Sunday, September 19, 2004

 

State of the Nation

Well, the BoSox lost to the Yankees for the second game this series, losing the series and falling to 4.5 games back of the divisional lead. Unless they rebound in the second series, it looks like the division and home field advantage throughout the playoffs will go to NY. This might not be as bad as it sounds though. The Red Sox would still have the wild card (pending a surge by Anaheim) and they would have one thing going for them in the first round. They would not be the team facing the Minnesota Twins in the Divisional Series.

Oakland has been struggling as of late, and lost the season series to Boston 8-1. Oakland is still a dangerous team though, so I am not saying it is a cake walk. What I am saying is the Sox would face a seemingly human Athletics rotation, at a time when Mark Mulder is struggling (6.39 ERA and only 4.94 k/9 in the past month), Zito has not been Zito all year and Hudson is winning solely by not giving up homeruns. Rich Harden is pitching better than anyone in that rotation at the moment, and their bullpen is also in question. Boston could gain some playoff momentum off of the A's. Oakland is one of the better home teams in baseball, and Boston went in a few weeks ago and took three straight in commanding fashion. This would leave NY to face the Twins.

The Twins boast a very strong rotation for two reasons: Johan Santana and Brad Radke. Radke is not really dominating play, but he is leading the league in quality start percentage and has an odd statistic going for him. He has more people who have grounded into double plays against him than he has giving up unintentional walks. Radke has been on his game all year. Santana on the other hand, has not been consistent all season; he did pitch poorly in April or May(5.40 and 5.79 respectively). That does not matter now though because he has decided that he is the best pitcher in baseball this season, boasting a monthly ERA after those two months of 2.39, 1.17, 2.08, and 0.00 for the month of September (in 21 September innings). With a 1.27 ERa since the break, he has been on somewhat of a roll. He also leads the AL in strikeouts, and has an Batting Average Against of .193. I am not too keen on the chances of whoever has to face Santana in October. The Twins could easily win like so: Santana pitches the opener, Radke for the second game, anyone for game 3 in Minnesota (Metrodome + playoffs = best home field advantage in baseball). If Santana wins game 1, then they win one at home, Santana still gets one more game. That makes 3 wins, series over. The Yankees may not have the horses to play the pitching game with them, so they need to win on offense, which will be tough with two games against the best pitcher on the planet this year.

I think I have made my point. If the Sox beat Oakland, they face Minnesota in a 7 game series, where Schilling and Pedro and Arroyo might do enough damage to help the Sox to victory. One more thing, Derek Lowe's ERA at the Metrodome for his career is 6.58, compared to a 3.08 at Fenway. If Lowe pitches at home there is a better chance of pulling a win out of their fourth starter in the playoffs, which is a HUGE boost for a team that features Pedro Martinez and Curt Schilling. The Sox may also be best served with avoiding a Santana-Martinez or Santana-Schilling matchup if possible. If he has a good chance of winning because he is that lights out, don't waste all your bullets on him. I like the Sox chances better in 7 games than 5, home field advantage or no.

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