Red Sox-Angels Preview, Part One: Battle of the Bats?

Scott MaloneAnalyst ISeptember 27, 2008

This is part one of an ALDS breakdown between the Red Sox and Angels. Myself and Angels writer, Scott Fowler, will continue to preview the series and review each game.

Three days, seven hours, 59 minutes, 42 seconds.

October looms imminently like clouds before the storm.

Five teams have already punched their tickets to Baseball's promised land. Five more continue to battle for the last three spots.

In a year full of surprises and déjà vu, we are presented with the classic first round October match-up of the decade: The Boston Red Sox and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

The Sox have made the playoffs annually since 2003, with the exception of an injury-plagued 2006.  The have gone on to become the first team to win multiple World Series titles in the new millennium.

The Angels made the playoffs in 2002, '04, '05, '07, and clinched their fourth division title in five years with a run-away clinching in August 2008.

In the past three years of October baseball for the Red Sox, they have faced and swept the Angels twice en route to their two World Series titles.

Both of those years, 2004 and 2007, saw the Red Sox's ability to defeat the Angels.  In large part, this was due to their overall offensive superiority, specifically their ability to hit the home run.

2004 saw David Ortiz's power on full display.  His walk-off two-run homer in the 10th inning of game one set the tone for the three-game sweep.

In 2007, Manny Ramirez knocked an inside fastball from Francisco Rodriguez over the Green Monster to give the Sox game two, leading a three-game sweep.

This time around, the Red Sox no longer had the future Hall of Famer Ramirez.  Instead, they had replaced him with former Pittsburgh Pirates slugger, Jason Bay.

Last season, Manny hit .348, with four HR, 16 RBI, a .508 OBP, and a 1.160 OPS in just 14 postseason games.  In 14 postseason games in 2004, he hit .350, with two HR, 11 RBI, and a .423 OBP.

Clearly, Ramirez's contributions played a part in the Red Sox playoff runs of 2004 and 2007.

His replacement, Jason Bay, has never played in a postseason game.

Nevertheless, in his first 48 games in Red Sox nation, Bay has hit for the second highest average of his career, and has topped 30 HR, 100 RBI, 100 R, and 150 H for the third time in his career.  This, the first since his breakout seasons of 2005 and 2006 with the Pirates.

The Red Sox have gone 35-16 since the acquisition of Bay, who is sure to put up great numbers in the Sox lineup.

While Bay lacks the overall fear factor of Manny, the Red Sox lineup will be much more team-oriented this postseason.

They have plenty of young talent, with Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis, and Jed Lowrie, to complement the veteran presence of David Ortiz, Mike Lowell, J.D. Drew, Bay, and Jason Varitek.

The lineup that the Sox will use should look something like this:

  1. Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. Dustin Pedroia
  3. David Ortiz
  4. Kevin Youkilis
  5. J.D. Drew
  6. Mike Lowell
  7. Jason Bay
  8. Jason Varitek
  9. Jed Lowrie

Should J.D. Drew not be ready to go with his oft-injured back, Mark Kotsay should take his spot, and move down in the order to No. 7 in the lineup.

Kotsay has played in seven postseason games, all in 2006 with Oakland, and hit just .200 in them.

Future shortstop Jed Lowrie also has never played in a postseason game, but he has been impressive thus far.  He should continue to produce in the lineup in October.

Last postseason, the Sox scored 99 runs in just 14 games, resulting in a 7.7 runs per game average. They also averaged 10.64 hits per game in the playoffs, and averaged 1.29 HR per game.

As a team they had an OBP of .395, slugged .517, and had an OPS of .911 in their 14-game run.

I would look for this Red Sox team to put up similar offensive numbers to last postseason, even without the presence of Manny Ramirez behind David Ortiz.  Jason Bay has been putting up similar numbers to Manny in the past couple of seasons, and should flourish in a lineup where he is not the lone threat.

The lineup has so many home run threats—especially with the power emergence of Dustin Pedroia this season—which collectively they have close to the same power threat as last season.

In addition, with Jacoby Ellsbury and David Ortiz each heating up at the right time, it seems as if this Red Sox team will put up more of a challenge than most people think.

After all, October is unpredictable.

Could they challenge the Angels?

The better question is: When will they challenge the Angels?


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