesn’t have Mark Buehrle. But no matter how you shake it out, the Angel bench is at least as good as the Chicago bench, due in large part to Casey Kotchman being a real baseball player.

PITCHING
Let’s take a look at the pitching side, with park-adjusted ERA and Baseball Prospectus' Pitching Runs Above Average (a park-adjusted figure):
                Angels                            White Sox
Pitcher IP ERA /Adj RAA IP ERA /Adj RAA
Colon 222.7 3.48 3.63 18 Buehrle 236.7 3.12 3.04 17
Lackey 209.0 3.44 3.59 16 Garcia 228.0 3.87 3.78 11
Byrd 204.3 3.74 3.90 7 Cntras 204.7 3.61 3.52 12
Washburn 177.3 3.20 3.34 18 Garland 221.0 3.50 3.41 18
Santana 133.7 4.65 4.85 -6 McCrthy 67.0 4.03 3.93 3

K-Rod 67.3 2.67 2.78 24 Jenks 39.3 2.75 2.68 4
Shields 91.7 2.75 2.87 19 Marte 45.3 3.77 3.68 3
Escobar 59.7 3.02 3.15 7 Cotts 60.3 1.94 1.89 11
Donnelly 65.3 3.72 3.88 3 Politte 67.3 2.00 1.95 18
Hermnsn 57.3 2.04 1.99 19
As you see, the White Sox pitching staff has been outstanding. The caveats are small – Buehrle gave up quite a bit of unearned runs (17, a considerable number), and Jon Garland has been pretty much getting guys out with mirrors and groundballs.

Their bullpen is good, deep, and rested: I didn’t even have room up there for Orlando Hernandez, who shut down the Red Sox in their ALDS Game 3 (though I'm unsure as to whether McCarthy will end up on the ALCS roster). This is a tough team to score runs against.

One of the more fascinating stories of this series has to do with Bobby Jenks, who emerged from the Los Angeles of Anaheim doghouse to become a formidable closer for the White Sox. When Jenks was doing well in the minors earlier this year, I said, “I wish him well, while simultaneously hoping that letting him go doesn't come back to bite us.” I still wish that.

As you know, the health of Bartolo Colon and Jarrod Washburn is currently in question, and their potential absence/diminished ability could really harm the Angels in a long series.

HOW THEY WILL TRY TO WIN
Stylistically, these are two of the most similar teams in the majors. Both emphasize pitching, defense, and baserunning, and staying in the game to get a big hit from the likes of Vlad and Paul Konerko. As such, get ready for a lot of glove work and a lot of pressuring the defense, as the two teams will scratch and scratch to get what projects to be a scarce amount of runs.

High concept? It’s going to be like the 1960s out there. It could be fun.

PREVIOUS MATCHUPS
The Angels were 6-4 against the White Sox in 2005, and many of the games have been close and marked by good pitching and big plays. However, the Angels did outscore the Sox 50-36 in those games, benefiting from a couple of blowouts.

May 23, at Angel Stadium: Angels 4, White Sox 0
Until last night, this was the Ervin Santana Game. The Kid mystified the White Sox for nine innings, registering his first major league win with a complete game shutout. This was a huge 2005 highlight for the Angels.

May 24, at Angel Stadium: White Sox 2, Angels 1
Esteban Yan sucked, as the Angels lost in the eleventh. Mark Buehrle went nine strong innings, and Bartolo Colon seven in a contest of Cy Young Award candidates.

May 25, at Angel Stadium: White Sox 4, Angels 2
Freddy Garcia outlasted Jarrod Washburn, getting home run help from Konerko and Chris Widger.

May 26, at Angel Stadium: Angels 3, White Sox 2
Dallas McPherson launched a two-run homer off of Jose Contreras to secure a victory for John Lackey.

May 30, at New Comiskey Cellular US Park: White Sox 5, Angels 4
Timo Perez, of all people, singled in two runs in the bottom of the ninth to give the White Sox the victory and hand Scot Shields his second blown save of the year.

May 31, at US Cellular New Comiskey Park: White Sox 5, Angels 4
This time Brendan Donnelly drew the loss, giving up a ninth-inning leadoff homer to Jermaine Dye.

June 1, at New US Cellular Field Park Comiskey: Angels 10, White Sox 7
The Angels were able to scrape out one game behind Paul Byrd, as Dallas McPherson drove in three runs and Frankie K. returned from the DL to shakily close out the win (a non-save situation).

September 9, at Chicago South Stadium: Angels 6, Whtie Sox 5
This was the night of Vlad’s Mad Dash, where he scored from second on a sacrifice bunt, all to make up for nearly getting thrown out at second on what should have been an easy double. It was pure Vlad – insane, ill-advised, and game-winning.

September 10, at the White Sox Place of Playing: Angels 10, White Sox 5
Bartolo was suffering from back stiffness, but still managed six solid innings. The Angels jumped on Jon Garland in the middle innings and never looked back.

September 11, at Comiskey II: Angels 6, White Sox 1
Legs Figgins, Darin Erstad, and Garret Anderson all homered in the first off of El Duque, so by the time Brandon McCarthy entered the game to calm things down, it didn’t matter. John Lackey pitched a strong seven innings for his twelfth win.

WHAT WILL HAPPEN
Two teams that mirror each other strength for strength and fight to the death all the way will … fight to the death all the way.

The Angels might seem at a disadvantage with the travel, and maybe they will be at one in Game 1 tonight. But perhaps they will have more continuity without having so many days off, and will maintain their level of intensity. It’s hard to know in advance, of course.

As mentioned above, the health of Bartolo and Washburn is gonna be huge. Ervin Santana proved last night that there’s still gas in his tank, but having a healthy Colon would clearly be ideal.

I would expect these games to come down to the two dominant bullpens. With the time off, the White Sox have a bit of an advantage there. But the Angels are facing a team they out-hit, a relatively rare occurrence, and the Angels have a defense good enough to not give away outs, especially on the infield.

And remember this: the Angels just took out the Yankees without any huge offensive contributions from The Legs or The Vlad. If someone finds The Vladiator’s on-switch, watch out.

Comments:
"...due in large part to Casey Kotchman being a real baseball player."

You want to tell that to Mike Scioscia?
 
Where the White Sox excelled this season was in run prevention, where they did even better than the Angels.

No they didn't. They had a better ERA. The Angels allowed fewer runs. 643 to 645.
 
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