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World Series Preview
by Al McMordie - 10/21/2005
In a most intriguing World Series matchup between two franchises that earned everything they got this year, I give the slightest of nods to Chicago to win in 7 games (notwithstanding the fact that I'm sitting on a small ticket on Houston to win at 40-1 odds (I bet on Oakland at 30-1 and Houston at 40-1 odds in Late July). Here's my breakdown:
Starting Pitching: Both starting staffs are great -- among the best in the game. But the Sox have a big edge at the No. 4 starter spot (Freddy Garcia vs. Brandon Backe). Each staff has one lefthander: Mark Buehrle for Chicago and Andy Pettitte for Houston. (Jon Garland of Chicago and Houston's Roy Oswalt are other members of each club's Big Three). Buehrle will pitch against Pettitte in Game 2 and possibly Game 6. The edge in that matchup has to go to Buehrle.
Buehrle has never faced the Astros, but Pettitte has certainly faced the White Sox many times, but not since 2002. (Although you may want to take the numbers with a grain of salt because they were several years ago, they aren't pretty for Pettitte vs. the Sox.) Plus Pettitte has a 4.66 ERA in his last three starts overall. Starting pitching edge: Chicago.
Relief Pitching: Both staffs have excellent relief pitching. Perhaps Brad Lidge showed some vulnerability as a young closer with no postseason experience when he lost game 5 at home, but he's been pretty solid all year. Unlike the Astros with Lidge, Chicago has not had the same guy close for them all season. They started with Takatsu, who crashed and burned, then switched to Hermanson, and finally went to Bobby Jenks later in the year. Of course, they haven't needed any relief pitching since Manager Ozzie Guillen has decided to play old school and leave his starters in there for nine innings. Relief pitching edge: Even.
Offense: Although both teams hit about the same against righties, there is a big edge for the White Sox vs. lefties (.270 team BA vs. .251 for Houston). This could pay big dividends for the Sox in Game Two (and possibly Game six) when the two lefty starters go head to head. Houston's lineup is good, but one big thing lacking is a leadoff man who can make things happen.
After using Willy Taveras much of the season, the Astros have moved Craig Biggio back into the leadoff roll, but at almost 40 years old, although he still has pop in his bat, he does not have the speed on the basepaths to make things happen like he used to or more importantly, like the Sox' Scott Podsednik can. Chicago also has more options at DH than Houston, who may use Jeff Bagwell there. Offense edge: Chicago.
Defense: Both teams are excellent defensively, but Brad Ausmus may be the most underrated defensive catcher in baseball. I woudn't expect defensive mistakes or errors to play a roll in this series either way. Defense edge: Even.
Injuries: WIth the exception of Frank Thomas, both teams are completely healthy. It would have been really great to see Thomas and Bagwell play in a World Series game together since both have spent almost their entire careers with these two teams, but Thomas is out so it won't happen. Injury edge: Even.
Intangibles: The White Sox have home field advantage, which is certainly important as they were 50-35 at home this season, but what is really amazing is their road record. They were an unbelievable 56-29 away from Chicago this year! In sharp contrast, Houston has a losing record on the road of 39-47.
In interleague play this season, the White Sox had a winning record at 12-6 while the Astros had a losing one at 7-8 (the two did not play each other in the regular season). Both coaching staffs are solid with Astros Manager Phil Garner having an experience edge, but Guillen seemingly has to have a more motivated team.
Finally, the games played in Chicago are likely to be a bit chilly and this should favor the Sox even more. Intangible edge: Chicago.