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10/3/2005
ON PAPER IT’S NO CONTEST
CATEGORY: WORLD SERIES


A NEW WHITE SOX MASCOT?

One of the traditions of post-season sports reporting – any sport – is the so-called “Match-up” column where sportswriters pretend that it matters if a player for one team at a particular position is better than his counterpart playing for the other team.

This is sheer sophistry. It is idiocy personified. It’s a useless exercise carried out by self-important writing hacks who don’t have the talent or the brains to write for the “legitimate” sections of the paper like news, politics, or culture…

Which, of course, is why I’m going to take a stab at it myself.

Actually, it is kind of silly. After all, what possible relevance is there except in the most tangentially nebulous way if one first baseman is better than the other? What matters is how they perform on the field not some statistical comparison that you can throw out the window once the postseason begins anyway.

That said, the reason to do it is because it’s fun! Here then, are some mostly honest position by position comparisons between my beloved Pale Hose and the World Champion Boston Red Sox. The White Sox player will always be listed first.

CATCHER

A.J. Pierzynski vs. Jason Veritek

A.J. has been rightly credited with superior handling of the talented White Sox pitching staff all year. In baseball parlance he “calls a good game.” Only an adequate throwing arm, if the Red Sox are smart, they’ll try to run early and often. Offensively, A. J. hasn’t hit a homer in a month and is only average in the clutch.

Veritek on the other hand is a field general. A true throwback, he’s tough, smart, and a take charge player on the field. Better than average arm which may put a crimp in the White Sox running game Only the 3rd Captain in the entire history of the franchise, he’s a clutch hitter with a killer instinct at the plate. If the White Sox try to pitch around Ramirez and Ortiz, Veritek is perfectly capable of doing enough damage to make them wish they didn’t.

Big Edge to Boston.

FIRST BASE

Paul Konerko vs. John Olerud

Very quietly, Paul Konerko has become one of the most reliable sluggers in the American League. With 40 homers and 100 RBI’s, Konerko’s value on a team that lost slugger Frank Thomas to injury and last year’s heavy hitters Magglio Ordonez and Carlos Lee to off-season trades cannot be overstated. In short, for the White Sox to win, Konerko must produce. The Bosox know this which is why they’d be smart to pitch around Konerko and make one of the other Sox players beat them. An average glove but steady and reliable in the field.

John Olerud is a veteran with a smooth glove and excellent hitting skills. Seeing him as a Cincinnati rookie, Ted Williams thought that he reminded him of himself when it came to hitting – high praise coming from the self-absorbed Hall of Famer. Indeed, Olerud has a sweet swing that rarely breaks down under pressure. What he lacks in power, he makes up for in clutch hitting ability. And he’s a veteran of the playoff wars, an intangible that most of the White Sox players don’t have.

Slight edge to Chicago

SECOND BASE

Tadahito Iguchi vs. Tony Graffanino

“Da Gooch” was a Rookie of the Year candidate and for good reason; a .278 average with 15 homers and 71 RBI’s, Iguchi’s offensive numbers were more than impressive for a second baseman. However, his value to the team could never be measured in stats. Iguchi functioned as the proto-typical #2 hitter, a true “push-along” player who moved lead-off hitter Scott Posednik over to second (or more usually third base given Posednik’s base stealing binge in the first half of the season) on a consistent basis. And he proved himself more than capable in the late innings to deliver big hits. In the field, he’s weak going to his right, much stronger to his left, he hesitates to take charge and possesses only an adequate arm. He makes an excellent pivot on double plays, however, and like all Japanese players is sound fundamentally.

Tony “G” was a fan favorite when he was a utility infielder here in Chicago. Graffinino is solid if unspectacular defensively with good range both left and right, an adequate throwing arm, and makes the pivot well. A decent hitter with some power and is good in the clutch, Tony is a good Major League second baseman who is probably playing out of position in that he might be a better shortstop. But the Bosox needed a second baseman when Mark Belhorn went down and Graffinino hasn’t disappointed.

Slight Edge to White Sox

THIRD BASE

Joe Crede is the most maddeningly frustrating player to watch on the White Sox. A promising rookie two years ago, Crede has yet to live up to his true potential. His defense has improved immensely however and he can now be placed in the top tier of defensive third basemen in the league. He possesses a cannon for an arm and moves well both left and right – especially important given the weakness of shortstop Juan Uribe going to his right. Crede fills the hole better than just about any third baseman in the league and guards the line as if it were his own personal property. At the plate, he is streaky. Currently he’s on fire and it should be interesting to see if he can maintain the nearly .400 average he hit for in September.

Bill Mueller is a canny veteran with cat-like reflexes and possesses a strong arm. But he’s weak going to his left and his glove has been shaky at times. A switch hitter, he possesses power from both sides (left side dominant) and gives the Bosox some RBI punch at the bottom of their line-up.

No Advantage

SHORTSTOP

Juan Uribe has been a slight disappointment for the White Sox. After a 25 home run output last year, Uribe’s production fell to just 16, although he hit 7 long ones the last month of the season. His average also was on the rise at season’s end. Defensively he’s more than adequate with a strong arm and good going toward the middle. Excellent in combination with Iguchi on twin killings, he has demonstrated a weakness going to his left and his arm can be scattershot at times.

Edgar Renteria has been a defensive disappointment with the Bosox. Something must have happened between his stint with the Cardinals where he was known for his defensive ability and his current status as something of a liability. No one can doubt his bat, however, and he has proven himself a dangerous hitter.

Slight Edge to White Sox

LEFT FIELD

Not much of a comparison here. While Scott Posednik has been the major impetus during the Sox drive to the Division title with his ability as a lead-off hitter to get on and steal bases, he’s in a horrible base stealing slump since he came off the disabled list earlier in September which leads one to believe he still is not quite right. An adequate outfielder with an average arm, he possesses the speed to chase down fly balls anywhere from left center to foul territory.

Manny Ramirez is perhaps the best hitter in the game today and worth every penny the Red Sox are paying him. Who cares about his defense when the guy can hit like that?

Big Edge to Boston

CENTER FIELD

Aaron Rowand vs. Johnny Damon

Rowand is another Sox player having an off year. After hitting over .300 and 24 home runs last season, Rowand has slumped to .270 with only 13 homers this year. Defensively, he has played outstanding, gold glove type ball at times. At other times, he has played indifferently. Still, he gives the White Sox some pop at the bottom of the lineup and if he gets hot, watch out.

Damon is a tremendous talent, a great leadoff hitter who walks rarely but garnered nearly 200 hits. A smart, tough player, he patrols center field like it’s his own private preserve and can run down just about anything. A great asset to his team and a true spark plug. If he gets on base with consistency, the White Sox lose.

Edge to Boston

RIGHT FIELD

Jermaine Dye is a solid pro who had an above average season. His 31 homers were second on the team and it should be interesting to see where Ozzie Guillen places him in the lineup. For most of the year, Dye batted 5th or 6th. But with Carl Everett in a pronounced slump for the last two months, Dye was hitting 3rd in front of Konerko. Not known as a real clutch hitter, he probably would be better off batting 5th. An excellent defensive outfielder with a rifle for an arm.

Trot Nixon is another solid pro although somewhat less spectacular at the plate. He is, however, an excellent clutch hitter and plays a solid defensive right field with good range and a strong arm. It remains to be seen if Nixon can regain some of the pop in his bat that he’s had in the past although injuries may have hurt him there.

Slight Edge to White Sox

DESIGNATED HITTER

Problem child Carl Everett kept his mouth shut most of the year. Then, when he hit a slump and Guillen dropped him to 6th in the order, Everett made it clear that it didn’t sit well with him. It was a big thing for about a week and has since dissipated as a result of the team clinching the Division. However, any residual bad feelings in the clubhouse are not good this time of year. Otherwise, Everett appears to be snapping out of it and playing against his old team should give him some extra incentive to do well.

David Ortiz is one of the greatest DH’s ever to play the game. The Ortiz-Ramirez show will be the story of the series. If White Sox pitching can limit their damage, they win. If not, look for a short series.

Big Edge to Boston

STARTING PITCHING

The White Sox quadrimvirate of Contreras, Garland, Buerhle, and Garcia were lights out for the first half of the season. They slid precipitously in August and the first part of September which allowed Cleveland to get back in the race. However – very bad news for Boston fans – it appears the starters have regained their early season form. In their last 8 starts, they have a combined ERA of 1.57. Contreras was Pitcher of the Month in September and both Garcia and Buerhle are excellent big game pitchers. Garland is a question mark although his last three starts have been above average.

Boston’s group of Clement, Wakefield, Schilling, and Wells is a good, proven group of playoff performers but far less reliable. This could be the Bosox Achilles heel against the White Sox – especially Clement (who the White Sox have knocked around a couple of times already this year) and Schilling who is just a shadow of his former spectacular self.

Big Edge to White Sox

BULLPEN

The White Sox have the best bullpen in the American League bar none, hands down. Guillen has used them intelligently which has given the group of Cotts, Politte, Vizcaino, and Marte a ton of confidence. Closer Bobby Jenks is young – but old enough to throw a fastball 100 mph. If the White Sox have the lead after the 6th inning, it’s almost an automatic “W.”

The Bosox have some good arms but much less reliable. Timlin always gives White Sox players fits as does former White Sox submariner Chad Bradford. But with Keith Foulkes well known troubles – one reason the White Sox gave up on him – the bullpen is hardly as solid as the Chisox group.

Big Edge to White Sox

BENCH

Ozzie Guillen has been giving players like Pablo Ozuna and Timo Perez game time all year long and both are primed for pinch hitting and perhaps even a starting role if things go south. And catcher Keith Widger has proven himself an adequate back up.

The leading Red Sox pinch hitter is Jay Payton with three hits – and he was traded to Oakland in July.

Edge to White Sox

MANAGER

While Ozzie Guillen is a strong candidate for Manager of the Year, the regular season means butkus this time of year. And Terry Francona has been there, done that. Can a manager freeze? Yes, but don’t look for that to happen to the happy-go-lucky Guillen. However, you’ve still got to give the nod to Francona.

Slight Edge to Boston

PREDICTION

Will the old baseball adage “Good pitching beats good hitting” prove out? The answer is yes. But the question isn’t whether pitching or hitting is more important, the question is performance. If the White Sox pitchers pitch like they are capable of doing, the Red Sox lose in 4. If not, it could be the Bosox in 3.

More likely, it will come down to game 5 in Chicago – with my White Sox winning a low scoring game in a low scoring series.

UPDATE

A couple of notes:

First, if you’re a baseball fan. be sure to bookmark Baseball Musings for the duration of the playoffs. Most fans are statistics nuts (like me) and former ESPN researcher David Pinto has the goods on everybody and everything.

By: Rick Moran at 8:45 am
3 Responses to “ON PAPER IT’S NO CONTEST”
  1. 1
    David Pinto Said:
    10:01 am 

    Thanks for the link!

  2. 2
    liz f. Said:
    10:03 am 

    Another White Sox fan here who will be on the edge of her seat all week. I think we can beat these guys, I really do . Thanks for the interesting baseball insights.

    I really enjoy your site , and visit it often. I liked it even more when I found out you were a Pale Hose fan. Looking forward to a great week of baseball.

  3. 3
    Giacomo Said:
    5:30 am 

    Great roundup, Rick – you beat me to it!
    There’s one category missing, though. Experience. Slide that edge to the Red Sox.
    This is going to be a terrific series. I think whichever team comes out of it will move on to the World Series.

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