Today is the day: the first game of the American League Division Series. The Red Sox are in Los Angeles prepping for the Halos as we speak. Jon Lester, getting warm. Jason Bay, doing voodoo on his bat. Terry Francona, shoving chew in his mouth like it's going out of style.
With that, her is your primer on the Angels' key players for the start of tonight's series.
|2009 - Chone Figgins||158||615||114||183||30||7||5||54||101||114||42||17||.298||.395||.393|
Here's the good news: Tim Wakefield will not be pitching in the ALDS, meaning Chone Figgins can not steal off of him. Figgins' biggest asset is his speed. The Angels have stolen 15 bags against the Sox this year (second most against any team behind the Yankees), and Figgins has stolen six of those, the most steals he has against any team this season (and that's in just nine games). Figgins has gotten on base at a .395 clip against the Sox this season, so it'll be important to try and keep him off the basepaths or he'll do a lot of damage.
|2009 - Bobby Abreu||152||563||96||165||29||3||15||103||94||113||30||8||.293||.390||.435|
Abreu was one of the best pickups of the offseason when it comes to "guys you don't expect much out of." The stats really don't lie with Abreu -- he's a solid player that doesn't have too many holes in his game (well, there's that defense thing. But that's negligible, right?). The way Abreu can hurt the Sox is just by forcing a lot of pitches. He's currently 5th in the AL in pitches per plate appearance at 4.21 (Figgins is 4th at 4.22, but our man Kevin Youkilis leads at 4.40). If the Sox can get Abreu out early in counts, they'll save a lot of pitches for later in the game.
|2009 - Torii Hunter||119||451||74||135||26||1||22||90||47||92||18||4||.299||.366||.508|
Hunter is one of the Halos' bigger power threats, but not their biggest. Hunter missed a lot of games this year, but he was still able to put up a lot of good numbers -- in 119 games, his .869 OPS was the best of his career. Like a lot of players in this lineup, he's a threat to do almost anything. He'll hit home runs, steal bases, walk at a pretty good rate; he's their No. 3 hitter for a reason.
|2009 - Vladimir Guerrero||100||383||59||113||16||1||15||50||19||56||2||1||.295||.334||.460|
This is not the same Vladimir Guerrero you're used to, but he's still pretty good. With that said, he's striking out more this season and he's walking less than he ever has. His power is down, too, but he still can't be labeled a "non-threat." If you leave him a flat curveball, he probably will deposit it into the bleachers.
|2009 - Juan Rivera||138||529||72||152||24||1||25||88||36||57||0||1||.287||.332||.478|
Rivera is kind of going the opposite route of Vlad. Rivera, in his first full season, is walking more and striking out less, while putting up solid power numbers. He's also a pretty solid fielder in left (except this moment -- what happened there?). Fortunately, Rivera has struggled against the Sox this season, hitting just .194 in eight games.
|2009 - Kendry Morales||152||566||86||173||43||2||34||108||46||117||3||7||.306||.355||.569|
Clearly the Angels' MVP this season, Morales is just one of many scary hitters in this lineup. He leads the team in home runs (34), RBIs (107), slugging (.571) and OPS (.927). He also leads in strikeouts, which may be one of his few weaknesses. The good thing is that he's cooled down this past month, hitting just .269 in September and October with four home runs. He also sported a .200 batting average against the Sox in 35 at-bats this year.
|2009 - Howie Kendrick||105||374||61||109||21||3||10||61||20||71||11||4||.291||.334||.444|
Geez. There isn't a break in this lineup, is there? Kendrick doesn't walk a lot, but he can usually get a bat on the ball. He doesn't have much power, but he's decent on the basepaths and is an above-average defender. He'd probably be a bigger factor on a team without such a good lineup.
|2009 - Mike Napoli||114||382||60||104||22||1||20||56||40||103||3||3||.272||.350||.492|
Mike Napoli, or better known as this guy, has always seemed to be a thorn in the Sox's side. He has three home runs against the Sox this year, tied (with the Blue Jays) for the most he's hit against any team. Like Morales though, Napoli has struggled lately, hitting just .192 in September and October. He strikes out quite a bit, but he has a lot of power. Memo: don't give him anything to hit.
|2009 - Erick Aybar||137||504||70||157||23||9||5||58||30||54||14||7||.312||.353||.423|
Another guy that hits for average. But luckily, Aybar doesn't have the power as most of his other teammates have. He is kind of a pest at the plate though, because he doesn't strike out very often. The Sox should be more worried about what he does on defense, as he mans the shortstop position pretty well. Aybar is expected to start against right handed pitchers.
|2009 - Maicer Izturis||114||387||74||116||22||3||8||65||35||41||13||5||.300||.359||.434|
There's not a big difference between Aybar and Izturis. Izturis hits for average, but not much power and plays solid defense. Just another guy that can make contact with the ball, basically.
|2009 - John Lackey||11-8||27||27||1||1||0||0||176.1||177||84||75||17||47||139||3.83||1.27|
The ace of this Angels staff will be on the hill for game one against the Sox. Lackey has pretty much been his normal self this season after a rocky start which saw his ERA at 6.05 after May. In the second half he rebounded though, going 7-4 with a 3.05 ERA. He only faced the Sox once this season, but it was a good start, holding the Sox to two runs in 7.2 innings. Thankfully, Dice-K was pretty good in that game, too. Lackey started two games in last year's ALDS and did pretty well against the Sox, allowing just four runs in 13.2 innings. The best thing the Sox can do against Lackey is what they try to do against any pitcher: make him throw, throw, throw. The Sox can beat Lackey -- they've done it before -- but patience is the best asset they can have against him.
|2009 - Jered Weaver||16-8||33||33||4||2||0||0||211.0||196||91||88||26||66||174||3.75||1.24|
This season was Weaver's best since his rookie campaign. He's striking out batters at a consistent rate (7.42 per 9) and batters are hitting .248 off him. He is walking more batters and giving up more home runs than normal, but it's not too far off his career average. After a rough July (6.88 ERA) and August (4.58), he allowed just 13 runs in 37.2 innings in September and October. More bad news, though: Weaver is a deceptive pitcher who has handled the Sox this season in two starts. He allowed just one earned run in 13.2 innings and notched 12 strikeouts. He'll start game two.
|2009 - Scott Kazmir||2-2||6||6||0||0||0||0||36.1||28||8||7||1||10||26||1.73||1.05|
Yup, we have to face Kazmir again -- except this time he's not wearing Tampa Bay colors. And since that trade that sent him packing to the West Coast, Kazmir has been pretty dominate, allowing just seven runs in more than 36 innings of work. This looks more like the 2007 Kazmir than the pre-trade Kazmir of 2009. His strikeouts are actually down with the Halos, but so are his walks (from 4.05 per 9 to 2.48). Batters are also hitting just .215 against Kazmir since the trade. He has always pitched well in Fenway too, notching a 3.05 ERA in 73.2 innings. The Sox will find success against Kazmir if he sees the Sox and thinks he's a Ray again -- maybe he'll mentally crack. That'd be nice.
|2009 - Joe Saunders||16-7||31||31||1||1||0||0||186.0||202||102||95||29||64||101||4.60||1.43|
Saunders will start game No. 4, but let's hope we won't have to see him. The good thing is, if the Sox do face Saunders, he's not as good as he was last year. More walks, more home runs and overall, just better success for hitters this season against Saunders. He wasn't that good against the Sox this season either, allowing six walks and 15 hits in 12.2 innings.
|2009 - Ervin Santana||8-8||24||23||2||2||0||0||139.2||159||83||78||24||47||107||5.03||1.47|
The Sox won't see Santana start a game, but will most likely see him come out of the bullpen. Santana missed a lot of time this season (trust me, I was his faithful fantasy owner) and just hasn't been able to replicate his 08 season. He struck out two less batters per nine innings than last season and is walking at a higher rate (1.93 in '08, 3.07 this season). The Sox shouldn't have a lot of trouble hitting Santana -- if they see him.
|2009 - Brian Fuentes||1-5||65||0||0||0||48||7||55.0||53||24||24||6||24||46||3.93||1.40|
The closer of the staff, Fuentes jumped ship from Colorado last season to replace Francisco Rodriguez. The results haven't been to pleasant: his ERA is up more than a run, his WHIP is up 0.3 and his strikeouts are down. That's the NL-AL switch for you. Despite his struggles, he had 48 saves on the season, the best in baseball. (This doesn't really say much for him, except the opportunities given to him. He blew seven saves to go along with it -- fourth most in baseball.)