Friday, 10 October 2008

Playoff Predictions - Griffin style

So I was reading The Toronto Star when I came across another brilliant Griffin article, in which he eventually makes some position by position comparison of the Rays & Red Sox. I didn't have a problem with some of his results - Navarro beating out Varitek, Rays winning out in the corners infield, but after that it started to take a turn for the worse. I'll let him explain.

Middle infield: The Sox have Jed Lowrie and MVP candidate Dustin Pedroia, while the Rays duo is the reliable Jason Bartlett and Akinori Iwamura. Advantage Rays.

Say what? You just said that Pedroia's an MVP candidate, and Lowrie was solid - and they get beaten out by Bartlett and Iwamura? Bartlett had an 85 OPS+, and Iwamura had a 96 OPS+, while playing solid defense. The Sox duo had a 123 OPS+ (Pedroia) and 91 OPS+ (Lowrie), while also playing very good defense. So how exactly did Griffin's own suggestion for MVP of the league get beaten out by John McDonald Jr. and a solid but unspectacular 2B?

Outfield: The Sox have Jason Bay, Jacoby Ellsbury and J.D. Drew vs. the Rays trio of Carl Crawford, B.J. Upton and Gabe Gross or Rocco Baldelli. Advantage Sox.

I'll give them Jason Bay, but Ellsbury isn't that impressive and it's unknown if Drew is going to play because of back injuries which means more time for Crisp. Meanwhile, CC is healthy, Upton's finally showing some power because his shoulder isn't hurt, and Gross/Baldelli make a solid tandem in RF. Normally a Bay/Ellsbury/Drew outfield would win here, but Drew is injured and I think the edge has to go to the Rays here.

Starters: The Sox trio – Josh Beckett, Jon Lester and Dice-K Matsuzaka – has been there before. The Rays trio of James Shields, Matt Garza and Scott Kazmir is very talented but inexperienced in October. Advantage Sox.

Normally I'd agree, but Lester is pitching in game 3, so he's going to make at best 2 starts in the playoffs. Beckett is coming off a rough start, and hasn't shown he's the dominating force from last year. And Dice-K just isn't very good. And with this being a 7 game series, I think you have to include Wakefield & Sonnanstine. Once again, depth and health for the Rays gives them a bit of an advantage in the rotation. If Beckett was healthy and productive it's a different story, but he's an unknown at this point.

Bullpen: The back end of the Sox pen is rock solid with Jonathan Papelbon, set up by Hideki Okajima and Justin Masterton. Dan Wheeler, Grant Balfour and Chad Bradford must steel their nerves to succeed, although Wheeler did set up for the Astros in October a couple of years back. Advantage Sox.

First off, one of the key relievers for the Rays is JP Howell, and not Chad Bradford. Howell and Balfour pitched the Rays out of some huge jams against the White Sox (especially that bases loaded escape job by Balfour), and outside of the Jays I think the Rays have one of the best bullpens in the majors. Hell, during the regular season the Rays bullpen ERA (3.55), WHIP (1.26) and opponents OPS (669) was much better than the Sox were at 4.00, 1.35 and 707 respectively.

Based on these stats, I think it's really hard to argue the Sox have a better bullpen here. Masterson was a nice addition, but I don't think he's a shutdown set up man, and he wasn't very strong during the series against the Angels. So if anything, the Red Sox bullpen will be a liability, and not the Rays.

The Sox had a better run differential this season, but I think the Rays have a big advantage now thanks to their health. If Beckett, Lowell, Drew and even Ortiz are all healthy I think the Sox win. But with so many injured guys, the Rays have a real shot of making the World Series.

Damn, I never thought I'd say that....


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