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Breaking down Red Sox vs. Angels: Keys to the ALDS

October 7, 2009

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.

ANGELS KEYS

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.

16 Comments leave one →
  1. Joe permalink
    October 7, 2009 7:22 am

    Hey Curt. You hinting at A Rod? LOL (with the exception of guys who suck in the postseason),

  2. Rhayader permalink
    October 7, 2009 7:32 am

    Great stuff Curt, thanks for the analysis. Any chance we’ll see you some day on Baseball Tonight, or MLB Network or something? You have a fantastic perspective.

    Also, man what a battle that Tigers-Twins game was last night. Instant classic.

  3. Mike permalink
    October 7, 2009 9:20 am

    Agree on most of this… two biggest issues in my eyes: the command of Lester/Beckett/Buchholz. Buchholz is the wild card here; if he can limit himself to 2 walks over a 6 inning start, we have a very high chance of winning. And second, the Red Sox bullpen is outstanding. Papelbon is a top-5 closer. Saito has been for the last 3 years (his stats over that time are eerily similar to Papelbon’s). Wagner has been a top-5 closer for a decade, and like Saito, hasn’t lost too much in rehab. Okajima could be traded to 20 teams in the MLB and would immediately be their best reliever. Delcarmen has the quietest 3.60 career ERA I’ve seen in quite some time. And Bard has “struggled lately”, bringing his ERA all the way up to a 3.65. The Sox’ 6th best reliever has a 100 mph fastball and 65 Ks in 50 IP.

    On the other hand, it’s a 5-game series, so who knows.

  4. Gary permalink
    October 7, 2009 9:27 am

    Excellent points. For lester and beckett, it is definitely the case that commanding the fastball is key. Also, I believe Lester is more dominant when he uses both sides of the plate. I noticed against the yankees he was busting the ball in too much and was leaving his cutter up and had a flat trajectory. True, it was one start, but he needs, in my opinion, to mix up locations, up, down, side to side more. When he is nailing that outside corner on his throwing side, his inside cutter is much more effective in my opinion.

  5. October 7, 2009 10:27 am

    Hey Curt…………..why not put Angel Hernandez in there with Gibson and Buckner………you would have the three umpires who show themselves up without anmy help from anybody……they all three are pitiful and should have been gone long ago. Stick a hotdog in there hand and send em down the road.

  6. NHBill permalink
    October 7, 2009 10:54 am

    The most to-the-point sports commentary I have ever read.
    You have improved my enjoyment of this series before the first pitch!
    Thanks Curt!

  7. Justin Bigos permalink
    October 7, 2009 11:16 am

    Dear Curt,
    It’s interesting that you say hitters are at their peak performance in October. I’d think that hitters–even good ones–would be a bit worn out from 162 games. Are good hitters at their peak in October because of great conditioning, superior mentality/adrenaline, or both? Thanks.
    JB

  8. victor permalink
    October 7, 2009 6:44 pm

    why did you waste all that time, Curt? You should have just said the Angels suck and the Red Sox rule. I know you’re a Sox homer but jeez, TRY and have an objective opinion, man.

    I will agree with you on the umpiring. Most Angels fans I know, including myself, were not happy with this selection. Joe West’s umpiring at Angels stadium this year was embarrassing. Beckett throwing at Abreu was intentional and he tosses THREE Angels from the game and allows Beckett to continue? I agree that the umpiring in this series will play a pivotal role, I’m most worried that it will likely favor the Sox

  9. soxrule04 permalink
    October 8, 2009 11:27 am

    CURT, WHILE YOU ALWAYS ARE PROFESSIONAL- AND I VALUE YOUR OPINION, YOURE ONE SIDED ANALYSIS IS PRETTY AMUSING. (TO THE COMMENTER WHO ASKED IF CURT WOULD EVER BE ON BASBALL TONIGHT- YES, THEY WOULD HIRE HIM BASED ON STATURE AND SHOCK VALUE- BUT HIS ONE SIDEDNESS AND LACK OF OBJECTION WOULD NEVER MAKE FOR GOOD NATIONAL TV. HEY, HE’D BE GREAT AT DOING RED SOX GAMES, THOUGH!!)
    CURT- YOU RETIRED 2 YEARS AGO. AND YOUR POSTING BLOGS ABOUT “THE RED SOX KEYS TO VICTORY”?? HAHA ARE YOU STILL ON THEIR PAYROLL? I MEAN, YOU WERENT EVEN A LIFE RED SOX PLAYER- YOU PLAYED FOR WHAT- 2-3 DIFFERENT TEAMS?? HOW BOUT THE PHILIES KEY TO VICORY?? I COULDNT EVEN PICTURE DEREK JETER DOING THIS AFTER RETIREMENT (AND HE IS A LIFE LONG YANKEE) HAHA FACT IS- YOU ARE SO ENVELOPED IN BASKING IN RED SOX NATION’S ADORATION OF YOU- YOU CONTINUE TO EAT IT UP YEARS AFTER YOUR RETIREMENT. WHO DOES THAT?? I CANT THINK OF ANYONE- EVER (WHO ISNT BEING PAID TO DO SO) WHO HAS. YOUR OBSESSION WITH ATTENTION IS LAUGHABLE- MY 18 MONTH OLD SON DOESNT EVEN NEED ATTENTION AS BAD AS YOU. HILLARIOUS!!

  10. Mike permalink
    October 8, 2009 3:07 pm

    Curt,
    spot on analysis. my only gripe is the incorrect usage of literally. the game will still be 9 innings, so they will not literally shorten the game to 6 innings. pet peeve. David Cross does an excellent piece on this phenomenon.

  11. Steve permalink
    October 8, 2009 5:22 pm

    Curt,

    Nice concise analysis, especially regarding the starting pitchers and their fist time through the Angles lineup. Everything DOES depending on commanding the fastball!
    Admire your baseball expertise, your politics, not so much.

  12. Rhayader permalink
    October 8, 2009 10:49 pm

    Wow Curt, you absolutely nailed it with Buckner. Just terrible.

  13. Ryan permalink
    October 9, 2009 8:03 am

    Schill, can’t agree with you more about Bucknor. You called that one. Come to find out that he also was voted one of the worst umpires in baseball in a handful of SI player polls in recent years. How does someone like that make the postseason??

  14. Mike Clarke permalink
    October 10, 2009 9:42 pm

    Curt, on a totally unrelated topic, I once heard you say on air that Randy Johnson, when you and he were teammates, was one of the five most recognizable faces on the planet. My questionwould be: What planet?

  15. blue dog permalink
    October 11, 2009 1:26 am

    Yeah, you’re right on Curt. The Angels don’t stand a chance…

  16. Mark permalink
    October 13, 2009 4:38 pm

    Hey Curt…what do you think of your Sox now???? In a word, S-P-A-N-K-E-D……but I guess it’s all because of the umpiring, right?????? Buh-bye!

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