The Commish Online                                                                                
2007 Playoffs
ALCS Preview
October 12, 2007
(NLCS Preview available here)

My preseason pick to win the World Series was the Dodgers, and that didn't exactly pan out.  I did have them defeating the Red Sox, so at least I've got one team still alive.  Having said that, the Cleveland Indians aren't going to make it very easy for Boston.  Without a single pitch thrown yet, it already seems like one of those series that will come down to one or two plays.

Cleveland and Boston are clearly the class of the AL, and the similarities are endless.  Both teams have plenty of punch in the middle of the lineup.  Both teams have dominant pitching in the front of the rotation.  Both teams have depth in middle relief.  Both teams have a lockdown closer.  Oops!  That's where the discrepancy lies and it just might cost Cleveland the series. 

Closer Joe Borowski has gotten the job done most of the year, but he has had the luxury of earning saves despite giving up plenty of baserunners and runs.  Inexplicably, he saved 45 games this year despite an ERA over 5.00 and a WHIP of 1.43.  Against a Boston lineup that contains Manny Ramirez and Big Papi, Borowski won't be so fortunate.

Expect Boston starter Josh Beckett to be his typically dominant self, but Curt Schilling might reveal some of his age against Cleveland's lineup of consistent sluggers.  Sizemore will make Boston pay when he gets on base, but the Red Sox have plenty of firepower to make a comeback if needed.

Despite the power from both teams, I envision some quality pitching duels throughout the series.  Sabathia has struggled with Manny Ramirez in the past, so Game 1 will be especially important for Cleveland's chances.  If Sabathia fails to outduel Beckett in Game 1, it will put a lot of pressure on youngster Carmona to pull the Indians even.

The final scores in this series will all be tight, and Cleveland's middle relief dominance should help counteract Boston's experienced starters.  What would worry me if I were a Cleveland fan is Borowski's ability to hold a small lead.  In a seven game series, one mistake could be the difference.  With Papelbon and Borowski likely being at the end of most of these games, I believe Cleveland will give one away, and that will be the difference between going home and playing for a ring.
Prediction: Boston in 7