I think we all knew these two were on a collision course. If you are a fan of great baseball this was these were the teams you wanted here. First to four goes to the World Series.
When healthy Boston is arguably the best team in the league, however we know that Mike Lowell will miss this series and Josh Beckett (as well as J.D. Drew) might be less than 100%. None the less, here's a rundown of their roster:
Jason Varitek (.306): Prepare for non-stop slobbering when it comes to Varitek and his "amazing mind for the game." Fortunately for the Rays, Varitek's offensive skills are decayed (only 13% liners) but he still throws out about 19% of runners. Varitek will go out of the zone 24% of the time.
Mark Kotsay (.276): For whatever reason the Sox insist on playing Kotsay at first over Sean Casey. I have no idea why because Kotsay is nowhere near the player he was seasons ago. Consider that Kotsay is going out of the zone about 27% of the time this year while his career average is 21.74%.
Dustin Pedroia (.389): He's probably your AL MVP, whether or not he deserves that is a debate for elsewhere. Pedroia is not a very discipline hitter and swings out of thezone 26% of the time. This season Pedroia has been worth nearly nine runs on defense.
Kevin Youkilis (.413): An okay defensive first baseman; Youkilis playing third changes the complexion of the infield defense for the Sox. Youk is of course patient, but not as much as in previous years. Whether or not that has a correlation with his increased power is unbeknownst to me.
Jed Lowrie (.328): Another above average defender (the Sox have many) Lowrie takes the place of Julio Lugo. Lowrie doesn't swing out of the zone; only 17.64%.
Jason Bay (.380): Oh what could have been. A minus defender (apparently around 15 runs this year) and a patient hitter. We know enough about him, no need to beat him to death.
Jacoby Ellsbury (.330): Remember when his Taco winning steal was just setting the stage for Ellsbury seizing the Rookie of the Year award this season? Oops. Ellsbury swings out of the zone a ton (nearly 30%), and his .330 wOBA is just nasty. Coco Crisp (.341) might see some time out in center as well.
J.D. Drew (.400): Just another lazy outfielder far more talented than most people realize. Drew barely hacks and might be the most dangerous hitter in the lineup.
David Ortiz (.373): Didn't have the season he's used to having, but still won't chase and can make you pay. What the heck is a glove?
The other bench players: Kevin Cash (.291) is pitiful and Alex Cora (.338) is passable.
Josh Beckett (3.64): 94 fastball, 77 curve, and 89 change will be slung at the Rays hitters like every other start. Might not be 100%.
Jon Lester (3.79): This is absolutely the last guy I want on the mound versus our lineup. His fastball only sits at 92, and his cutter around 88, but he's really developed into a pretty nice pitcher. Also throws a 76 curve and 84 change.
Daisuke Matsuzaka (4.17): A house of cards. His fastball is still 92, slider 82, cutter 89, curve 79, change 82, and he stills walks five-plus per nine.
Tim Wakefield (4.84): He throws the knuckleball. A lot. Like, almost always. I think we would rather not see him start, only because that means the Sox are forced to reshuffle their deck for game four.
Jon Papelbon (2.34): Probably the league's best closer (and no, Francisco Rodriguez isn't even close) Papelbon throws 95 with his heater, 87 slider, and 89 with his sinker. Frankly I hope we don't see any of Mr. Papelbon.
Manny Delcarmen (2.72): Possibly the only underrated player on this team. Surprising, considering he throws 95 and has good breaking stuff with a 78 curve and 83 change. A ground ball pitcher.
Justin Masterson (3.56): Supreme groundballer, Masterson's fastball only goes 90 but sinks, 81 slider, and a rarely used 82 change.
Hideki Okajima (3.75): The lefty wasn't quite as good as last season. 88 fastball, 76 curve, 83 change. Weird delivery and a bit of a fly ball pitcher.
Keys to winning:
Beat the non-Lester starters
Good Kazmir showing up
Taking all the home games
Prediction: Rays in seven.