Thursday, October 20, 2005

Astros-WhiteSawx preview I

Where would you be without The Monk's trenchant baseball insights? Probably still not watching the World Series, as FOX will find out. It will be disappointing for the third and fourth largest cities in the US to have a WS with such low ratings.

The pitching staffs facing off are two of the best in baseball and arguably the two best rotations. The Astros have household three potential Hall of Famers -- one definite in Clemens, one highly possible in Pettitte (172-91, .654 winning %, career ERA+ of 120, 14 career postseason wins; compare that to Don Sutton's .559 win%, career ERA+ 108 and one 20-win season to Pettitte's two), and one on pace for it in Oswalt (83-39, win% .680, ERA+ 141, consecutive 20-win seasons). The White Sox have no future HoF members in their rotation, but have four good starters, not just three-plus-a-question-mark, who could prove anathema to the light-hitting Astros. So where is the difference?

There are two key differences between these teams, and the one that comes into play most may decide the series. First, the Astros have the bullpen edge with Lidge and Qualls over Jenks, Marte, Cotts and El Duque, but the question may be whether they'll be able to use that advantage against the rotation that pitched 44.1 of 45 possible innings against the Angels in the NLCS. Second, the WhiteSawx are ultimately an AL team with a lot of bashers who know Pettitte and Clemens well and have done well against those two; the Astros have pop (Berkman, Lane, Ensberg, Biggio) that the Angels lacked, but could not hit the Cardinals -- whose pitchers are not quite as good as the Palehos' starters and whom the Astros had seen often.

I'm inclined to believe in the Palehos at this point: they've allowed 20 runs in eight playoff games, dominated both the powerful (RedSawx) and the scrappy (Angels) and face a team that finished 11th in the weak-hitting NL in scoring. Their starters are better conditioned to finish what they began and are well-rested. Their manager is less apt to make colossal screw-ups (see here for a criticism of Phil Garner last year). And the first-finisher factor helps sway my vote (the team that won its LCS earlier has won all but one of the last 10 WS).

Then again, my analysis is often good, my picks can be iffy . . .

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