Thursday, October 25, 2007

World Series preview

I know, I know -- it's unfair to send in your World Series predictions after Game 1; especially when Game 1 is an absolute rout. We were following the game during breaks at rehearsal, and at one point, Boston was up 4-1. The cast is mostly rooting for the Rockies, and while I don't have an active rooting interest, I'm backing Boston, since I think they're the better team (more on this later). One of the Colorado fans bet that the Rockies would tie it up in the later innings. I looked right at him and said, "I'll bet that Boston scores 10." They scored 13, actually, and romped to a 13-1 victory.
Jeff Francis took the loss and just judging from the box score, it was a typical Boston dismantling. They worked him to 100 pitches by the 5th inning and got 6 runs off of him. Then they got to knock around the Rockies' bullpen and soften it up for future games. Josh Beckett, on the other hand, gets treated with kid gloves so that he'll be fresh as a daisy in Game 5 -- if there is a Game 5.
Which brings me thus:

Starting Pitching

Both the Rockies and Red Sox had some late moves affecting their starting staff. The Sox scratched Tim Wakefield, potential Game 4 starter. The given reason was that his injury still hadn't fully healed, but it's also true that Wakefield would have pitched at Coors Field (where knuckleballs don't knuckle so much), and the Sox have a pretty good alternative in Jon Lester.
For the Rockies, they added Aaron Cook, who's been out for some time, as their Game 4 starter. This is purely an emotional move, as Cook has been with the team for a while and has paid his dues on some bad clubs. That aside, Colorado would be better off with Frank Morales rather than gambling on a semi-healthy Aaron Cook, whose pitching-to-contact philosophy isn't the best plan against Boston.
Basically, the Sox do have the upper hand. Jeff Francis can nearly match Josh Beckett, but elsewhere the Sox have a pretty good advantage. I'll take even a B-level Curt Schilling over Ubaldo Jimenez, and I'd also prefer Daisuke (and his trappings) over Josh F'n Fogg. Lester probably has an edge over Cook in Game 4, but by then the Series probably won't be very close.

Both teams have excellent closers (Papelbon for Boston, Corpas for Colorado) but have also struggled getting quality innings from their middle relievers. It's hard to pick a favorite here, but I'm inclined to go with the Rockies; with Frank Morales pitching as a long man and Brian Fuentes as a setup man, that still leaves them pretty well situated. Just don't count out the Sox, either.

The Rockies are a good offensive club. The Red Sox are a great offensive club. Not great in the historic sense, but good enough that they're clearly better than the Rockies.

Momentum is bunk.

Both teams have very good defenses, and I can't really see an edge here either way. The only exception is when David Ortiz gets stuck at first base.

I'm not Clint Hurdle's biggest fan, and I'm not ready to give him my full endorsement, but a lot of the work he's done has changed my opinion of him. That said, the Red Sox have one of the best systems of analysis in baseball and an efficient and reliable means of implementing it at the game level. And a lot of that is thanks to Terry Francona.

Final Prediction
Boston in 5.

More to come: My ongoing (sort of) series on underrated ballplayers, a 2007 recap including all of my award picks, a list (and analysis) of the 2007-08 free agent class, and much more.

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