Now that Tim has started breaking down the archaic, stuck-in-the-19th century National League, it’s time for John S to focus on the American League, where our lineups actually go nine-deep and pitchers aren’t forced to pretend to know how to hit. As Tim did, we’ll being in the West.
The AL West is the most wide-open division in the American League, and probably in all of baseball this year. The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim won the division easily last year, as we’ve become accustomed to: They’ve won it five of the last six years. But the Angels lost their ace, John Lackey, their leadoff hitter, Chone Figgins, and their slugger, Vlad Guerrero, to free agency, and only really replaced Guerrero (by adding World Series MVP Hideki Matsui). Add in the fact that Guerrero and Figgins went to division rivals, and that every other team in the division made a significant addition to their rotation, and the Angels seem particularly vulnerable this year. Continue reading »
This is a question that has been on my mind since Tim undertook his massive investigation of the 1999 NLCS last week.
The seven-game playoff series (we’re not even going to talk about the atrocious five-game divisional format) is really one of the best things about sportswhen it unfolds right. It takes the highs and lows of a great game and stretches them over a week and a half. Rooting for a team involved a great series, as Tim can attest, essentially consumes your life for those days. You’re either riding a high from a great win, resentful and angry at the world after a bad loss, or anxiously awaiting an upcoming match-up. The best series have the dramatic arc of a great novel.
I’ve been thinking about this question because I’ve been wondering if the 2009 ALCS between the New York Yankees and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim was a Great Series. Superficially, it looks like one: two extra-inning, walk-off games, questionable managerial decisions, close contests in five out of six games. If not for inexplicable errors by Howie Kendrick and Scott Kazmir in Game 6, four of the six games would have been decided by one run. Continue reading »
Boston Red Sox (95-67) at Los Angeles Angels (97-65)
In 2004 and 2007, the Boston Red Sox swept the Los Angeles Angels in the ALDS en route to winning the World Series. I really hope that doesn’t happen again. People always make a big deal about Red Sox “having the Angels’ number” in the postseason. But the truth is that those teams were different from these teams: The Angels didn’t have Kendry Morales, Torii Hunter or Scott Kazmir, and Boston didn’t have Victor Martinez, Jason Bay or a steroidless David Ortiz. This series will actually probably come down to some marquee pitching matchups: Lester v. Lackey, Beckett v. Weaver.
It’s hard to believe, but the Angels more or less experienced no drop-off offensively when Mark Teixeira left last off-season. Kendry Morales, combined with the frugal but wise acquisition of Bobby Abreu, have actually made the 1-5 hitters in this lineup (Figgins-Abreu-Hunter-Guerrero-Morales) very scary.
The Red Sox lineup is harder to gauge: Jason Bay seemed like an MVP candidate for the first three months of the season, then cooled off dramatically, then picked it up a bit in September. David Ortiz had an atrocious first half, but has taken out the old syringe hitting stick and quietly become a power hitter again. Victor Martinez has been a great addition for them, but it puts them in an odd position of having to bench Jason Varitek (shouldn’t be that hard, but he’s the sentimental favorite and captain) or Mike Lowell. Continue reading »