World Series Preview
October 23, 2007
I don't think anyone had Colorado and Boston penciled in for the World Series back in March, but now that it's here, it seems fitting to have the National League's hottest team against arguably the best overall team in baseball to decide the championship this October (or November if a Game 7 occurs). The 2007 World Series is unlikely to be a huge ratings winner, but for those who love baseball, there will be plenty to watch.
For starters, Colorado enters as one of the hottest teams, well... ever, winning 21 of its last 22 games. The week-plus layoff (thanks to a sweep) however, may have sapped some of the big MO the Rockies had while rolling through September and the playoffs. Rockies fans need not worry, because the little bit a rust endured will be offset by the spectacular defense and solid fundamentals Clint Hurdle has instilled in his inspired team.
Boston has the benefit of staying game-ready thanks to a 7-game series while still keeping its pitchers relatively fresh. Cleveland could have done Colorado a huge favor by knocking out "Dice-K" early and forcing Francona to use Beckett for a couple innings in Game 7. Beckett's availability in the World Series would likely have been pushed back a day or so, giving a huge advantage to the Rockies, knowing they would only have to face Boston's ace twice. Now, with plenty of rest and a Game 1 start tomorrow, Josh Beckett will be ready for at least two starts in the series, as well as a possible third start or relief appearance if the series goes seven games. History has shown that a surplus of Beckett in a playoff series does not bode well for the opposition.
Also on Boston's side is home field advantage. The silly All-Star Game rule awarded the American League with home field this year. Luckily, it was well deserved in Boston's case, posting the best record in baseball this year. Home field for the Red Sox means up to four games using Kevin Youkilis AND David Ortiz in the lineup. Colorado has a few solid position players on the bench but no one with scary offensive skills to plug into the DH role confidently. As expected, the DH will hurt Colorado while the middle three games will put Boston at a disadvantage as Youkilis watches from the bench (there's NO WAY Big Papi will be sitting those games out).
The weaknesses on both sides seem to be few. It became obvious that Sabathia and Carmona were feeling tired and overworked in October after a long season, but Colorado and Boston don't expect to see the same effects from their pitchers. Beckett and Schilling have done this before and are prepared, and Papelbon and company should have plenty of life left in their arms thanks to a deep bullpen where the most worked pitcher is Okajima's 69 innings. In Colorado, the eight days of rest is sure to help any tired arms, although Jeff Francis has been looking stronger now than ever, and the young pitchers haven't logged very many major league innings this year due to late call ups and the usage of THIRTY different pitchers this year (compared to 20 for Boston). Colorado's advantage might be the lack of experience Boston's hitters have against some of the young and less traveled pitchers. Daisuke Matsuzaka may hold a similar advantage, as his myriad of pitches will be a tough task to tackle for Rockies hitters seeing him for the first time, although "Dice-K" is the one pitcher possibly suffering from a fatigued arm. Logging 200+ innings already and, according to the Fox broadcast Sunday night, after being accustomed to an extra day off between starts in Japan, it has already been a long season for "Dice-K" and his arm. Expect some dominance the first time through the order, then some help from the bullpen when Matsuzaka pitches, much like the scenario in Game 7 of the ALCS.
On to the fearless predictions:
Colorado has a handful of professional hitters but only Holliday can be considered a true feared power hitter. Since Josh Beckett simply won't give up a string of hits in row to this lineup, any kind of multi-run rally is unlikely in Game 1. Beckett will hold the Rockies in check, possibly giving up a solo home run or two. In other words, he won't be perfect but his mistakes will be few and far between. Jeff Francis will be up to the challenge, but Manny will take advantage of a pitch from the left-handed hurler and put Boston on top for good.
Game 2 will show Colorado's resiliency, bouncing back from a tough loss to win a somewhat lopsided contest as they get their bats rolling against a past his prime Curt Schilling. The Rockies will then take full advantage of their home park as they roll in Games 3 and 4. Boston, never afraid of playing from behind, however, will regain the momentum in Game 5 thanks to a Kevin Youkilis pinch hit, sending Red Sox Nation into another roller coaster bout of emotions from "it's over" to "we can still win this thing."
Game 6 will be another story. Just as Josh Beckett and the Florida Marlins inexplicably stepped into Yankee Stadium in 2003 and snatched the title from New York, Colorado will do the same, surprising the baseball world for the millionth time this year. Suddenly, Colorado's bats will come alive, pitchers will make game changing pitches, completely naive to the pressure around them. Todd Helton will come through with an important hit against the team that tried to trade for him not too long ago, and in the end Colorado will be celebrating a World Series Championship in 2007.
Many experts are saying that Boston is the heavy favorite. Remember this, though: despite sweeping Arizona in the NLCS, Colorado's hitter didn't play remotely to their capabilities (.222 BA, .627 OPS vs. .280, .791 in the regular season), so there is plenty of room for improvement and it will be seen in the World Series. Boston clearly has the bigger payroll and a huge amount of talent, but Colorado has benefited from a corps of young stars helping to carry the team down the stretch. Their youthful exuberance, hunger, and uncanny ability to nail the fundamentals will be reasons enough to hoist a trophy come this Halloween.
Prediction: Colorado in 6