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This should be a pretty fun series. The Red Sox are up against their old manager, their old “high-leverage specialist” and their old first basemen. The Indians are up against the best offense in baseball and one of the best postseason performers of all time. And also against some very good dances.

But there’s only one real storyline that matters here: which 2016 employer of Michael Martinez will win?

Lineups

Red Sox vs. RHP

AVG/OBP/SLG/TAv

Indians vs. RHP

AVG/OBP/SLG/TAv

2B-R Dustin Pedroia

.318/.376/.449/.273

DH-S Carlos Santana

.259/.366/.498/.280

3B-L Brock Holt

.225/.322/.383/.246

2B-L Jason Kipnis

.275/.343/.469/.264

DH-L David Ortiz

.315/.401/.620/.317

SS-R Francisco Lindor

.301/.358/.435/.270

RF-R Mookie Betts

.318/.363/.534/.296

1B-R Mike Napoli

.239/.335/.465/.262

1B -R Hanley Ramirez

.286/.361/.505/.280

3B-S Jose Ramirez

.312/.363/.462/.274

SS-R Xander Bogaerts

.294/.356/.446/.267

RF-L Lonnie Chisenhall

.286/.328/.439/.260

CF-L Jackie Bradley

.267/.349/.486/.273

LF-R Rajai Davis

.249/.306/.388/.238

C-S Sandy Leon

.310/.369/.476/.293

CF-L Tyler Naquin

.296/.372/.514/.285

LF-L Andrew Benintendi

.295/.359/.476/.284

C-R Yan Gomes

.167/.201/.327/.179

Red Sox vs. LHP

AVG/OBP/SLG/TAv

Indians vs. LHP

AVG/OBP/SLG/TAv

2B-R Dustin Pedroia

.318/.376/.449/.273

LF-R Rajai Davis

.249/.306/.388/.238

SS-R Xander Bogaerts

.294/.356/.446/.267

2B-L Jason Kipnis

.275/.343/.469/.264

DH-L David Ortiz

.315/.401/.620/.317

SS-R Francisco Lindor

.301/.358/.435/.270

RF-R Mookie Betts

.318/.363/.534/.296

1B-R Mike Napoli

.239/.335/.465/.262

1B-R Hanley Ramirez

.286/.361/.505/.280

DH-S Carlos Santana

.259/.366/.498/.280

LF-R Chris Young

.276/.352/.498/.280

3B-S Jose Ramirez

.312/.363/.462/.274

CF-L Jackie Bradley

.267/.349/.486/.273

RF-R Brandon Guyer

.333/.438/.469/.302

3B-R Aaron Hill

.218/.287/.290/.226

CF-S Coco Crisp

.208/.323/.377/.255

C-S Sandy Leon

.310/.369/.476/.293

C-R Yan Gomes

.167/.201/.327/.179

Generally we only do one lineup, but the Red Sox and (especially) Indians run out different enough squads that we broke them down into lineups vs. RHP and LHP above.

Thanks to BP-exclusive stats such as “runs scored,” we know that the Red Sox have the best offense in baseball. Boston finished first in runs, first in total bases, first in doubles and first in average, OBP and slugging in 2016. The Indians are no slouches when it comes to swinging the bats either, though: Cleveland finished fifth in runs scored, third in doubles, sixth in average, eighth in OBP and ninth in slugging. If we move on to more enlightening stats, we see that Boston finished with the sixth-best TAv (.269) while Cleveland ranked down at 23 (.254). Cleveland does have an edge when it comes to stealing bases (134 to 83), but the Sox have plenty of players who can go first-to-third with ease.

Expect lots of platoons in this series. The Red Sox generally start Brock Holt (3B) and Andrew Benintendi (LF) against righties, while Aaron Hill and Chris Young get that honor against southpaws. For the Indians, expect Lonnie Chisenhall (RF) and Tyler Naquin (CF) to suit up against righties and Brandon Guyer and Coco Crisp (sometimes) to appear against left-handed pitchers.

Cleveland has a well-balanced lineup full of guys who can take you deep, guys who can run and guys who aren’t afraid to work the count. But there is no more dangerous offensive squad in the playoffs than Boston, which, on a good night, can run out seven hitters you should legitimately fear.

Benches (AVG/OBP/SLG/TAv)

Let’s assume the bench players here are the ones who don’t appear in the vs. RHP lineups, both because RHP are more prevalent and because lefties are inherently evil.

Red Sox

C-R Christian Vazquez: .227/.227/.308/.198
1B/3B-L Travis Shaw: .242/.306/.421/.246
3B/2B-R Aaron Hill: .218/.287/.290/.226 (with BOS)
INF-L Marco Hernandez: .294/.357/.373/.246
OF-R Chris Young: .276/.352/.498/.280

Indians

C-R Roberto Perez: .183/.285/.294/.218
C/1B-R Chris Gimenez: .216/.272/.331/.206
UT-S Michael Martinez: .242/.265/.316/.196
OF-S Coco Crisp: .208/.323/.377/.255
OF-R Brandon Guyer: .333/.438/.469/.302

I mean … meh? Young and Shaw can come off the bench to sock dongers against opposite-side pitching, and both provide a modicum of defensive value as well. Vazquez is on this roster for one reason; to help shut down the Indians’ impressive base-running game, which we mentioned above. At this point the Exxon Valdez has more left in the tank than Aaron Hill, but he has somehow come up with several big hits for Boston, even if his overall performance has been dismal. Hernandez can serve as a pinch runner and as something more than a total loss at the plate. Disclaimer: I’m writing this before the Red Sox announce their roster, and it’s possible Hernandez won’t be on it. That … probably won’t matter.

For the Indians, Guyer and Crisp are good fourth and fifth outfielders. They can mash taters/serve as a solid platoon option (Guyer) and go get it in the outfield/steal you a base (Crisp). But the rest of this bench is pretty lackluster. Martinez’s best skill is that he can do a lot of things only kind of poorly. Perez and Gimenez are both perfectly acceptable backup catchers, but it’s not entirely clear why the Indians feel compelled to roster both. Let’s just say it would be a surprise if this series was decided by anyone on either of these benches, non-Young/Guyer division.

Starting Pitchers (IP, ERA, DRA)

Red Sox

RHP – Rick Porcello: 223, 3.15, 3.46

LHP – David Price: 230, 3.99, 2.90

RHP – Clay Buchholz: 139.3, 4.78, 6.08

LHP – Eduardo Rodriguez: 107, 4.71, 5.10

Indians

RHP – Trevor Bauer: 190, 4.26, 4.11

RHP – Corey Kluber: 215, 3.14, 2.96

RHP – Josh Tomlin: 174, 4.40, 4.16

This series will feature three of the top-15 starters by DRA (min 100 IP) in the AL in Porcello, Price and Kluber. It will also feature some less-than-inspiring names. Let’s tackle the more talented trio first.

In Porcello and Price the Red Sox have a legitimate 1-2 punch to throw at Cleveland. Porcello is in the midst of a breakout season, posting 4.9 WARP on the back of his solid DRA, a career-best IP mark and a career-low BB/9. He’s not the groundball machine he used to be, but he’s taken steps forward this year when it comes to command and sequencing. He lacks an elite ceiling, but he’s about as steady as it gets. Price had a very rough start to the season, but from July on he’s been one of the better starters in the AL, posting a 3.33 ERA with a 108:25 K:BB ratio in 120 IP. We know all about his postseason struggles, but assuming that’s more narrative than anything else, he’s a strong Game Two choice.

While Price has the slight edge in DRA, most would agree that Kluber is the best starter who’ll toe the rubber in this series. He’s coming off a 5.9-WARP season — his second-best ever — and while he recently missed a week or so with a quad injury all reports indicate that he’s ready to go. He could be exactly what the doctor ordered against a Red Sox lineup that relies predominantly on right-handed impact bats.

You might prefer Bauer and Tomlin to Buchholz and Rodriguez on first glance, but in reality these pairs of arms are trending in opposite directions. Bauer has had a rough second half, coughing up a 5.24 ERA and surrendering a .268/.340/.436 line. He probably has the highest upside of these four arms, but the floor is pretty low. Tomlin’s been even worse since July 1, posting a 5.53 ERA and allowing a .289/.313/.506 line against. He was removed from the rotation, but with the injuries to Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar, he’s back. This is not who you want taking the mound against a team that scored 878 runs.

While Bauer and Tomlin have fizzled out as the season has progressed, Buchholz and Rodriguez have gotten better. After being banished to the pen in July, Buchholz rejoined the rotation briefly in August and then for good in September. In a small sample of eight starts/48.1 innings, he’s produced a 3.17 ERA. You never know when Good Buchholz or Bad Buchholz will show up, but at least we know Good Buchholz is still capable of making a cameo. Rodriguez could be the real difference-maker for the Sox. Since fighting his way back from a demotion to Pawtucket, the lefty has a 3.24 ERA with over a strikeout per inning in 14 starts. The Indians aren’t a great matchup for him, what with their right-handed power bats, but he’s more than capable of keeping the Red Sox offense in the game.

I’m sorry, Indians fans. If your trio was Kluber, Carrasco and Salazar, there’d be a lot more reason for optimism about your odds against the Red Sox. But it’s not, unfortunately, and while the Tribe boasts arguably the best starter to throw in this series (Kluber), throwing Bauer and Tomlin out against the Red Sox’s lineup is a daunting proposition.

Relief Pitchers (Innings, ERA, DRA)

Red Sox

RHP – Craig Kimbrel: 53, 3.40, 3.01

RHP – Koji Uehara: 47, 3.45, 2.80

RHP – Brad Ziegler: 68, 2.25, 3.00

LHP – Drew Pomeranz: 170.7, 3.32, 3.03

LHP – Robbie Ross Jr.: 55.3, 3.25, 3.79

RHP – Matt Barnes: 66.7, 4.05, 4.05

RHP – Joe Kelly: 40, 5.17, 3.69, Great Stuff

Indians

RHP – Cody Allen: 69.3, 2.99, 2.76

LHP – Andrew Miller: 61.7, 2.04, 1.84

RHP – Bryan Shaw: 66.7, 3.24, 3.71

RHP – Dan Otero: 70.7, 1.53, 3.06

RHP – Jeff Manship: 43.3, 3.12, 4.69

RHP – Zack McAllister: 52.3, 3.44, 4.91

RHP – Cody Anderson: 60.7, 6.68, 4.72

RHP – Mike Clevinger: 53, 5.26, 4.79

Here is where Cleveland probably holds the biggest edge in this series. How do you stop the best offense in baseball? With baseball’s best reliever. Andrew Miller has been as filthy as ever since joining the Tribe, striking out 46 batters in 29 innings with a 1.55 ERA. He is uniquely well suited to the task of preventing David Ortiz from David Ortizing late in the game. Allen is an outstanding closer, and Shaw and Otero provide the Indians with a level of bullpen depth the Red Sox lack. The last four guys in the group aren’t terribly inspiring, but the first four are.

The Red Sox’s bullpen is capable of shutting teams down, but they’re also capable of blowing leads very, very quickly. Craig Kimbrel went on a dominant run after his return from knee surgery, but he’s been shaky of late, surrendering six earned runs in his last four appearances. His command has come and gone all season. Ziegler was a savvy mid-season pickup by Dave Dombrowski. While he’s not an elite bullpen arm, he’s a solid seventh- or eighth-inning guy who can induce ground balls in big spots.

The real wildcards for the Red Sox are Uehara and Pomeranz. Koji hasn’t allowed a run since coming off the DL in early September, giving the Red Sox the primary setup option they lacked for so much of the year. Pomeranz started all year but has experience coming out of the bullpen and could be the big LHP weapon the Sox need to neutralize bats like Kipnis. Cleveland has the clear advantage here, but the Sox at least have the potential to hold leads, too.

Defense

On paper, these teams are pretty even defensively. The Indians have the slight edge in the infield; it’s pretty close at second and third but the Tribe holds an advantage at first base and shortstop. The Red Sox would appear to have a slight edge behind the plate (thanks in large part to Vazquez) and especially in the outfield. When Betts, Bradley and Benintendi are in the field at the same time, Boston has the most gifted defensive outfield this side of Pittsburgh. PADE greatly prefers the Indians (0.47 to -0.32), so make of that what you will.

Managers

Both John Farrell and Terry Francona are known more as good clubhouse presences and players’ managers than genius tacticians. Francona is willing and eager to use platoons to his advantage, and while he can be slow to call upon the bullpen you can be fairly confident with him calling the shots. His use of Andrew Miller should be commended. Farrell is … better than Bobby Valentine! His bullpen decisions can be suboptimal — especially when it comes to pulling his starters — but he’s not afraid to go to high-leverage guys earlyish and he’s not afraid to pinch-hit for bad bats, either. Francona is clearly better, but the gap isn’t so wide that you’d anticipate it having a big impact on the series. Then again, Buck Showalter just helped to blow a game, so you never know.

Prediction

This should be a good one. The Red Sox have the higher ceiling, what with the best offense in baseball, their one-two punch atop the rotation and a bullpen that rounded into form late in the season. But the Indians are incredibly well-rounded, steal more bases, have a better defensive infield and can shut anyone down in the late innings. Thanks to their young players and power hitters, both teams are, to use a technical term, fun as hell to watch.

If the Indians were fully healthy — namely if Carrasco and Salazar were starting — they’d be the pick here. But Miller and Allen can’t hold leads they don’t have, and it’s hard to see the Red Sox failing to abuse at least one of, if not both of, Trevor Bauer and Josh Tomlin. The Indians can only pitch Kluber twice in the series, after all. Now the YCPB in me thinks we’ll see Kluber and Price get shelled while Tomlin and Buchholz will bring dueling shutouts into the ninth, but I digress …

Red Sox in four is the pick here. But if it does get to a Game 5 and Kluber gets to take the mound again, watching the Tribe advance would be no surprise at all.