Teams That End in "Sox" For $500, Alex
Last night showcased the latest proof of the dominance of the AL East, though not in the form you might have anticipated in April. But while the Rays' storybook run may be stealing many of the headlines, there's another story that deserves further inspection: the inability for the Angels to beat teams named "Sox".
It's really not a pithy consideration. Since 2002, the Angels have been one of baseball's model organizations, consistently winning their division and entering the playoffs among the favorites. They topped 100 wins this year and were clearly the AL's answer to the Cubs.
Yet, like the NL regular season runaway champs on the North side of Chicago, the Angels went meekly into a chilly night in Boston never to be seen again, as recorded in immaculate detail by Dave here. While Dave may have correctly picked the Red Sox win their ALDS series, there were plenty of media heads who were tripping over themselves to call it an Angels-Cubs World Series a week ago, before the playoffs got rolling.
What's gone wrong for the Halos? Well, as Dave reminds us here, there's a reason the cliche about how "pitching wins championships" has stuck for so long. With that in mind, I did a bit of anoraking, comparing the Angels' four postseason series wins since 2002 with the four series they've lost, all against either the Red or White Sox. Here's how the Angels' pitching staff panned out in those contests:
Angels vs. Red Sox or White Sox since 2002:
Overall series: 0-4
Total record: 2-13
2004 ALDS (vs. Red Sox) 6.18 ERA, 19 earned runs, 20 walks, 23 strike outs
2005 ALCS (vs. White Sox) 3.43 ERA, 17 ER, 16 BB 36 K
2007 ALDS (vs. Red Sox) 6.66 ERA, 19 ER, 16 BB, 22 K
2008 ALDS (vs. Red Sox) 4.19 ERA, 18 ER, 15 BB, 28 K
Now, here's how LA of Anaheim of California of the World fared in their other four series since 2002 (including the 2002 World Series title):
Angels vs. any team not named "Sox" since 2002:
Overall series: 4-0
Total record: 14-7
2002 ALDS (vs. Yankees) 6.17 ERA, 24 ER, 16 BB, 25 K
2002 ALCS (vs. Twins) 2.45 ERA, 12 ER, 7 BB, 38 K
2002 WS (vs. Giants) 5.75 ERA, 39 ER, 30 BB, 50 K
2005 ALDS (vs. Yankees) 3.89 ERA, 19 ER, 24 BB, 32 K
What can we take from that? On first glance it appears that the Angels have twice broken free of Dave and baseball folklore's altruistic claim of pitching begetting titles. The 2002 ALDS saw the Halos put up freakish offensive numbers and that year's World Series including a pretty stunning turnaround in games 6 and 7, which helps explain why those series ended up in Anaheim's "W" column.
Keeping that in mind, the series that really stands out is the 2005 ALCS. It's not too often that a team puts up a 3.43 ERA yet still manages to lose a seven-game series in five. You have to dig deeper to really find out how it happened. Like this year's ALDS loss to the Red Sox, a series of key plays -- and most notably, Anaheim's inability to hit with runners in scoring position -- spelled its fate. When we look back on those two series a decade from now, the most notable plays will almost certainly be the little ones that went against the Angels. In 2005, it was the A.J. Pierzinski strike out that turned into the game winning run when he beat the throw to first and eventually circled the bases, while last night's Jason Varitek tag on a failed suicide squeeze in the ninth already stands out for 2008.
What's more important in the big picture was the Angels' complete inability to get runners home. In the 2005 ALCS there wasn't a single Anaheim hitter with 3 or more RBI, and then-shortstop Orlando Cabrera chalked up those RBI on a homer. This year? Only Torii Hunter came through, with 5 RBI in the series, including the two that tied last night's game. Sure, Mike Napoli had 4 RBI himself, but like Cabrera before him those came entirely on two Game 3 dingers.
This might seem like a statistical oddity, but in fact it both re-affirms and supports what Dave wrote earlier. Pitching may win championships, but a lack of clutch hitting loses them. Why don't the clutch hits come, you ask? Maybe it was because the other team had great pitching. That was certainly the case in both the 2005 ALCS (White Sox 2.20 ERA, 11 ER, 4 BB, 22 K) and the 2008 ALDS (Red Sox 2.54 ERA, 11 ER, 15 BB, 34 K).
What do people think? Are the Angels doomed to more of these postseason shortfalls? Will they overcompensate and spend big money to bring in the likes of CC Sabathia? Will the Yankees add a "Sox" to the end of their name if they face the Halos in next year's playoffs?
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