AL Divisional Series Predictions: Angels Vs. Red Sox
by Robert Ferringo - 10/6/2009
For the majority of this decade the American League has been a big game of scissors, paper, rock. The New York Yankees (rock) can't beat the Los Angeles Angels (paper). The Angels (paper) can't beat the Boston Red Sox (scissors). And the Red Sox (scissors) can't beat the Yankees (rock).
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So when the Angels realized who they were matched up with in the opening round of the 2009 MLB playoffs they had to be gritting their teeth just a little bit as the Red Sox were sharpening their scissors.
Boston heads to Anaheim to take on the Angels on Thursday in the American League Divisional Series. The Red Sox, despite being the road team, have been instilled as a -120 favorite and the total is set at 8.0.
This is the third straight season, and the fourth time in six years, that the Angels and Red Sox have squared off in the first round and Boston has dominated Anaheim in all three prior meetings. The Red Sox are 9-1 against the Angels in that stretch, earning sweeps in 2004 and 2007 before taking down the Halos in four games last year.
Boston is 4-0 in the playoffs in Anaheim.
In the face of such a decisive mental and, clearly, physical advantage it's really tough to put your money down on the Angels. However, heading into this year's matchup there are some signs of light that suggest that the Halos - who are the divisional winner that is facing the Wild Card - could pull the upset.
First, the playoffs are always all about pitching. And right now there is no doubt that the Angels have the edge with their starters. John Lackey has finally rounded into form after an injury-slowed start to the year. Scott Kazmir is very familiar with facing the Red Sox and has been elite since heading west. Behind them are Jered Weaver and Joe Saunders, each of which has the potential to dominate on the right night.
The Red Sox are not nearly as situated. Jon Lester is exceptional. However, the Angels have had a ton of success this year against left-handed pitching. Josh Beckett has been one of the best postseason pitchers of the last 15 years and is 17-6 on the season. But he has also been erratic over the last month, going 5-4 in his last nine starts with an unsightly 6.05 ERA. And I don't think that anyone could honestly say what the Sox can expect from that shaky duo.
Next, the Angels, statistically have a better offense. Anaheim has the highest team average in baseball and not a single regular hits below .270. They are No. 2 in the league in scoring and No. 3 in OPS. This team's attack is very versatile. They can play small ball and beat teams with speed or they can rely on the thumpers in the middle of their lineup and work their way through some higher scoring slugfests.
Further, the Angels running game is something that the Red Sox may not have an answer for. Los Angeles was No. 3 in the Majors in stolen bases this year while the Red Sox were No. 30 in the league in throwing out runners. Boston has gotten better since Victor Martinez has taken over behind the plate, but that is definitely a weakness that freewheeling manager Mike Scioscia has to be wiling to take advantage of.
Finally, the Angels have had zero success against the Red Sox in the playoffs but they have matched up with them very well during the regular season. Anaheim has actually won the season series in each of the past two years while posting a 13-5 regular season mark. The Angels obviously can beat the Red Sox. They match up well with them and 13-5 over two years is not a fluke.
Now, all of that said, this is still Boston's series to lose. And there are definitely weaknesses in Anaheim's game that could leave them exposed enough for a third straight disappointment at the mitts of the Beaners.
The Angels' Achilles' heel all season long has been one of the worst bullpens in the Majors. They are No. 25 in MLB with a 4.49 ERA. And games this time of year always come down to pressure late-inning situations. The Angels have little faith in shaky lefty closer Brian Fuentes and he'll only come into play if the suspect setup men can get the lead to him. You just can't win this time of year without solid bullpen work.
Also, Vladimir Guerrero absolutely has to be a factor in this series if the Angels have any prayer. The cleanup hitter is the tone setter for this club and is the superstar. However, he has just one lone RBI in his last 17 playoff games and has been the biggest postseason choke artist this side of Alex Rodriguez.
I can't say for sure which team I think will manage to escape this series. As I said, it's nearly impossible to invest in a series play on the Angels because of their recent track record. But at the same time, I don't see Boston as the powerhouse that they were earlier in the decade. I would lean their way, but it's not nearly as simple as it seems and it may not be worth the price. I think that this will be the best series yet between these clubs. And I think that it will go at least four games before the winner advances.
Robert Ferringo is a professional handicapper and you can purchase a full season's package of his football selections for just $25 per week! Click here for details.
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