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October 4, 2013

Playoff Prospectus

ALDS Preview: Rays at Red Sox

by Zachary Levine


Thanks to the stipulation in the latest playoff format that says intradivisional division series are kosher, the 2013 playoffs have now given us a second one, and a very intriguing series. The Red Sox went 12-7 this season against the Rays and took the division, and as a reward, they have the home-field advantage with the Rays’ rotation slightly out of whack.

The storyline to watch is whether or not Tampa Bay’s exertion just to get to this point matters or if its pitching against the best offense in baseball will continue to roll like it has through the Rangers and Indians.

Projected Lineups (AVG/OBP/SLG/TAv)

Red Sox
CF-L Jacoby Ellsbury (.298/.355/.426/.270)
RF-R Shane Victorino (.294/.351/.451/.285)
2B-R Dustin Pedroia (.301/.372/.415/.281)
DH-L David Ortiz (.309/.395/.564/.324)
1B-R Mike Napoli (.259/.360/.482/.287)
OF-S Daniel Nava (.303/.385/.445/.302)
C-S Jarrod Saltalamacchia (.273/.338/.466/.281)
SS-L Stephen Drew (.253/.333/.443/.272)
3B-R Will Middlebrooks (.227/.271/.425/.234)

The best offense in the American League won’t be slowed by much, but despite the extremely balanced look to it, you can contain the Sox a little bit—knocking off 18 points of team OBP and 48 points of slugging—by throwing a lefty at them. Sure you’re getting Victorino’s good side, but you’re also neutralizing the Red Sox’s biggest offensive weapon, turning David Ortiz into a .249 TAv hitter instead of a .366 TAv hitter against righties. With the Rays potentially throwing David Price and Matt Moore three times, this will be the issue that Boston must solve. Look for them to give Jonny Gomes a couple starts in place of Nava against lefties—Gomes has made 54 of his 76 starts against lefties.

But overall this is a powerful group from top to bottom. Everyone above had at least nine home runs, and Gomes and Mike Carp made it 11 players to reach that mark. It will be a challenge for any pitcher of either handedness, and more than the Rays saw with Texas or the Indians.

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