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Wednesday, October 01, 2003

The Adventure Begins

* A majority of the pundits/experts seem to be with us. And while some of that is hype promulgated by mediots salivating over the idea of a Red Sox-Cubs World Series (or a Red Sox-Yankees ALCS), a good deal of it from credible and objective sources.
* The cliche says that good pitching beats good hitting, which would seem to favor Oakland, but in terms of front-line talent, the Sox seem to have a bigger advantage in scoring runs versus the A's than the A's do in preventing runs versus the Sox. The A's may have the better pitching, but when it comes to the individual matchups, the only truly pitching adverse matchup would come in Game 4. with Suppan or Burkett facing Tim Hudson (if and only if they brought him back on three days' rest.) [Update: Make that Burkett - Suppan was left off the post-season roster.]
* Oakland has famously failed to get out of the first round of the playoffs in recent years. A home loss could really shake their confidence.
* Pedro v. Hudson: Wouldn't you take a great pitcher against a mediocre lineup over a great pitcher against a great lineup?
* Wakefield v. Zito: Wakefield looked good against the Athletics earlier in the season, and they tend to struggle against knucklers. The Red Sox have traditionally hit Zito well.
* Lowe v. Lilly: A lefty not used to postseason pressure at Fenway Park against the top offense in MLB. Against Derek Lowe, who's been outstanding at home this year, and almost as good as Pedro the last two months. I'll take those odds.
* The weakest hitter (Damon at .751 OPS) in our regular lineup is better than their average (.746 team OPS) hitter.

* When there are two teams such as these (Oakland is 57-24 at home and 39-42 on the road; Boston is 53-28 at home and 42-39 on the road) who have played much better in front of the home crowd, the team with home-field advantage has to be favored.
* Though the Sox are hitters are like demigods (.919 OPS as a team) at Fenway, they look decidedly mortal (.784 OPS, which of course is still good) elsewhere.
* If it comes down to the bullpens, it's clear who has the advantage, and it's not the Sox. Grady Little has been very cautious with all his starters, which is a good thing as far as keeping them healthy, but a bad thing in that it means more innings for the relief corps. Pedro has so few wins because the bullpen has lost many of his leads.
* Defensively, the A's are far better. If it comes down to which team executes, and it often does, the Sox are in trouble.
* The As have a good stockpile of left handed pitching, which really limits the effectiveness of Walker, Ortiz, and Nixon. (Speaking of Nixon, we're also not sure how healthy Trot is.) The presence of southpaws makes it more critical that Nomar snaps out of his late-season slump.
* It's just as easy to imagine Hudson outdueling Martinez as the latter, or having it come down to the relief pitchers.
* Bad Tim Wakefield may make an appearance - it's happened before at inopportune times.
* I seem to remember Terence Long, who sucks against the rest of the league, being a Red Sox killer in the tradition of Pete O'Brien and Joe Carter (both of whom were much better than Long.)

My heart says the Red Sox will pull this off in five. My head thinks otherwise, that they're going down in four.

Note that my being pessimistic has been healthy for them this year - usually, I publish something that says the Sox are in trouble, and miraculously they bail themselves out of it. Maybe it will happen again.

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