Monday, October 1, 2007

Game One Preview - Lackey vs. Beckett

John Lackey vs. the Red Sox - This matchup particularly had Red Sox fans salivating over a Angels/Red Sox ALDS. Lackey will be facing some heavy demons when he takes the mound in Fenway Park. In 11 career starts against the Red Sox, Lackey's 1-6 with a 6.27 ERA and a WHIP of 1.92. He's struggled even more in Fenway Park where his ERA rises above 7 and his WHIP above 2.00.

Josh Beckett vs. the Angels - Josh Beckett has only four career starts against the Angels. In those starts, he has been dominant, going 2-0 with a 2.16 ERA and a WHIP of 1.08. While that's not much of a sample size, the Angels unfamiliarity with Beckett could work to his advantage.

Red Sox Hitter To Watch:
J.D. Drew -
After a disappointing first half, Drew stepped it up a bit in the second half. His hottest month of the season was September in which he hit .342/.454/.618. Drew hits much better at home (.834 OPS vs. .763 OPS) and is the Red Sox hitter with the most success against Lackey. Drew's 4-5 against Lackey with a triple and an RBI.

Angels Hitter To Watch:
Garret Anderson - Anderson is another player who has had a good second half. Since the All-Star break he's hit .305/.361/.530. Anderson has former success at Fenway Park, and limited success against Josh Beckett. And other than Vlad himself, Anderson has the highest SLG on the team. His forte is driving in runs. Anderson is not the guy you want at the plate in a big game situation.

Miscellanious Game Notes - Baserunners have had a success rate of 70% against Beckett this season. That isn't quite as bad as it looks, but it's not going to shut down a running game. Baserunners have an even better success rate against Lackey this year but I don't expect the Red Sox to run a lot given their former success against him.

One thing to watch is just how aggressive the Angels are on the basepaths. Everyone in the world knows the Angels like to run, so the Red Sox may attempt some "novelty" plays on defense. I say novelty in quotation marks because nothing's a novelty if it gets you outs, especially in the playoffs.

The intracacies of Fenway Park may also work to the advantage of the Red Sox. The Angels aren't familiar with the park, as they typically only play in it for 3 games a year. There are times in Fenway Park when you have to be conservative on the bases. Grounders down the left field line that would be doubles anywhere else, often bounce off the stands and come back into the infield. Balls hit off the Green Monster are often just long singles but the Angels could get into trouble trying to stretch them into doubles.

There's a good chance the starters may not decide this game. Angels set up man Scot Shields has been horrid against the Red Sox in his career. In 21 games, Shields has an ERA of 7.71 and a WHIP of 1.75. He's also allowed 6 home runs.

If Beckett does not last 7 innings, there's a good chance the Red Sox will bring in Eric Gagne for the 7th. Gagne hasn't allowed a run in his last five appearances but he's blown up in important spots with the Red Sox. The Angels could easily turn just a walk into a double with a stolen base and I wouldn't trust Gagne to prevent that runner from scoring.