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2005 MLB Playoffs
ALCS Preview
October 11, 2005

Unlike last year, my ALDS predictions were right on target, but now I am faced with a dilemma: the team I picked to win the World Series way back in April is still in the hunt (Los Angeles), but they appear to be a slight underdog in this series given the conditions.

Surprising most of the media, the Chicago White Sox find themselves in the best position to be playing in the World Series two weeks from now.  Consistent quality pitching will do that, and Chicago's claim to 2005 fame hasn't wavered in that aspect even with the playoffs in full swing, knocking out the defending champs in sweeping fashion.

It seems easy to say that the White Sox are rested and ready while the Angels come into Tuesday's game weary, but Los Angeles didn't make it to the ALCS by whining about jet lag and tired arms.  LA's pitching appears quite depleted with Colon's injury status still unknown and Ervin Santana pitching 5+ innings last night, but one quality outing by Paul Byrd would even the playing field in a hurry.

Chicago's strength is pitching depth, and they hope it comes into play this series.  Jon Garland, who carried the White Sox through much of the summer, still has yet to throw an inning since the regular season ended, so the amount of quality arms should not be an issue.  Unfortunately for Chicago, the starters eventually have to give way to the bullpen.  While the White Sox boast some quality arms in the 'pen as well, the Angels have a slight edge in the later innings thanks to experience.  Damaso Marte has been erratic but is needed to get lefthanders out.  If he fails early, fellow lefty Neal Cotts will be faced with a heavy burden the rest of the series.  LA's bullpen is at least as deep and will make it difficult for the White Sox to come back in the later innings.

Another key to Chicago's success has been Scott Podsednik at the top of the order.  While his on base percentage hasn't dipped, his inability to steal as of late has forced manager Ozzie Guillen into more bunting situations with #2 man Tad Iguchi than he would like, leading to more wasted outs.  When Podsednik was able to get to second base by himself, Chicago's offense became much more dangerous because there were more opportunities to knock him in.  In LA's dugout, leadoff man Chone Figgins struggled against New York, scoring only two runs in the series, so the Angels are forced with the same problems.

Somehow, the Angels managed to beat New York despite losing their Game 5 starter after one inning and despite Vladimir Guerrero failing to knock in a run the entire series.  Knowing that scenario ahead of time, it would have seemed impossible to beat New York, but LA did it.  Unlike Atlanta against Houston, LA kept putting pressure on New York's pitching and defense, forcing them to make a pitch, make a relay throw, etc.  Over time, the aggressive attitude exposes the opponent's weaknesses and we saw that in New York.  Chicago plays a similar style and is better defensively than New York, but the Angels have been here before, and that little bit of extra experience might be just enough to put LA over the hump in this evenly matched series.  Whatever the outcome, this year's ALCS has the potential to be a classic.
Prediction: Angels in 7

Check out TCO's 2005 Season Preview for an April flashback to see how well The Commish predicted this season's outcomes.