White Sox vs. Astros is all about the arms
The 2005 World Series is set, and this fall baseball will award its championship trophy to either the American League's Chicago White Sox or the National League's Houston Astros. The superb starting pitching of the White Sox propelled them past the Angels in five games, while the clutch hitting of young superstars and seasoned veterans helped the Astros shake off the defending NL champion Cardinals in six. So as the 102nd World Series gets underway on Saturday, we give you our thoughts on the matchup.
Abe: Alright Josh, the series starts Saturday with the Sox' Jose Contreras versus the Astros' Roger Clemens. Who do you like in Game One?
Josh: I have to go with the Astros. Clemens has so much playoff experience and Contreras is still getting acclimated with the playoff atmosphere. Although I expect Clemens to give the Astros the series lead after the opener, the White Sox pitching is too good to lose this series. In four out of the five games in the American League Championship Series (ALCS), the White Sox got complete game performances from Mark Buehrle, Jon Garland, Freddy Garcia and then Jose Contreras in four consecutive wins. What's your take on the pitching matchup in this World Series?
Abe: I have to disagree with you on this. I would much rather be in the Astros position in terms of their pitching rotation. Any team that can pitch Clemens, Andy Pettite and Roy Oswalt in the first three games of a series gets my vote. In seven World Series starts, Clemens is 3-0 with a 1.90 ERA, and Oswalt won two games in the National League Championship Series (NLCS) on his way to winning the MVP of the series. I know their rotation breaks down with fourth starter Brandon Backe, who has been mediocre at best this year, but look for the first three guys to probably start two games each in the series, assuming it goes seven.
Josh: That's true. And by true I mean I am actually agreeing with you: Brandon Backe is an embarrassment to that rotation. I cannot wait to see the White Sox battle him. It will be the most one-sided battle in this entire series. You have to concur that Chicago's hitting is better than Houston's.
Abe: Are you serious? Did you see that shot Lance Berkman hit off Chris Carpenter in Game 5 of the NLCS? Plus, that kid Chris Burke for the 'Stros is a superstar in the making. He can stretch singles into doubles, doubles into triples, and just wreak havoc on the basepaths. Leadoff man Willy Taveras is hitting .357 in the postseason, and the Astros' Taveras, Burke and Berkman all have on base percentages of at least .400 in the playoffs. Jason Lane has become a great hitter in spots, and Craig Biggio has been one of the best slap-hitters in baseball for more than a decade. And when Houston gets in a pinch, they have a great pinch-hitter in Jeff Bagwell. Morgan Ensberg leads the team with 9 RBI this postseason and Berkman and Burke each have two homers. In comparison, the only guys who can hit for the Sox are Joe Crede and Paul Konerko, and if the Astros are smart, they will pitch around them. Oh wait, they may not have to. I'll take Oswalt vs. Konerko in a tight spot any day.
Josh: Paul Konerko has four home runs and 11 runs batted in (RBI) in the playoffs, both more than any Astros player. The White Sox don't have much of a power lineup other than Konerko but they play small-ball with Scott Podsednik on the basepaths. The speedy Podsednik causes pitchers to become steal-paranoid whenever he gets on base. As well they should. He stole 59 bases in an injury-shortened season and he has stolen four bases so far in the playoffs. The White Sox just have a really balanced hitting attack with Joe Crede and A.J. Pierzynski each coming up with big plays at the plate throughout the playoffs. Although the Astros do have solid starting pitching, the Sox's hitting attack is one that does not count on home runs, just slap hit singles.
Abe: True, Podsednik is a threat whenever he gets on base, but I have to disagree with your mention of Pierzynski. Let's not forget that he and the White Sox might still be playing the Angels if not for a botched dropped-third strike call that turned the tide of the ALCS. I'm not calling Pierzynski a cheater, but he took advantage of a weak call from umpire Doug Eddings. Plus, a lot of Chicago's hits that dropped in for singles against a defensively weak Angels squad will not get past the Astros. Lane is an outstanding fielder, and led all postseason defenders in outfield assists through the NLCS. Taveras is a speedy centerfielder with a great arm and good positioning. Biggio is a leader in the field and also a smart second baseman and Ensberg, Houston's third baseman, can handle the hot corner.
Josh: That's all good, but the Sox play good defense too. Tadahito Iguchi plays Gold Glove-caliber second base, as does shortstop Juan Uribe. At third base, Joe Crede provides adequate defense and in the outfield, Jermaine Dye and Scott Podsednik cover a lot of ground. Late in games though, the Sox don't even use their defense because their bullpen is so good. Closer Bobby Jenks sports a 0.00 earned run average (ERA) through three innings of work in the playoffs. He leads Chicago with two saves this postseason. Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez pitched three critical innings of scoreless work in the ALCS. As a team this postseason, the White Sox bullpen has a 0.00 ERA. It just does not get any better than that.
Abe: Actually, I think it can get better. Just ask the Astros. Their starters are supremely confident in their bullpen to close the game out. Brad Lidge is one of the best closers in baseball, and relievers Chad Qualls and Dan Wheeler are consistent in their middle relief roles. Excluding Game 5 of the NLCS, Lidge has let up just one run in eight innings of postseason work, and has struck out 12 batters. Over a combined 14.2 innings in the '05 playoffs, Wheeler and Qualls have surrendered just three earned runs, scattering 11 hits. By the way, I can't believe you would reference Jenks' ERA when he has only pitched 3 innings of relief in the 2005 playoffs. Keep your praise of the Sox pitching to the starters, please.
Josh: Do you know the Astros' starters? "Their starters are supremely confident in their bullpen to close the game out." Yeah right. Brad Lidge just gave up one of the longest home runs in Astros history in game five of the NLCS to Albert Pujols. Confidence? What type of confidence does that inspire?
Abe: Did they win the series, or not? Ok, so the guy made a mistake in a big spot. Stuff happens, that's just baseball. Lidge still has some of the nastiest stuff in the bigs.
Josh: Lidge did not even close out the final game of the series. That does not show confidence in the man who is supposed to be one of the best closers in the game today. Anyways, the White Sox have a swagger about them right now and it all starts with manager Ozzie Guillen. His colorful, oddball personality rubs off on his players and they play for each other. I'm not saying Ozzie Guillen is the most brilliant strategist in baseball, but I do believe he is one of the best motivators. Phil Garner could not motivate a high school girls' softball team.
Abe: I cannot believe you just said that. If Phil Garner coached a girls' softball team, they would win the World Series, probably over the White Sox. Garner is an experienced manager with playoff experience and a leader-like presence among his players. He is also a great strategist. Guillen, however, is a rambling ex-player who wants to be buddies with all his players. He is like the father who just wants to be friends with his son.
Josh: I don't have the energy to argue with you anymore. White Sox in six, believe it.
Abe: Astros in seven. And I think Garner should coach Blair's softball team next year.
Josh: Definitely. I would love to see that.
Abe Schwadron. Abe is a huge basketball, baseball, and football fan that likes to read up on sports in SLAM, Sports Illustrated, and ESPN magazines. Hobbies include streetball, poker and film-making. A sneaker addict, Abe likes to keep his kicks fresh. Abe likes reggae and hip-hop music, … More »
Josh Zipin. Josh Zipin has trouble paying attention for more than three seconds at a time... More »