Over the past four years, teams named Sox have won three World Series titles. This week, the two Sox teams meet for an epic four-game battle with important playoff implications.
The Chicago White Sox were not supposed to compete this year. Baseball Prospectus pegged them third in the division, projecting a 78-84 season (.481 Win %) behind the Indians and Tigers. Instead, they stand atop the division (63-50, .558), the Indians are dead last, and the Tigers are trying to claw their way up from third place.
In some ways this could be expected. The Indians did nothing to improve their team, which was lucky in 2007 (5 games above their Pythagorean record). In addition, last year they ran up the innings of both Sabathia and Carmona, adversely affecting their performances this year. Injuries and trades were all it took to knock Cleveland out completely. Meanwhile, the Tigers subtracted by addition, trading Jair Jurrjens for the black hole known as Edgar Renteria, and moving their other top prospects for Dontrelle Willis (who is injured and sucks) and Miguel Cabrera (who's having a good season). Meanwhile, the White Sox got Scott Linebrink, Nick Swisher, Orlando Cabrera, breakout slugger Carlos Quentin, and most recently Ken Griffey Jr. Combined with greatly improved pitching, Chicago's AL team is a force to be reckoned with.
The White Sox have solid pitching (6th in AL team ERA) and a good offense (4th in AL runs scored), making for a much more balanced team than their World Series squad. Young hurlers John Danks and Gavin Floyd, both with sub-4 ERAs, make for a very strong 1-2 punch, and we'll also see Mark Buehrle and Jose Contreras in this series.
One positive for this series is that the White Sox pitching has been much worse of late. In July, their starters posted an ERA of 5.06; so far in August they've put up a cumulative ERA of 7.52. Floyd and Buehrle in particular are both coming off bad starts, and Contreras is coming off the DL. Chicago's relievers have also been knocked around: as their 5.70 and 4.38 ERAs in July and August attest. Setup man Scott Linebrink is on the DL, so the Sox may be facing Chicago at an opportune time.
Matchups are evenly lopsided. On paper, Boston has an edge in the first two games and seems at a disadvantage in the last two.
Friday: Lester (3.14) vs. Buehrle (4.07)
Saturday: Matsuzaka (3.04) vs. Contreras (4.60)
Sunday: Buchholz (5.94) vs. Floyd (3.66)
Monday: Beckett (4.08) vs. Danks (3.21)
Based on matchups alone, this battle of the laundry looks like a wash. However, I think the Sox can take three of four, particularly if Beckett builds on his success last game, or if Buch outpitches Floyd. Maybe Boston pulls the wool over Chicago's eyes and sweeps the whole series. In any case, I hope we sock it to 'em!