It's a Beast-less ALCS, as the White Sox and Angels square off in what figures to be a dramatic series.
The aborted decision to move the opening game of the American League Championship Series back a day in light of Saturday's rainout ensured that regardless of who advanced on Monday night, the real winners were the White Sox. While the Angels were logging some 4,700 air miles to make their third game in three days in three different time zones, the Sox were enjoying three days off at home, basking in the afterglow of having eliminated the defending World Champion Red Sox in three straight games for the team's first postseason series win since before Shoeless Joe said it was so.
Notebook catches up with the Angels and Astros to assess their playoff chances.
The problem is that there doesn't seem to be much room for improvement given how impressive the Astros starting pitching has been. Three teams have three players in the top 20 in Pitcher's VORP, the Chicago White Sox, Washington Nationals, and Astros. The Astros version of the Big Three is quite obviously Roger Clemens (first), Roy Oswalt (fourth), and Andy Pettitte (19th). Despite this strength, it has not translated fairly for the Astros corps. Clemens and Pettitte entered Wednesday as the two unluckiest teammates in the Majors (min. 100 IP). Even Oswalt, who has 12 wins and squeezed onto the All-Star team, deserves 2.45 more wins than he has.
Joy in Boston, anticipation in New York, bitterness in Philadelphia.
"I wasn't really thinking about hitting a home run...I wanted to at least get on base."
--David Ortiz, Red Sox designated hitter, following Friday's 10th-inning home run that won the Division Series (Bloomberg News)
The Red Sox and Angels might be the two best teams in baseball right now. Unfortunately, one of them is six days away from golf season.
The Sox come into the series with the advantage of having set up their rotation over the season's final week. There's no research that shows this to be an edge, although it's easy to remember cases of recent teams--the '00 A's, the '98 Cubs--who were certainly hurt by the need to play meaningful games all the way through the end of the regular season. Given a choice between being on-rotation or off, you would choose to be on, and preferably the way that the Sox were able to manage their final week of the regular season.
As promised, here's a team-by-team breakdown of last week's NorCal Mock Winter Meetings. With the real winter meetings in New Orleans winding down, it's interesting to compare the two for like transactions as well as differences.
The Angels staff has been tateriffic; Mark Bellhorn is getting the cold shoulder in Chicago; and the Tigers have shifted their lineup around, with the hope of reaching 50 wins. All this and much more from Anaheim, Chicago, and Detroit.
I Think I'm Gonna Hurl: While there are a number of differences between the 2002 and 2003 versions of the Anaheim Angels, the greatest disparity comes in the performance of their respective pitching staffs. Where in 2002 the Angels fielded one of the best rotations in all of baseball--a group that finished third in the league in Support-Neutral Value Added (SNVA)--this year's staff has done nothing but struggle, and is currently fourth from the bottom in SNVA, just a notch ahead of the Tigers.