Breaking down Red Sox vs. Angels: Keys to the ALDS
RED SOX KEYS
1) Lester/Beckett fastball command — Look at their first time through the lineup. If Josh is commanding the outside corner to right-handed hitters, and Jon is commanding the inside corner to right-handed hitters, they’ll win. It won’t take that long IMO, but give them one time through. Normally I wouldn’t give them nine hitters, but I really have issues with seeing any starter from LA shut down the Sox lineup to where one first-inning run loses a game.
2) Ellsbury — He’s more dangerous on the bases than any Angels player, and if he’s on and causing problems for Angels starters, it adds a worry I don’t think they are considering as they head into the series. The Sox have 6-8 guys who can take you deep. If Jacoby on the bases is an issue, it could wreck all sorts of game-planning by Angels pitchers against Sox hitters.
3) Seventh and eighth innings — Yeah, you love to have a ‘pen full of options, but in October few teams have, or use, multiple pitchers out of the bullpen before the closer. If Oki can find a partner in Bard or Saito, or if Wagner is throwing strikes and has his usual stuff, the Sox could literally shorten games to six innings.
1) Team speed is useless if you don’t get on. It’s a double-edged sword. Team speed works when your hitters are patient and work counts. If you do that, and Josh and Jon are commanding their fastballs, you lose.
2) Someone in their rotation must show shut-down capability. It’s a staff-wide thing. If they get pounded in Game 1, that stuff steamrolls a rotation. I’ve been on both sides, and they don’t have a power arm to stop the Sox. Game 1 is going to be huge in either enforcing or changing the “Here we go again” mentality
3) Mike Scioscia — Team speed is useless if the manager doesn’t use it. I never felt the Angels were aggressive in October. It almost felt like their season-long formula of manufacturing runs stopped when the calendar turned to avoid having “outs” being made by the manager. Likely not true, but I will be interested to see if they push it. I don’t think they have any choice but to run, run fast, and run often. The only bat that you might worry about for every game is Morales.
ATTACKING THE ANGELS LINEUP
The key to beating them is literally there before the game starts. If you can get the ball to home in 1.25 seconds or less, you can stop many running situations. Taking away team speed is like taking hitters OUT of the lineup.
Obviously: “You can’t steal first base.” Walks, or lack thereof, will be HUGE this series, depending on who you are talking about. The OBP of a walk is 1.000. When the BEST hitters put the BEST hitter’s-count pitches in play, they still make outs 50-75 percent of the time. If you can understand that approach, you stay within the strike zone and great things happen.
To be honest, one of my biggest fears is the umpiring crew. This is about as bad a crew as I have ever seen assembled. Joe West, for all his pomp and circumstance, can ump a game. C.B. Buckner? Greg Gibson? Not so much. I’m blown away that A) They made the postseason and B) They are umping what I think will be the most-watched series. If I HAD to put them on the postseason roster, I’d try to hide them on the outfield foul lines of Colorado. Look for BOTH to have game impact in this series.
From the standpoint of shutting down the Angels hitters, Sox pitchers know pitch-by-pitch, AB-by-AB and situation-by-situation the best possible plan to get these guys out. The entire staff knows it. I won’t put game plans in here. Not that the Angels hitters don’t know what they are going to see, but I don’t want to help if I don’t have to.
It will come down to execution. All three guys – Beckett, Lester and Clay Buchholz — will thrive on the same thing. Josh’s curveball, Jon’s cutter and Clay’s change and curveball will ONLY be huge pitches if they are commanding their fastballs. Never is that more important than October, and at no time is it more important than that first time through the lineup.
You generally don’t get a second time around if you are lacking fastball command. Hitters, good ones, are at peak performance (with the exception of guys who suck in the postseason), and you don’t get a second chance to make a mistake.