The Angels and Red Sox starting rotations were statistically very similar throughout the season...how the starters perform over the next week will go a long way in determining who will advance to the '09 ALCS.
I have just placed my crystal ball on my desk...let's take a look at the likely matchups:
Game One: John Lackey and Jon Lester
Lackey was 11-8, with a 3.83 ERA and 1.27 WHIP in 2009. He was 6-5, 3.86, at home... 5-3, 3.80 on the road... so there's no home-field advantage that can be discerned. He was 0-1, 2.35, against the Red Sox.
If you are a devotee of the sabermetric form of statistical analysis, Lackey was tied for 22nd in the American League with 77 PRC (Pitching Runs Created). He's neither a ground ball pitcher or a fly ball pitcher, per se; but, he allowed an unusually low percentage of home runs per fly ball hit against him (10%) this season -- so we might expect him to perform more towards league average as the season continues (meaning, he may give up an extra homer or two in the playoffs).
He is 3-7 in his career against the Red Sox, with a 5.25 ERA, in 14 starts.
Lester was 15-8, with a 3.41 ERA and 1.23 WHIP in 2009. The left-hander was better at home (7-3, 2.86) than on the road (8-5, 3.86), but that's a better record and identical ERA as Lackey posted in his home ballpark, thus there is no advantage or disadvantage. He did not face LA this year.
Lester was 5th in the American League with 118 PRC. Like Lackey, he's neither a ground ball pitcher or a fly ball pitcher. He allowed slightly more than league average with respect to home runs per fly ball hit against him (12.4%) this season, but only marginally higher.
He is 3-7 in his career against the Red Sox, with a 5.25 ERA, in 14 starts. He is 1-1, 7.78, in four career starts against the Angels, largely owing to a brutal outing he had against them last season.
EDGE: Lester. While Lester's career numbers against the Angels are a bit scary, his performance this year has been outstanding. Add to that the fact he is 2-2, 2.25 in his career in the post-season (as opposed to Lackey's 2-3, 3.39 mark) and the Red Sox get a SLIGHT edge in this matchup. He's money, baby!
Game Two: Jered Weaver and Josh Beckett
Weaver was 16-8, with a 3.75 ERA and 1.24 WHIP in 2009. He was much better in Los Angeles than on the road (a 2.90 ERA at home vs a 4.78 ERA while pitching as a visitor). He was 1-0, with a spectacular 0.66 ERA, against the Red Sox in two starts this season. He is 2-2, 3.99, against the Red Sox in his career.
Weaver was 8th in the American League with 102 PRC. He is primarily a fly ball pitcher, though (like Lackey) he allowed an overly low percentage of fly balls to go for home runs (10%)...the combination of those factors may not bode well for him in the playoffs. In his career, he is 1-1, 2.57 in the second season.
Beckett was 17-6, with a 3.86 ERA and 1.19 WHIP in 2009. He was much better at home than on the road (a 3.59 ERA at home vs a 4.13 ERA while pitching as a visitor)... he was 0-1, with a 4.50 ERA, against LA in two starts this season. He is 2-3, 4.13, in eight career starts against the LA Angels.
Beckett was 7th in the American League with 103 PRC. He is primarily a ground ball pitcher, though he allowed a large percentage of fly balls to go for home runs (14.7%) this season -- in large part due to his struggles in August and early-September. In his career, he is 7-2, 2.90 in the post-season.
EDGE: Push. I know most of the numbers favor Weaver and the Angels, but the fact is that Beckett was brilliant this year except for a five-game stretch near the end of the season... and he is a MONSTER in the post-season. It says here that Beckett finds a way to win if the younger Weaver brother has even a slight hiccup against the Sox offense...
And he may figure out how to win even if Jered doesn't stumble.
Game Three: Clay Buchholz and Scott Kazmir
Buchholz was 7-4, with a 4.21 ERA and 1.38 WHIP in 2009. He was much better on the road than he was in the Friendly Confines (2-2, 4.72 vs 5-2, 3.65). He did not make an appearance against Los Angeles this season, but is only 1-2, 6.35 against them in his career.
Buchholz was tied for 63rd in the American League with 41 PRC. He's primarily a ground ball pitcher, which is important as he allowed home runs on an eye-popping 16.9% of the fly balls hit against him (a figure that is among the worst in the league). He will be making his playoff debut.
Kazmir was 10-9, with a 4.89 ERA and 1.42 WHIP in 2009, easily the worst season of his career since his rookie season (2004). He was significantly better on the road than he was in his home ballpark (5-5, 3.56 vs 5-4, 5.95). He was 2-0, 3.27 against the Sox this season, and is 8-7, 3.59 against Boston in his career.
Kazmir was tied for 94th in the American League with 33 PRC. He's primarily a fly ball pitcher and was able to maintain a highly desirable HR/F of 10.3% in spite of his abysmal season. Over his career, he is 1-1, 4.21 in the post-season.
EDGE: Kazmir. I desperately want to go with my boy, Clay, here... but Kazmir's career numbers against the Sox just won't let me do it.
Plus, I have field box tickets to Game Four, so I need the Angels to take one of the first three games so I can watch Daisuke pitch the Sox into the ALCS on Monday night.
Game Four: Daisuke Matsuzaka and Joe Saunders
Matsuzaka was 4-6, with a 5.76 ERA and a brutal 1.87 WHIP, in 2009... but those stats cannot be used as a predictor of post-season success. He was a nifty 3-1, 2.22 after returning from his nearly year-long recovery/rehab. In his last two starts at Fenway Park at the end of the year, he allowed two runs in 12 IP. He shut out Los Angeles on three hits over six innings at home back on September 15th... he is 1-1, 4.91, against them in his career.
Dice-K was tied for 152nd in the American League with 21 PRC, but that is deceptive due to the paucity of appearances he made this season. He is 3-1, 4.79, in the post-season in his brief career in the United States.
Saunders was 16-7, with a 4.60 ERA and 1.43 WHIP in 2009. His splits indicate he is a much better pitcher at home than on the road (he had a 5.12 ERA on the roiad vs a 4.13 mark at home). He was 0-1, 4.26 against the Sox this season, and is 4-1, 3.24 against Boston in his career.
Saunders was tied for 28th in the American League with 65 PRC. He cannot be categorized as either a ground ball or fly ball pitcher... he had a higher-than-league-average HR/F of 15.2%. Over his career, he has no record and a 7.71 ERA in the post-season.
EDGE: Matsuzaka. I know, you don't know what you can expect from Dice-K after all of the drama that followed him throughout this past year. Well, I think you CAN make an educated guess as to how he will perform. He has an exceptional pedigree. He has been a winner throughout his career. He has had an entirely forgettable 2009 campaign. He will have the hopes of TWO nations riding on his shoulders. And he will have something to prove. It says here he comes up BIG with a performance similar to what he did to the Angels less than a month ago.