That's Debatable: Which team wins the ALCS?
Friday's topic: Who will win the ALCS?
The case for the Red SoxThe Red Sox just beat the Angels, baseball's only 100-win team, despite a 1-for-17 effort from Dustin Pedroia, a subpar performance by Josh Beckett, and a hip injury that forced third baseman Mike Lowell to be removed from the postseason roster. Although the loss of Lowell hurts the Boston lineup, the Red Sox are a strong defensive club, and they have enough speed on the bases to manufacture some runs at Tropicana Field. The Sox ranked third in stolen bases in the AL during the regular season and were second to Oakland with a 77-percent success rate, so Jacoby Ellsbury and friends have the potential to put some pressure on the Tampa pitching staff and catcher Dioner Navarro. The Red Sox need to steal a game early in St. Petersburg and bring it home to Fenway Park, where they went 7-2 against the Rays in the regular season. Tampa Bay scored only 25 runs in nine games at Fenway and posted a 5.70 team ERA.
The case for the RaysHome-field advantage counts for a lot in this series. The Rays posted a major-league best 57-24 home record this season, including an 8-1 mark against Boston. Their lineup is at full strength now that Evan Longoria and Carl Crawford are back (and Rocco Baldelli is making a contribution). Longoria, who joined Gary Gaetti as the only player to homer in his first two postseason at-bats, sure doesn't perform like a rookie. It might also be a good idea to keep an eye on second baseman Akinori Iwamura, who homered off Mark Buehrle in the AL Division Series and hit four of his six regular-season homers against Boston. Tampa Bay's bullpen posted a 7-0 record against Boston, and nine of the Rays' 10 victories over the Red Sox were by one or two runs, so Maddon's team isn't going to get rattled when it's close in the late innings. The Rays seem tailor-made for baseball in October, when tight defense and reliable bullpen work are necessities.
The verdictAs much as we love the Rays' energy and karma, it's hard to pick against Boston. Lester didn't allow an earned run in 14 innings against the Angels, and Beckett's postseason track record helps allay concerns over his health and relative lack of effectiveness in the Division Series. The Rays' Scott Kazmir and Matt Garza, in contrast, both were so-so against the White Sox in the first round. While Tampa's bullpen is stronger than Boston's from top to bottom, the Rays don't have anyone comparable to Jonathan Papelbon in the ninth. Papelbon is 4-1 with a 0.00 ERA in 19 2/3 career postseason innings, and in a series this close, he could make the difference. Red Sox in six.
Check out the full archive of That's Debatable chats.
Jerry Crasnick (12:59 PM)
Hey, Let's talk Red Sox and Rays. It sure beats talking about the stock market.
The Rays are going to win the series in six games. The Rays are on fire and have Home Field Advantage and won't make the same mistakes the Angels did. Watch out Boston!
Jerry Crasnick (1:00 PM)
James, Tell me you're not just bitter because your team is history.
Jerry...Dice K throws a lot of pitches, and a lot of balls as a result. Do you see the young excited Rays getting too anxious on his breaking balls tonight, or do you think they will be able to show patience and plate discipline? Thanks for the thoughts.
Jerry Crasnick (1:02 PM)
Chris, Dice-K had three starts against the Rays this year. He lasted exactly five innings in each start, and threw 101, 102 and 101 pitches. I think the Rays are well-schooled on the importance of laying off the outside fastball against him. If he gives the Red Sox six innings, Terry Francona will be ecstatic.
do you think boston made a mistake starting dice-k in game one.
Jerry Crasnick (1:04 PM)
Brad, It's hard to say it's a mistake when Dice-K went 9-0 on the road this season and picked up the only Red Sox victory at the Trop. Lester and Beckett are still going to pitch twice each if it goes seven. When a guy is 18-3, no matter how ugly the underlying stats, you have to have some faith in him giving you a decent effort.
Alex (Herkimer, NY)
C'mon now! The Rays have dominated all season long. It's hard to pick against Tampa Bay. They didn't lose that energy during the ALDC against Chicago. I'm betting on the Rays.
Jerry Crasnick (1:05 PM)
Alex, I was in Tampa for the two games at the Trop, and they derive a lot of energy from those big crowds, for sure. But the White Sox aren't the Red Sox.
Mike (St. Pete, FL)
Do you think adding Edwin Jackson to the roster was the right move for the Rays?
Jerry Crasnick (1:08 PM)
Mike, Joe Maddon knows his roster and he's pushed all the right buttons this season, so it's hard to argue. I wonder if he isn't concerned about Kazmir and Garza -- neither of whom has been great lately. Jackson gives the Rays another long relief option besides David Price in a long series.
So much is being made in the media of how bruised and banged up the Red Sox are (Lowell's hip, Drew's back, Beckett's arm, etc) and yet, going into this series, it seems that many people act as if the Red Sox won't be able to overtake the Rays because of these injuries. Considering the Red Sox bounced the Angels while banged up, doesn't it speak to the depth of the team that they've kept on winning in spite of those injuries? And, should the injuries being anything other than a minor concern at this point?
Jerry Crasnick (1:10 PM)
Chris, It's not a minor concern when a guy like Lowell is out. Let's remember, he was the World Series MVP last year. The big question is Beckett. His stuff was OK against the Angels, but his command wasn't very Beckett-like. He'll have to be better against Tampa for the Red Sox to win this series.
Zach (Tempe, AZ)
As a neutral observer, it seems like these two teams are equally powerful. So for me, it seems like the determining factor in this series will be the same as it was for these two teams during the regular season: home-firld advantage. If I remember correctly, the Rays were 8-1 in the games at the Trop, but the Red Sox were 7-2 at Fenway. I'll take the Rays in seven.
Jerry Crasnick (1:12 PM)
Zach, As I mentioned in my lead, home field advantage is huge in this series. One thing that's interesting to me: Tampa Bay will pitch two kids, Garza and Sonnanstine, in Games 3 and 4 in Boston. Then comes Shields, who was awful in two starts at Fenway earler this season. I'm not that sold on Tampa's starting pitching on the road in this series.
Who cares about MVPs in 7 game series. You're telling me you'd rather have a healthy Lowell over Youk, Pedroia, Drew, Bay, Jacoby?
Jerry Crasnick (1:12 PM)
John, No, what I'm telling you is that I'd rather have a healthy Mike Lowell playing third than a healthy Mark Kotsay playing first.
Joel, San Pedro, CA
Do you think Terry Francona is making a mistake starting Josh Beckett coming off of so many injuries? Pitchers like that are rarely sharp and Beckett would probably be making rehab starts in the minors if this were the regular season. Francona seems to believe that his other starters will make up for any lack of command Beckett might show, that the Red Sox will win the other games not started by Beckett so he can afford to let Beckett get his command back even in the postseason.
Jerry Crasnick (1:14 PM)
Joel, Beckett is a mystery at this point. I talked to a baseball person last week who questioned whether he has an oblique injury, or if it's really something else (say, arm related). Nobody knows at this point. But based on the guy's history, competitive mindset and stuff, there's no way you can keep him out of these games. Terry Francona doesn't have a whole lot of other options.
J.B. (Dunmore, PA)
The first two games of this series remind me of our backyard pickup games when I was a kid. Hit the ball off of the high catwalk and it's a HR. Hit it off of the lower catwalk and it's in play. Whoever designed the Trop should be institutionalized.
Jerry Crasnick (1:15 PM)
J.B., I was told by a Rays official that when they were designing this place, they had Vaughn Hayes hit a bunch of balls as high as he could, and nothing came close to the highest catwalks. So you can blame it all on Vaughn.
Danny - Tampa, FL
its not so much that the Rays are placing edwin jackson onthe roster but taking off an ineffective slow-footed Eric Hinske - he didnt play in the ALDS and the Rays have Cliff Floyd as a LH DH. the roster spot is better used on a pitcher at this point
Jerry Crasnick (1:17 PM)
Danny, Everybody would rather err on the side of having too many pitchers than being caught short in a Best of 7 series -- although I haven't been able to find too many Red Sox fans who are ecstatic about seeing Mike Timlin's name on the ALCS roster.
Dan (Nutley, NJ)
Do you think we'll see David Price in this series? What type of situation would it take for Maddon to put him in?
Jerry Crasnick (1:18 PM)
Dan, Price was warming up in the second inning of Game 2 after Scott Kazmir threw 37 pitches in the first inning. That's the type of situation you might see him in. The Rays, I'm sure, are hoping it won't come to that.
Do you believe that the Rays and the Red sox are going to get in another fight?
Jerry Crasnick (1:19 PM)
Jeremy, No. I think Kimbo Slice has a better chance of making a comeback than that happening.
True or False: If the Rays can win one of the Lester starts, they will win the series.
Jerry Crasnick (1:19 PM)
J.B. (Dunmore, PA)
I'm also an impartial observer here. I remember when Manny got traded that several experts wrote off the Red Sox. Bay came in and has done a great job. The real key might be the two managers and based on his history, Terry Francona has to get the edge. He seems to get the right combinations out there to win championships. Maddon takes an unconventional approach to managing and that might not work as well in a seven game post-season series.
Jerry Crasnick (1:20 PM)
J.B., In Game 2 of the Division Series, Maddon had Chad Bradford warming up in the second inning. Seven innings later, Bradford came on to close out the game. I asked Maddon about it afterward and he said, "I think that's the first time in history that's happened." I love the fact that the guy is such a free thinker.
Seth (San Diego, CA.)
If the Sox take one of the first two in the Trop - can we call the series over?
Jerry Crasnick (1:21 PM)
Seth, Again, I don't think it's "over," but it's a huge plus for Boston. Despite Dice-K's road record, there aren't many people looking for a Red Sox victory in the opener.
It is true that Mike Lowell was the WS MVP last year, but he was also 'the other guy' back in the Beckett deal that wasn't supposed to amount to anything. Boston's strength is their depth of roster, and the fact that it can honestly be anyone at anytime who is ready to step up and carry the team. Look at what Lowrie did last series. Look at what Lester has done with Beckett looking poor.
Jerry Crasnick (1:24 PM)
Evan, My brother, who's a huge Indians fan and ardent Red Sox hater, told me, "I hate to give the Red Sox credit, but it's hard not to when they're winning with guys like Dustin Pedroia and Jed Lowrie and Kevin Youkilis." People talk a lot about Boston's huge resources, etc., but Theo Epstein, Terry Francona & Co. have done a great job working young players into the mix. Just consider where they'd be without Lester and Papelbon.
Ethan (St. Petersburg, FL)
Hi Jerry, You said that you were in Tampa for two games at the Trop. Did you know that the Trop is actually in the city of St. Petersburg, totally different than Tampa? Do you think that the fact that many, if not most, baseball writers and commentators seem to think that the Rays play in Tampa indicates that they're still not getting the respect they deserve? Will this translate on to the field?
Jerry Crasnick (1:25 PM)
Ethan, I'm staying in a hotel in downtown St. Petersburg, so obviously I know where I am. Based on the Rays' regular season attendance totals, they could use a little more respect from the local fans. Never mind the baseball writers.
Nick (Tempe, AZ)
I gotta go with Boston in this. Even without Lowell the Sox dominated who i think was the best team in the AL. Even with their injuries you had other players stepping up for them. Bay is i believe is doing just fine replacing Manny and then you have the young guns, Jacoby is picking up where he left off last season, Lowrie is hitting just fine, Youke is just doing what he does. And once we get Dustin (AL MVP in my mind) that adds a whole another level to the top of their order. That is a potential of two on with no outs and Ortiz coming up, then Bay, Drew, or Youke to follow. Their hitting is just to good not to win this in 6 games
Jerry Crasnick (1:27 PM)
Nick, Thanks for the cogent analysis. Here are a couple of interesting numbers to watch in Game 1: Youkilis is a career 0-for 17 against James Shields, while David Ortiz is 7-for-14 vs. Shields. If Big Papi is going to get untracked, this might be the night to do it.
So what's the deal with Crawford? He's been terrible this year (injuries aside). Does he show up for this series?
Jerry Crasnick (1:28 PM)
Eric, Let's not forget, the guy was out an awfully long time and didn't have the luxury of a minor league rehab. Those at-bats in the Chicago series will help Crawford, but I have to think he's still trying to get his timing back.
Jerry, why Wakefield instead of Byrd?
Jerry Crasnick (1:30 PM)
Chris, I didn't hear Terry Francona's explanation, but I just checked, and Wakefield is a career 19-5 with a 3.32 ERA against Tampa. Throw in his postseason experience, and it seems pretty much like a no-brainer.
What I think is so astounding is all the homegrown talent in the Red Sox lineup. What other successful teams can boast about so many players coming from within. Let's see...Vtek, Youk, Pedroia, Lowrie, Jacoby, Lester, Pap, Buchholz, Delcarmen....
Jerry Crasnick (1:31 PM)
John, You're right, although the Rays have done quite well themselves with Upton, Longoria, Crawford, etc. The difference is, Tampa Bay has always had the luxury of picking much higher in the draft.
Maddon is probably MOY, and rightfully so. But I think Francona is the most underappreciated manager in MLB. Thoughts?
Jerry Crasnick (1:33 PM)
Bobo, I can buy that one. Boston is an awfully tough town to manage in, and Francona has a Joe Torre-like ability to relate to the media and keep small flareups from turning into huge bonfires. He doesn't get the credit he deserves.
Matt (Easthampton, MA)
Hey Jerry, what about the fact that so many red sox fans tend to be at the TROP. I mean, at times, they are louder then the Rays fans.
Jerry Crasnick (1:35 PM)
Matt, That'll be very interesting to watch tonight. I was at the Chicago series and it was about 99.9 percent Rays fans. I have no idea how resourceful Red Sox fans have been in scoffing up tickets, but they could help negate the Rays' home field edge.
Rob (Brighton, MA)
Who has the better bench, and do you see it being a big factor in the series? Will we see half as many pinch hitters as the NLCS?
Jerry Crasnick (1:38 PM)
Rob, Let's see -- Re Sox have Sean Casey, Alex Cora and Coco Crisp when Ellsbury is starting in center. The Rays have guys like Cliff Floyd, Gabe Gross, Zobrist or Gomes, depending on who's starting. Tampa has a little more home run sock, for what it's worth. But benches aren't nearly as important in the AL, because of the DH.
Dom from Btown
Wakefield lost his last 2 decisions against the Rays. They can steal off of him at will. Byrd has pitched better lately, has pitched in the playoffs and Tito will get pounded if Wakefield gets shelled.
Jerry Crasnick (1:40 PM)
Dom, You raise one very interesting point. Tampa led the AL with 142 steals this season, and most people think the Rays can run on Beckett, Wakefeld and Dice-K (as well as Varitek, who threw out only 13 of 69 base stealers). Boston has to find a way to neutralize the running game.
Its the rays in this one, As mentioned in an earlier column, whoever has the deepest starting rotation goes the farthest. In this case, its the Rays.
Jerry Crasnick (1:41 PM)
Bryan, Tampa's rotation might be deeper, but it depends on whether Kazmir and Garza pitched like they did earlier in the season or more recently. Kazmir allowed four homers in two of his last three starts and barely survived the first inning in the ALDS. I don't think he's 100 percent right now.
It seems to me that this Tampa team is a team of destiny, almost like the Miracle Mets (which has been said many times this season). Everybody thought the Mets were cooked against that great Orioles team, in fact I remember in Tom Seaver's book he wrote "When we lost game 1 to the Orioles in Baltimore I thought our luck had run out." But I just feel like the pieces are in place for Tampa to get this done. It's one of those times that the baseball gods just have their way. Also when do they announce the Gold Gloves and Silver Sluggers?
Jerry Crasnick (1:43 PM)
Simon, Hey, a Rays World Series victory might not be what the TV people are looking for, but they're a wonderful story. I just hope that people around the country tune in rather than disengage just because they're a small market club without a lot of big-name players.
i think it's von hayes.
Jerry Crasnick (1:43 PM)
Steve-O, You're right. It is Von Hayes. My apologies, Big Von.
KO (Pittsfield, MA)
Being a fan of the Sox - the player that is en fuego an scares me is the ultra talented BJ Upton. Do you agree he could be a major factor?
Jerry Crasnick (1:44 PM)
KO, Definitely, Upton is such a multi-faceted player. He can beat you with a home run, a stolen base, a great catch in the gap or a sprint from first to third on a single. He's still a work in progress, but he has the potential to be a huge factor in this series.
Tim (Durham, CT)
Wakefield may have good CAREER numbers against the Rays, but this season he's been pretty bad against them. It's hard to see a reason other than "he's been here longer" to go with Wake for game 4. Byrd would give the Sox a higher % of having a quality start where Wake is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you're going to get. He could go 7 strong, or he could get lit up early. It's usually one or the other with Wake, depending on the movement and control he was of the knuckleball on the given night.
Jerry Crasnick (1:45 PM)
Tim, I suspect there's some "loyalty" here too. Tim Wakefield and Mike Timlin have been great for Terry Francona through the years, and he's comfortable with them in October. Boston fans better hope that loyalty isn't misplaced.
I can't wait for another shot at Coco, you say there is no chance we brawl? HA, I laugh in the face of danger!
Jerry Crasnick (1:46 PM)
James, Hey, save it for the Grapefruit League. There are more important items on your agenda tonight.
J.B. (Dunmore, PA)
The Sox seem to have the better closer but who gets the edge for the bridge between the starters and the closer? Seems like Boston would get the nod here too.
Jerry Crasnick (1:47 PM)
J.B., Actually, Tampa gets the edge for bridge-building. Grant Balfour, J.P. Howell and Chad Bradford have been more reliable than the Boston guys. The thing is, they might be handing the ball to Dan Wheeler. He's pretty good, but he's no Jonathan Papelbon.
Greg , Alexandria, VA
Slightly off-topic...do you know who would take over as manager today for Charlie Manual if he doesn't manage today due to the death of his mother? And how will that affect, if at all, the Phillies?
Jerry Crasnick (1:48 PM)
Greg, I hadn't heard about Charlie's mother. If so, my condolences to him. If he can't manage, I assume that bench coach Jimy Williams would fill in for him.
Admitted SOX FAN, CT
V-tek is not home grown, he came over with Lowe for Heathcliff Slocumb...and Joe Madden was the Sox second choice after Francona, so they know how good a manager he is....Rays pen has overachieved....7 game microscope and no real closer bitest them in the end....Sox in 7
Jerry Crasnick (1:50 PM)
Admitted, If Varitek's name was mentioned as homegrown, that was a mistake made in haste. As for the Rays' pen, we keep saying they're not as good as their numbers have been. But there's a time to give credit where credit is due.
Josh (Knoxville, TN)
Jerry, I'm a depressed Cubs fan, but I can't stop watching baseball. Who should I root for in the ALCS and the NLCS?
Jerry Crasnick (1:51 PM)
Josh, Well, I think you'd have to root for the Rays. There's no way a Cubs fan can root for the Red Sox. And the NL is a coin flip; on second thought, take the Phillies. If anybody can relate to the angst of Chicago fans, it's Philadelphia fans.
I think Wakefield is starting over Byrd because Byrd can pitch out of the bullpen much easier than Wakefield. Bringing Wake in with runners on only magnifies the Rays' running advantage.
Jerry Crasnick (1:52 PM)
Jay, I also think it messes with their catching when they bring in Wakefield mid-game, right? Isn't Kevin Cash Wakefield's primary catcher?
Charlie Manuel's mother did die last night after suffering a heart attack two days ago. The Philadelphia Inquirer says he will manage tonight.
Jerry Crasnick (1:53 PM)
Dan, Thanks for the update. Again, let's pass along our sympathies to Charlie.
Vaughn or Von is immaterial to the question: they designed the ground rules based on Von Hayes? Are you kidding me?????
Jerry Crasnick (1:54 PM)
Matt, As I mentioned previously, that's what I was told last week at the Trop. They had to have somebody hit sky high popups to gauge where they'd place the cat walks, and Von was the guy. If that's not accurate, somebody feel free to write in and correct me. (Next week, as it turns out. This debate is history). Enjoy the game tonight, everybody.
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