Monday, September 29, 2008
Baseball Prospectus found that clubs with a power pitching staff, a top closer and are good with the leather win the majority of postseason games. We should feel good that the Sox rate the best. But one other characteristic I would add is a lineup that can go yard.
The notion is that October baseball only features the best pitchers, who make fewer mistakes, but when they do leave a fat one in the middle of the plate, the hitter needs to take advantage it. A lineup filled with power threats should be able to exploit the fewer opportunities in the postseason. LAA has a much better nine this year than in the recent past.
New GM Tony Reagins got a mid-season deal done that brought Mark Teixeira to Orange County. Teixeira and Torii Spelling Hunter gives LAA three real threats. LAA now has a legit postseason lineup not Vlad and slappies.
Teixeira (309/412/553 - AVG/OBP/SLG) is a hitter with few, if any weaknesses. He is equally potent from the left or right side. T-Rex hits for average, power, will take a walk and doesn’t strike out often. He does have more trouble with breaking balls down in the zone like most hitters. Teixeira is a tough out; keeping the guys in front of him off the bases will limit the damage.
Before getting to the guys in front of Teixeira, the guy hitting behind him, Vlad (304/366/523), is still a great hitter. I watched him mature at the plate under Frank Robinson in Montreal. Vlad became a more selective hitter and the complete package at the plate. He still has the tendency, at times, to chase, but those are few. Good command keeps the ball in the park against Vlad.
LAA’s gold glover in center, Torii Hunter (280/346/470), is a good hitter although not the same caliber as Vlad and T-Rex. He will strikeout more often than his fellow run producers. Hunter will chase pitches up in the zone. Expect Tek to get out of his crouch for the fastball up with two strikes. Hunter has problems with Paul Byrd with a 392 OPS in 52 at-bats. He kills Wake as does Vlad.
Chone Figgins and Howie Kendrick will probably hit first and second in front of the three sluggers. Figgins (276/367/318) is your typical speedster, contact, singles hitter but his willingness to take a walk every now and again makes him a more valuable player than a Juan Pierre. Kendrick (308/333/425) has exceptional bat control. He really can get the bat on the ball. The Sox may want to take advantage of his aggressive nature at the plate.
The bottom half of the lineup will likely feature Erick Aybar and Garret Anderson. Aybar (277/314/384) is not a threat. Anderson (293/325/433) can still hurt a team, but he has trouble with pitchers like Javy Lopez. Southpaw side armers are not his friend. He’ll only hit the Sox if they make a mistake that Anderson is looking for. Jeff Mathis or Mike Napoli will be behind the plate. Napoli (273/374/586) is a good hitter with power and patience, but splits time with Mathis (194/275/318) who is terrible. Hopefully, Mike Scioscia plays Mathis.
The rest of the has mostly power hitters like Brandon Wood - great minor league power, Kendry Morales, Juan Rivera - hit 23 homers in 2006, Gary Mathews Jr., and Rob Quinlan. They could see time at DH or as pinch hitters for Mathis. Designated late pinch runner, Reggie “What you talkin bout” Willits rounds out the position players on the postseason roster.
The key for the Sox is to keep Figgins and Kendrick off the bases, so Teixeira and Vlad will yield minimal damage. The bottom half of the lineup can be pitched to; they just can’t make many mistakes.