For the past couple of years I’ve done the “Dr. Jack-style breakdown” for the playoff series by comparing the staters of one team to the starters of the other, the bullpens, the offenses, etc. But considering that the Sox have played the The Angles Angels of Anaheim in the ALDS the past two seasons, that seems like a bit of overkill. Instead, I’m going to look at the major issues that will either win or lose the Sox this series:
1. Josh Beckett. The man was the ALCS MVP in 2007, although you could have just called him the playoff MVP that year. Last year he had back problems and was mediocre bordering on crappy, and the Sox were within a game of the World Series. Sadly, he’s been having back problems in the last couple of weeks, so that begs the question: will we get the “playoff” Josh Beckett, or the injured back Josh Beckett?
2. How much are the umpires going to have a hand in determining the series? This crew reads like a who’s-who of umpires that you’ve heard of because they make it their business to try and take over a game. Joe West, CB Bucknor, Eric Cooper, Greg Gibson, Brian Gorman and Dan Iassogna. Why not throw Angel Hernandez in there too? Or is MLB saving him for the ALCS?
My first thought when seeing this crew was “oh shit, this is gonna suck.” However, the more I thought about it, the crew may work in the Sox favor. You see, Mike Scioscia bitches and whines more than any other manager I’ve seen (see here, or here). He makes Youks and Papi look like mutes. So with Joe West and company, you wonder if he’s going to piss them off just enough to get a few extra calls to go the Sox way.
3. Can the offense finally hit #1 and #2 pitchers? We know they can crush the three, four and five pitchers for the Orioles, but ever since June it seems like they struggle more than the average team when facing the ace and #2. Lackey certainly is no Zack Grienke with a 3.83 ERA, and Weaver’s numbers are heavily skewed towards the first half of the season (Trust me, he was on my fantasy team. Before the ASG he was magnificent, after he was average). And Scott Kazmir has an .834 OPS-against the current Sox lineup. But it’s going to be up to the offense to try to get the Sox a slim lead or at least keep it tied before entering the Angels’ pen.
Will these three points determine the outcome of the series? If my track record means anything, then absolutely not. But truthfully, I won’t care as long as the Sox find a way to push the The Angels Angels of Anaheim to the curb for the fourth time in six years. Oh, and in case you didn’t believe me about the bitching, let me leave you with this gem from last year: