Wednesday, September 10, 2003

Up for grabs

My favorite baseball fan (who, by a mere mistake of geography, happens to cheer for the evil empire) sent me this article. The article tries to predict a favorite for this year's World Series, which is admittedly a daunting task since there is no clear front runner. I like what this guy has to say though:

YANKEES: Boss Steinbrenner is just about demanding that they win. And he'll be happy to hear that of our 15 serious contenders, only the Giants (36-24) have topped the Yankees' record against the other contenders (36-26). He won't want to hear the Yankees rank 11th out of 15 in bullpen ERA, 10th in rotation ERA and only seventh in run differential vs. their opponents (plus-102).

"(Jason) Giambi isn't hitting the ball inside at all," says one AL scout. "Bernie (Williams) is just a singles hitter now. Aaron Boone is an out right now. And they're not a real good defensive team. But they can still line up (Mike Mussina, (Andy) Pettitte and (Roger) Clemens. So against certain clubs, they can match up."

RED SOX: The Angels pounded their way into a parade last October. So who's to say the Red Sox can't do the same? They lead the contenders in every significant offensive category. They lead the AL in the runs scored/allowed (plus-143). But among the contenders, only the Royals have a worse bullpen ERA (4.98), and just the Royals and Twins had worse starters' ERAs (4.41).

"If I had to pick one team, I'd pick them," says one GM. "And the only reason is, I think Pedro (Martinez), (Derek) Lowe and (Tim) Wakefield give them a chance to get the game to the seventh inning. Which is what they need, because their bullpen scares the hell out of me. But they've got the best offense in baseball, which makes them the least likely team to get shut down by good pitching."

...[evaluations of other teams in the running]...

THE PICK: Well, we tried doing this mathematically. We ranked the contenders in nine categories -- winning percentage, runs scored/allowed, record vs. contenders, second-half record, runs scored, team ERA, starters' ERA, bullpen ERA and OPS. Using that system, we got Giants vs. Yankees, with the Giants winning it all.

But that seemed way too easy. So we're not going to pick by the numbers. We're going to pick the best story: Cubs vs. Red Sox. Why the Cubs? Because Prior and Zambrano are a combined 14-1, 1.40 since the break, and if Kerry Wood is your third-best starter, nobody can top that. Why the Red Sox? Because this is baseball's best lineup since the '95 Indians -- and they can run Pedro out there twice in a short series.

Now if those two teams really played in a World Series, it would be reasonable to wonder if anybody would win. But our first prediction is: Somebody would. Our second prediction is: That team would be the Red Sox, because they're better-balanced. And our third prediction is: The party in New England wouldn't end till Opening Day.

This is actually why being a Boston sports fan is so tough. Every year, there's just enough reason to hope...


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