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AL Roundup

The West is Where the Final Battle Goes Down

The Red Sox had their chance to shake things up a couple of weeks ago, but couldn't quite get over their hump against the Yankees. Those are the two best teams in the AL and Minnesota has been driving the Central Division bus for some time now. That leaves only the West with any unsettled business. And that business will get settled in a season ending shootout between the Angels and A's. Until this week, I would have said the A's had it in the bag. But somehow they've recently fallen flat on their faces and watched the Angels take a final lap lead. Their recent hot streak has propelled the Angels to a 1 game lead for the final playoff spot. (What is it about late September baseball and the Bay Area this year? They might have to rename the region Choke City if things don't get corrected in these last few games.)

So let's look at the series that will determine who gets in.

First, the games in Oakland. Oakland is better at home (.650 winning percent). It's not that they pitch better, it's not that they hit that much better either. It's really the intangibles: the crowd, timely hitting, making a good decision here or there. These are all difficult to measure, but the long-term results are obvious. Will they translate in a short series? Yes, they tend to and will be a big plus for the A's.

Second, pitchers: Initially, I go with the A's big three. They've been there before, they know what it takes. Will it be enough? Well, the Angels will trot out their top dogs as well. I like Mulder and Huddy against Colon and Washburn, but Escober has been better than Zito all season and why would that change all of a sudden?

Friday: Colon at Mulder
Saturday: Escobar at Zito
Sunday: Washburn at Hudson

Percival vs Dotel: This is big. The Angel's have a legitimate closer. If the A's are to win, the starters have to make it to the 7th or 8th. Angel fans relish any scenario where the Angels have a runner on and it's up to Dotel to hold back the tide. Percival is friggin' Moses compared to Dotel and has proven it, which is an advantage, some would say big advantage, for the Angels.

Superstars: Superstars in baseball can get muted, leaving the big hit to the role player. But it's always the superstar who makes their opponent react. Why is it that many times you see the superstar score the winning run? It's because they walked him or forced him to hit a certain way. Vladimir Guerrero is a genuine star. Eric Chavez is a demi-star. Guerrero causes pitcher and coaches to lose sleep. Chavez on the other hand is definitely a concern for the Angels. But he is also a bit too loose in the batter's box and will go for pitches out of the strike zone. Another advantage for the Angels.

Friday is a night game while the other two in the series are day games. Both teams' offense has suffered in the day while picking up at night. If that holds true, it will be a slight advantage for the A's.

We're Bay Area fans and as such pretty biased. At least I'm biased. I want the A's to go get creamed by, I mean, face the Yankees. It will be difficult but assuming they go into the series tied for the lead, favor the A's. Otherwise, you gotta go with the Angels.