When you’re a fan of a team who had the potential to make the playoffs but falls short, there's always the question of “what if?”
“What if they had made it? They have such a good top of the rotation and a ton of veterans...they were made for the playoffs!”
I found myself asking “what if?” about this year's White Sox team. The Sox came into the season with low expectations, yet found themselves competing for a division title anyway. Now they sit six games back with too few games remaining to feel they actually have a chance.
That question lingers in my mind about what they would do if they did actually make the postseason. In the following paragraphs, I’ll break down their possible opponents and examine “what if” the Sox actually made the playoffs.
White Sox vs. Yankees
The Sox have struggled with CC Sabathia this year, while they’ve hit Burnett well. That leaves it to Andy Pettitte who has pitched well against the Sox in one start this season. As for the Yankees' bullpen, it became a lot more effective when they moved Hughes to the set-up role. Oh, and then there’s Mariano Rivera for the ninth inning.
Jeter, Damon, Teixeira, A-Rod, Matsui, Posada, Cano...
Manager: Advantage—White Sox
Girardi has done a great job with the Yankees this season, but he hasn’t guided them to a World Series yet. That’s the most pressure that a manager can face, and Ozzie has shown he can handle it without a problem. Those bright lights of New York shine like the sun come playoff time, and until Girardi wins a title, Ozzie wins this category by default.
Conclusion: Yankees in Four
White Sox vs. Angels
There doesn’t seem to be a real advantage for either team. Buehrle, Danks, and Floyd are solid if unspectacular. While Lackey, Weaver, and Kazmir (possibly Saunders) are also very solid but statistically are very similar to the Sox starters.
The bullpens are also very similar. Jenks and Fuentes are both solid at the end. While the bridges to get to those two guys can both be shaky at times. Thorton, Dotel, and Linebrink have struggled as a whole down the stretch. While Oliver, Jepsen, and Bulger have been serviceable but far from impressive.
There’s no telling if someone on either of these staffs would go from good to great in the playoffs, but from the outside looking in, there's no discernable difference between the two teams.
There was a time not long ago that every Angels starter was hitting above .300. Conversely, the Sox have one player above .300 (Pierzynski—.312). The Angels hit the ball and run the bases the way Ozzie and every Sox fan wishes that the White Sox would.
They have a combination of power and speed that makes them capable of coming back and winning no matter what the score is.
Mike Scioscia is an experienced and successful manager, but the same can be said of Ozzie Guillen to a lesser extent. If I had to pick a manager for my team out of these two, I’d pick Scioscia.
Guillen gets a lot out of his players and manages his pitchers well (I can say that now that Contreras is gone). Overall, you can’t go wrong with either of these two managers come playoff time.
Conclusion: Angels in five
White Sox vs. Red Sox
Pitching: Advantage—Red Sox
The Red Sox starting pitching isn’t what impresses me. It’s that bullpen. Delcarmen, Ramirez, Okajima, and Papelbon make up a dynamic bullpen capable of handling any offense. To be fair, Beckett and Lester are plenty for a five-game series, but from the games I’ve seen, it’s the bullpen that sets the Red Sox apart from the White Sox.
Hitting: Advantage—Red Sox
The advantage in hitting isn’t as great as it was in past years. David Ortiz is off the juice, and regressing at an incredible rate. Jason Bay has provided some pop, but his average leaves something to be desired.
It’s not a single guy in the Red Sox lineup that makes it impressive, it’s that it is so strong overall.
Ellsbury, Drew, Youkilis, Pedroia...the names keep coming, and each one carries with it memories of a clutch hit or run scored. The White Sox have veteran hitters, but nothing compared to the Red Sox.
Managing: Advantage—Red Sox
Terry Francona is as solid and unflappable of a playoff manager as there is in the game right now. Any deficiencies the Red Sox might have on the roster can be covered up by him come playoff time.
Conclusion: Red Sox in four
After looking at the White Sox possible opponents it doesn't look like they would get past the first round even if they were to make the postseason. At this time last season just making the playoffs was the goal, and losing to the Rays was ok. As fans, this season we want more, and it's clear that this White Sox team isn't as good as the teams they'd be facing.