Many seem to be shocked about how the Boston dominated the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in games one and two...not me. Why? Because the Angels were never really as good as we gave them credit for. Let’s take a look at some of the common arguments that people used to determine the Angels as the favorites:
T11100 wins argument
The prevailing wisdom was that the Halos had won 100 games, five more than the Red Sox, thus they were a truly better team.
The Red Sox Pythagorean record was 95-67, the best in the AL. The Angels were only 88-74, the worst of all four playoff teams. Essentially, the Angels won twelve extra games through luck.
We also can’t ignore the fact that the Red Sox played in the toughest division in baseball, where four teams won at least 86 games.
The Angels played in the only other division in baseball that didn’t have more than one team with a winning record. If the Red Sox had been in the AL West, they would have won at least 100 games.
9-19-1 Season Record vs. Red Sox
This is true, the Angels did dominate the Red Sox during the regular season. But, all ten of these games came before July 31st. The Sox have been a much healthier and more dominant team since the beginning of August. If the Sox had faced the Angels later in the year, it’s safe to say that the record would have been a little more even.
Conventional wisdom said that the Angels had a better bullpen than the Sox. Where did this come from? Maybe its because Francisco Rodriguez had 62 saves, everybody decided that he was out of this world.
Never mind that his ERA was only 0.10 lower than Johnathan Papelbon’s and they had very similar save percentages. K-Rod had 23 more save opportunities than Paps. Also, for some reason the Red Sox were believed to have a shallow bullpen.
The Red Sox have had four solid performers in the pen this year (besides Paps): Hideki Okajima, Javier Lopez, Manny Delcarmen, and Justin Masterson. They also have playoff veterans like Mike Timlin and Paul Byrd coming out of the pen.
The Angels on the other hand, have three solid guys: Darren Oliver, Scott Shields, and Jose Arredondo. And besides that they have uh…I don’t really know. None of the other names on this roster are familiar, unless you are a huge Salt Lake Bees fan.
TheMost Complete Team in Baseball Argument
This is the most infuriating argument for me. Every baseball analyst wants to pick “the most complete team”. What the hell does this even mean? It doesn’t mean the best team, which common sense says you would want to pick. I guess it means that the Angels have no glaring weakness.
OK fair enough, that’s a decent argument, except for the fact that the Red Sox don’t either. Nobody in the playoffs has a glaring weakness, that’s why they’re in the playoffs.
Common sense seemed to be that the Angels were out for revenge against the Sox, who beat them nine straight times in the postseason. This would be true, except for the fact that the Angels were favored in this series.
This gave the Sox the motivation to beat them—how would you feel if you were the World Series champion and you were the underdog in the first round against a team that you swept last year? I’m guessing the Sox were pretty pissed.
In watching this series so far, it is pretty clear that the Red Sox are the more confident, motivated team. They come up with big hits when they need them and they are able to keep the Angels from doing too much damage in key situations.
It’s not over yet for the Angels though. If Josh Beckett has trouble in his first start back, the Angels could steal one. Then Tim Wakefield pitches for the Sox, and he’s unpredictable. If they can win two in Fenway, they may have enough momentum to win this series in LA.
But as for now, it appears that the Red Sox are simply a better playoff team than the Angels.