That’s right. I’m predicting that the Sox will wrap this ALDS series up in four games. (Actually, I think they could do it in three with the injuries the Angels are facing right now, but I’m hedging my bets). The seven factors that will influence in this series (and which team has the edge in each) is the subject of this week’s Metro column.

This was a tricky column for me to write. I jotted the seven factors (starting pitching, bullpen, closer, defense, baserunning, overall offense, and power hitting) down in my notebook and then set out to evaluate each team independently. I was very much surprised by my findings: in every category, the teams are either even or the Red Sox have an edge. I struggled with writing such an apparently biased column, especially since I’m an unabashed Boston homer—would anyone take me seriously if I didn’t give the Halos an edge somewhere? But in the end, I had to go with what the data was telling me. To be sure, the Angels are a very good team, and in the playoffs anything can happen—a five-game series seems especially keyed to the possibility of upsets. But I was surprised at the edge the Red Sox have heading into this series, which starts tonight.

The most controversial call I made in the article was giving the Red Sox an edge in baserunning. Every talking head I’ve heard so far has handed this category to the Angels with ease. It seems like common sense. After all, the Angels love to steal. As a team, they’re second in the league in steals at 139 (all those double-steals helped them out here). Boston, with 96, is seventh. And Boston has never been known as a fast team. But as I looked at the numbers, the way the media is handing the Angels the edge in baserunning began to seem less like common sense and more like laziness.

With Coco Crisp, Julio Lugo, and Jacoby Ellsbury on the team, Boston’s slow days are over—at least temporarily. And when I looked at each team’s stolen base percentage, Boston had a huge advantage over Anaheim. Boston is actually first in the league with an 80% success rate, while Anaheim is eleventh, with a 72% success rate. (These numbers have changed slightly since I wrote the column—not sure what’s up with that, since the regular season is over. Thanks,! But the basic comparison is the same.) Smarter people than I have argued that, on an individual level, a player who can’t maintain a 75% stolen base percentage shouldn’t  be stealing bases, because he’s actually hurting his team. Where the Angels are concerned, however, stealing makes up for a lack of power hitting on their part. They clearly know how to get on base: they’re third on OBP and fourth in the league in hits. But they’re fifth in doubles (Boston is first) and eleventh in triples (and they’re a supposedly speedy team! even “slow” Boston ranks sixth in this category). When you look at home runs, the Angels are twelfth in the AL, ahead of only Minnesota and Kansas City. Clearly, Mike Scioscia feels that small ball is the way for this team to go—and it’s gotten them this far.

However, Boston’s better stolen base percentage tells me that baserunning could be a factor that tilts in favor of the Red Sox this postseason. They’re not stealing to make up for a lack of extra-base hits. They’re stealing from a position of strength, not a position of competitive weakness. They’re stealing situationally, strategically—and successfully. And that makes them more effective baserunners in the playoffs.

11 Responses to “Sox in Four.”

  1. Ryan Howard would most likely have 200+ homers right now if he didn’t cock block him with Thome for the first couple years at The Bank. Besides that, Ed Wade was such a “Yes Man” it was pathetic. And then every year around the trade deadline he’d poke his little turtle head out of his shell and lie to the fans about how not making a trade was actually good for us. And I’ll never forgive him for trotting Paul Abbott out to the mound for 9 starts (I’m pretty sure he went 0-9) when the Phillies fell short of the playoffs by only a couple games in Wade’s last year with the Phils.

    While I respect your opinion that Ed Wade was “decent,” I have such a deep-rooted hatred for the man I can’t help but to feel sorry for Houston fans.

  2. I have to disagree with the Wade as a good GM argument. First, while it’s true that the Phillies drafted guys like Utley, Howard, and Hamels while he was GM, Wade was not in charge of the drafts. Mike Arbuckle is very much in charge of the Phillies scouting department and the credit for drafting those guys should go to him, not Wade.

    As for the argument that he didn’t mortgage the future. What about Gavin Floyd? Wade refused to trade him when his stock was sky-high and the kid never turned into anything. There’s probably other prospects that never became major leaguers that Wade could’ve traded and didn’t. The fact is he was overly cautious with the prospects. I will get down on my knees in thanks that he didn’t trade away Utley or Hamels, but maybe if he’d had the guts to pull the trigger on a deal at some point, they would’ve actually made the playoffs one of those years. Imagine packaging Gavin Floyd, once the Phils top prospect, for a major league stud that could have put the team over the hump?

  3. Ok, first of all, let’s not kill Wade for the players he DIDN’T trade. I mean, he didn’t trade Floyd. Fine. But Gillick did, and look how wonderfully that turned out.

    Maybe Wade was overly cautious. But it seems like trade dealine deals are such a crapshoot and they are almost never smart longterm decisions. One need only look at the Red Sox acquisition of Eric Gagne for the most recent example of a deadline deal gone horribly wrong.

    And sure, Howard was blocked by Thome for a little while. But come on, you loved watching Thome play in Philly. Admit it. If you’re going to block a guy like Howard, at least it was with a stud like Thome.

    And finally, if you’re going to forgive Gillick for making you watch J.D. Durbin, then you have to forgive Wade for making you watch Paul Abbot. Fair is fair.

  4. If you’re going to give him credit for not trading guys that turned out to be good, then it makes just as much sense to knock him for holding on to guys that turned out bad. The reason Gillick couldn’t get anything for Floyd is because Floyd’s stock had dropped so far by the time Wade was fired, that he didn’t have much value anymore.

    Trade deadline deals weren’t a crapshoot for the GM’s trading with Ed Wade. How about Curt Schilling for Omar Daal, Vicente Padilla, and Nelson Figueroa. Or Scott Rolen for Placido Polanco and Bud Smith. Those trades seemed to work out pretty well for the D-Backs and Cardinals. I don’t blame Wade for making them, he had to for financial reasons at the time, but the point is dealing prospects for established players often works.

    And Wade gets credit for making the Phillies competitive again, but that was basically because he was allowed to raise the payroll. He made some good moves with that money (Thome) and some really bad ones (David Bell, the Lieberthal extension).

    Wade wasn’t the worst GM ever, but he certainly wasn’t good.

  5. I’m sorry, but I just can’t criticize Wade for not trading a prospect who was only 22 years old at the time.

    And I’d also be a little wary of writing Floyd off. He’s still young and he’s been pitching well for the White Sox of late.

    From the Chicago Sun-Times:

    While Floyd (1-4) is winless in his last four starts, the right-hander has put up good numbers, allowing just nine earned runs in that span for a 3.33 ERA.

    ”I like the way he’s thrown the last three outings, and hopefully he continues to do it,” manager Ozzie Guillen said.

  6. You said it yourself–he was a decent GM (which is more generous than I’d be). But when has being just above the middle ever been good enough in Philly. If Howard, Utley, Rollins, and Hamels were decent, we probably wouldn’t like them either.

    Simple fact of the matter is that the point of every non-rebuilding season is to win a World Series. Wade’s teams never won a division or got past the sniffing butt stage with the playoffs. Just developing talent isn’t good enough, you have to put together a winner.

    Adding to a legacy of not winning a damn thing, Wade left a barren future (one of the worst farm systems in the league), and all he is in Philly now is Pat Gillick’s excuse to lose. Not good enough.

    Eff Wading. We want someone who can swim.

  7. Listen, I’m not talking about a “blockbuster!!!” trade-deadline deal, I’m jussaying get someone. There are arms available at the waiver wire deadline. Instead, the Phils (led by Ed Wade) wouldn’t risk bringing in the extra coupla million for a chance at 9 starts.

    I mean, do you honestly think Ed Wade woulda made that Iguchi deal? Which might’ve just saved the Phils season, btw. If we tried to slide Abe Nunez into 2B & the 8 hole everyday, the Phils would be about 6 games out right now.

    Hey, say what you want about Ed Wade, but he isn’t the “hustler” type. I wouldn’t exactly call him a go-getter. And Pat Gillick isn’t as much of an upgrade as I’d hoped, but at least he has 4 different teams on his speed dial that makes trades with him. Wade had ZERO.

    Wade is, was, and always will be, a loser. I gare-on-tee it.

  8. Floyd has good stuff but I don’t think he has the mental make-up to ever be a good major-league pitcher. That’s completely based on my opinion though, and I can’t back that up in any way. Time will tell.

    I think I’ve said enough about this, but my point isn’t really: “Wade should have traded Floyd”. My point is just that I don’t think Wade deserves to get credit for “not mortgaging the future”, which is just a euphemism for “not doing anything”. That’s a good way to not end up looking like an idiot, but sometimes it can be the biggest mistake of all. If I was an Astros fan, I’d want a guy with some guts, a guy who’s willing to make a move that could backfire, but might also get you a World Series ring. That’s not Ed Wade.

  9. Nick Kapur says:

    This is a great point about the stolen bases. It really surprises me that the Halos’ SB percentage is so low (well into the hurting-rather-than-helping zone).

    I do think some other things that might be worth looking at when evaluating the contribution each team’s speed to their offense would be how often they go from first to third on singles, how often they hit and run, and how successfully they hit and run.

    One thing that you are always hearing about the Angles is that they go from first to third on singles more often than any other team, by a large margin. I’m not sure if that is really the case, but if it’s true, that would provide a huge jump in the chance of scoring runs, and would represent a significant speed-based advantage that can not be found just by looking at SB% alone.

    If, as you suggest in your column, the Angels trail the Sox in almost every offensive category, yet are about even in runs, thats kind of a mystery, but maybe one that something like a preternatural ability to go from first to third might be able to explain. I haven’t done any research on this obviously, but it would be interesting to do some and see…

  10. Nick Kapur says:

    Okay, after a little bit of research, sure enough the Angels went from first to third on singles a ridiculous 120 times this past season, and were only thrown out a mere 7 times. By comparison, no other team in baseball even did it 100 times.

    For some historical perspective, the Angels have successfully gone from first to third on singles a ridiculous 531 times since 2003, 48 times more than the next best team in all of baseball (the St. Louis Cardinals), and 63 times more than the best AL team (which is, surprisingly enough, the New York Yankees).

    There’s your one edge you were looking for to concede to the Angles.

  11. Sarah Green says:

    Damn you, Nick. Where are you when I’m on deadline?? Oh, that’s right. Japan.

    As an update to this post, I found this ridiculous article in USA Today. It actually came out yesterday, but I only got around to reading it this morning.

    In it, Paul White, like me, concedes just about every advantage to the Red Sox. Lackey has been good, he writes, but “the entire Angels pitching staff was worked over by the Red Sox this season, a 6.04 team ERA in their 10 games.” The Angels don’t have a lot of power, especially with the injuries in their lineup.

    Meanwhile, as he notes, the Red Sox do have power. The one issue that Boston has been struggling with, according to him, is a few late-season injuries. (Though it should be noted that I think Francona was being intentionally over-cautious with Youkilis and Ramirez, to rest them for the postseason.)Plus, he writes, Crisp was down with a virus during the last week of the season.

    And yet….his prediction? “Angels in 5.” Because the CF had a sore throat? I don’t get it.

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