Yesterday, I took a look at the combatant’s starting pitching...today we will take a look at their starting nine.
The teams scored nearly the same number of runs (LA - 883, 2nd in AL; BOS - 872, 3rd in AL) and had nealry-identical OBPs (BOS - .352, 2nd; LA - .350, 3rd), though the Red Sox hit considerably more home runs (BOS - 212, 3rd; LA - 173, 8th) and the Angels stole quite a few more bases (LA - 148, 3rd; BOS - 126, 5th).
First Base: Kevin Youkilis and Kendry Morales
Youkilis: .305 / 27 / 94 / .548 (Slug Pct)
Morales: .306 / 34 / 108 / .569 (Slug Pct)
Youkilis put together another outstanding year and ran neck-and-neck with Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera and New York’s Mark Teixeira as the best in the league (Cabrera had 114 Runs Created, Teixeira had 113 RC and Youk had 111 RC). Morales? He came in fourth with 105 RC.
EDGE: Youkilis. Over the last couple of years, Youkilis has emerged into one of the best 1B in all of baseball, while the Cuban defector, Morales, exploded onto the scene just this season. Youk gets a slight edge here because he has proven he can do it over time and because he has proven he can do it in the postseason.
Second Base: Dustin Pedroia and Howie Kendrick
Pedroia: .296 / 15 / 72 / .447 (Slug Pct)
Kendrick: .291 / 10 / 61 / .444 (Slug Pct)
Pedroia took a slight step back this year...while his power numbers surged in the second half, his batting average dropped considerably. Kendrick continued to develop nicely, although more slowly than the Angels thought he would when they first promoted him...many folks still think he has the potential to win a batting crown someday.
Despite taking a step back, Pedroia still put together a campaign that rivaled Morales’ breakout season for the Angels. Pedey compiled a gaudy total of 101 RC, compared to the more modest total of 58 for Kendrick.
EDGE: Pedroia. The reigning MVP may not win back-to-back trophies, but he is one of the most impactful offensive forces atop any lineup in the American League.
Third Base: Mike Lowell and Chone Figgins
Lowell: .290 / 17 / 75 / .474 (Slug Pct)
Figgins: .298 / 5 / 54 / .393 (Slug Pct)
Despite coming off radical surgery in the offseason and needing periodic rest, Lowell still managed to put together another strong campaign. It wasn’t his amazing 2007 season, but it was still impressive nonetheless.
He made 484 plate appearances and comes into the postseason in much better health than last year. His opposite number at the hot corner re-emerged as an offensive force in the league after a disappointing 2008 season...he stole 42 bases and scored 114 runs.
EDGE: Figgins. Lowell created 64 runs in The Hardball Times statistical analysis, but Figgins created an eye-popping 110 runs—just one behind Kevin Youkilis. THAT will tell you how valuable he is to the Angels.
Shortstop: Alex Gonzalez and Erick Aybar
Gonzalez: .316 / 5 / 15 / .453 (Slug Pct) in 148 AB after coming to Boston
Aybar: .312 / 5 / 58 / .423 (Slug Pct)
Gonzalez was a breath of fresh air after arriving in Boston...not only for his defense but also for his unexpectedly consistent contributions with the bat. Meanwhile, Aybar started to scratch the surface of his potential on the left coast.
EDGE: Push. Superficially, the numbers would dictate the edge be given to Aybar (73 RC), but I’m ruling this a push. A-Gon played most of the season with the moribund Reds, but if he’d had a full year in Boston his numbers would be very similar to Aybar in terms of runs created (approx 62 RC).
When you include his impact in the field and the fact he has been on winning teams in the past, he earns the push.
Left Field: Jason Bay and Juan Rivera
Bay: .267 / 36 / 119 / .537 (Slug Pct)
Rivera: .287 / 25 / 88 / .478 (Slug Pct)
Bay set career highs in home runs and ribbies while playing error-free defense...the young man made himself and his family a HUGE sum of money this summer. The Red Sox will regret last winter’s decision to hold off signing him until this winter. Rivera bounced back from two disappointing seasons and also put up career highs in HR and RBI.
EDGE: Bay. Jason Bay is at the heart of the Red Sox batting order for a reason—he is a force like few others in the American League. He ranked second in the league to Joe Mauer (MINN) in Runs Created (121 RC to 119 RC). Rivera had a nice season (82 RC), but is nowhere near Bay’s class of impact performer.
Center Field: Jacoby Ellsbury and Torii Hunter
Ellsbury: .301 / 8 / 60 / .415 (Slug Pct)
Hunter: .299 / 22 / 90 / .508 (Slug Pct)
Ellsbury emerged as the pre-eminent base stealing threat in the league this year with 70 swipes...he is just the 12th major leaguer in history to have a .300 BA and 70 SB in the same season. Hunter is one of the better offensive performers in the league and is always a threat to put together a 20/20 season.
They are both among the better defenders at any position in the field.
EDGE: Ellsbury. How can you not take Ellsbury (94 RC)? As much as I like and respect Hunter (84 RC), Jacoby has quickly become an absolute force at the top of the Sox lineup.
He didn’t score runs at the same pace he did over the last few years, but that has more to do with the absence of Manny Ramirez and the struggles of David Ortiz than it had to do with Ellsbury.
Right Field: J D Drew and Bobby Abreu
Drew: .279 / 24 / 68 / .522 (Slug Pct)
Abreu: .293 / 15 / 103 / .435 (Slug Pct)
Drew continues to be a major disappointment in consideration of the money he has been paid by the ballclub. While his power spiked, his production remained almost stagnant this season; but, with that said, it should be noted that his OPS was over .900 for the second consecutive season.
Abreu is no longer the power threat he once was, but he has an uncanny knack for driving in runs in abundance.
EDGE: Abreu. Abreu (109 RC) was once again one of the top offensive performers in the league while Drew closed the season with a flurry and posted okay numbers overall (79 RC). One of the primary reasons for the difference in production is the “clutch” factor.
Abreu has one of the better clutch ratings in the league while Drew posted a negative number. ‘Nuff said.
Catcher: Victor Martinez and Mike Napoli
Martinez: .303 / 23 / 108 / .480 (Slug Pct)
Napoli: .272 / 20 / 56 / .492 (Slug Pct)
The acquisition of Martinez helped to energize a lethargic Sox offense at the trade deadline...he was a revelation after his arrival, knocking in 41 runs in just 56 games. Imagine what he’ll do in a Red Sox uniform over an entire season.
Napoli’s playing time increased significantly, but his production lagged (he had an .842 OPS this season as opposed to a .960 OPS last year).
EDGE: Martinez. Martinez created 100 runs in 2009 compared to Napoli’s 52 RC...it seems likely that disparity will continue into the postseason.
Designated Hitter: David Ortiz and Vladimir Guerrero
Ortiz: .238 / 28 / 99 / .462 (Slug Pct)
Guerrero: .295 / 15 / 50 / .460 (Slug Pct)
Ortiz was brutal over the first two months of the season, but was a force after June 1st. In late-May, who would have believed that he would drive in nearly 100 runs? Guerrero was limited to just 400 AB due to a pulled (right) chest muscle and just concluded his second consecutive sub-par season.
EDGE: Papi. Ortiz (77 RC) may no longer be the player he was from 2004-07, but the player that remains is still one of the league’s most intimidating presence at home plate.
Guerrero (51 RC) has his moments when he plays, but they are fewer are farther between...and let us not forget that he has been uninspired in his past ALDS appearances against the Red Sox.