Monday, October 1, 2007

Sizing Up the American League Final Four

The Padres/Rockies game has been pretty good so far, anything but a pitcher's duel, but some great hitting. The Rockies have great fans, which is awesome because you don't usually think of Colorado as a baseball hotbed...

Anyway, here's what you need to know about the 2007 AL Playoff Teams, keeping in mind that I don't know any team as well as the Yankees:

Anaheim Angels: This is a team that just gets to you. They don't do it with the long ball, they don't have the best pitching staff ever assembled...they just get it done. They do all the little things, on offense and defense. That Boston picked the longer series, meaning that the Angels only need three starters, plays decisively in the Angels favor.

Strengths: Speed and small ball. The Angels, with the exception of Vladimir Guerrero, don't have real home run hitters; instead they get it done with small ball. Chone Figgins and Gary Matthews, Jr. can probably out small ball every other team in the major leagues combined. If Chone Figgins is kept off base or Matthews comes up with the bases empty, other teams should be able to breathe a little easier...

Weaknesses: Lack of power and health. Small ball can kill you, yes, but sometimes--like in the bottom of the ninth, with two out, you need the big blow. The Angels lack the big home run bat, except for Guerrero, but this brings up another issue: the Angels are banged up. Of all the AL playoff teams, they have the most serious question marks in terms of who can play and who can't. I haven't heard of anyone on the Angels sporting TOUGH ALL DAY shirts, but maybe they'll surprise us all.

Boston Red Sox: I admit, it's hard to be objective about your most-despised rival, but here goes nothing...Boston's going to be hard to beat for anyone, but get them outside of Fenway and you stand a reasonable chance. Their line up simply doesn't produce as much if Manny Ramirez isn't hitting directly behind David Ortiz, and their pitching is questionable after Josh Beckett--Daisuke Matsuzaka and Curt Schilling have not looked like aces of late. Their bullpen can be unhittable or implosive, and you're never quite sure what you're going to get.

Strengths: Fenway Park and clutch hitting. Say what you will, but in the ninth inning, David Ortiz is downright scary. Any team playing in Fenway and leading by two runs or less in the ninth inning with David Ortiz due up second, third or fourth will have a tough time. The Red Sox need just to take one game on the road from the Angels, and come back to Fenway to have a favorable chance of making it to the ALCS.

Weaknesses: Pitching. It's presumptive, I know, but the fact is, outside of Josh Beckett, the Red Sox staff has been mediocre of late. With Clay Buchholz shut down, the Red Sox lose a clear 'X factor' pitcher, both as a starter and out of the bullpen. Okajima's arm has been tired; the Red Sox can only hope he's got a little gas left in the tank.

Cleveland Indians: Of all the AL playoff contenders, the Indians are probably the team that will be considered the least likely to advance to the World Series, and that itself makes them more dangerous. Who would have picked St. Louis to win the World Series last year?

Strengths: 1-2 Punch, power. C.C. Sabathia and Fausto Carmona are dangerous. Even if Westbrook/Byrd/et. al can't get it done, Sabathia and Carmona are good enough for three wins, four wins and four wins. Most of their bullpen's not half-bad, either. Oh, and this team can hit a bit, as well.

Weaknesses: Borowski and youth. Cleveland's got a closer that sports an ERA over 5.00. Not exactly the guy you want up there in the ninth inning in a close game. Cleveland's youth could also work against them--not many on the team have playoff experience, and this is likely to be a growing experience as much as a playoff one.

New York Yankees: I won't pretend to be unbiased, because we all know I'm not, but again, here goes! The Yankees are scary in the playoffs. This isn't the team of 02-06, this is a team that seems to enjoy playing baseball, that put together a comeback of a historical scale that almost rivals the collapse of the cross-town Mets, and that seems to have just that right mix of rookie, veteran and odd ball.

Strengths: History and, well, history. Don't give me that look, it's not as grasping as you think it is. The Yankees are 26 time World Champions, we all know that, and they've got nearly 40 AL pennants. The Yankees KNOW the playoffs, they've been there. They know clutch pitching and clutch hitting, how it's the little things--like leaving Pedro in--that win games just as much as Boone's home run.

Weaknesses: Bullpen outside of Joba Chamberlain and Mo Rivera. You guys are all Yankees fans, right? Do I really have to explain this?

Anyway, my predictions, which should at best be taken with a grain of salt:

Boston defeats LAA in five
NYY defeats Cleveland in four

I'll do the NL tomorrow, I have a feeling that this Rockies/Padres game might not be over for a while...


  1. Yanks vs. Phils in series

    Yanks in 6.

  2. Great blog Becca, I enjoy reading it everyday!

    Keep up the good work! Any live blogging during the play-offs?

  3. I ws thinking that too--that the Rockies have great fans. And then I remembered how full of Yankee fans Coors field was for the Yankees series. They're great when something exciting happens. Coors Field sells out for exciting games, i.e. Yankee games, I'd assume Red Sox games, and this playoff/play-in game.

    That one lady over by the "was it or wasn't it" home run was pretty excited though.

  4. Aaron--Thank you! Not sure about live blogging during the playoffs, but maybe. It'll depend on my coursework.

    Andrea--It was a home run!

    Holliday never touched the plate, it was such a make up call!

  5. I didn't see the end of the game. My cable went out. I woke up waiting for cable to come back on to watch sportscenter. I didn't find out until I could go online at like noon. No clue why the cable went out, but I was upset.