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One lunatic's "Keys To The [rest of the] ALCS!"

     I originally posted this diary over at Bleed Cubbie Blue, but since interest in the Sox/Angels series is just as strong over here, I figured I'd cross-post it (with a few slight changes)....

     I worked this out coming home from work last night, turned on the game (on the radio -- despite Joe Morgan's color "analysis," I'll take Jon Miller's descriptions over a FOX TV broadcast any day of the week) and almost immediately heard Pods getting caught stealing.  So now that it's too late for me to look like a game 1 prophet, probably the rest of the series will go exactly against my expectations.  Even so....

     1. For the White Sox to win, Pods must stay out of outs (this also applies to the other "basestealers" on the team, to say nothing of Pierzynsky, but first batters first).  This isn't the same as the common wisdom that he must get on base (to disrupt the opponent and/or advance around the basepaths with his Mad Basestealing Skillz) -- yes, he needs to get on base, but it's much more important for him to stay on base (until he scores or someone else ends the inning) than for him to steal bases, "make things happen," or otherwise play "smart ball."  Pods has stolen about a million bases this year, but he's also been thrown out about half a million times, and the White Sox can't afford for their leadoff hitter to turn into an out any more often than he already does at the plate.  Pods can be a legitimate threat on the basepaths when Jason Kendall is trying to throw him out, but when Bengie Molina's the backstop, Pods and his teammates need to be content with the bases they have.  There may be times in the series when a steal would be very valuable and Pods can get a great jump; I'm not saying that the steal should be completely removed from the White Sox's game ... but it's not the real reason they won so many games this season, and they need to realize that actually good opportunities to steal a base will be rare.
     2. The 'pens:  Anaheim's bullpen is far more vulnerable than it looks, especially after the grind of the Yankees series.  If the Sox can be patient enough at the plate against starters and bullpen alike, they'll have a much better chance of winning the series.  It's possible the same can be said of the White Sox 'pen -- I suspect its overall numbers are strongly improved by the starters' excellent work, which allowed the relievers to a) stay rested, and b) chalk up a bullpen ERA consisting primarily of work by their best relievers (you don't use a long man when your starter goes 7 strong).  The Chicago starters are still excellent though, and the Angels are not a terribly patient team, so this shouldn't work against the White Sox in this series.  On the other hand, if the Sox aren't patient themselves (or if they save the Angels a bunch of pitches by making "smartball" outs on the basepaths) Anaheim's vaunted bullpen really will give them fits.
     3. Game 2:  The White Sox should win tonight, and I'm going to go ahead and predict they will.  If they can also force Scioscia to over-extend his bullpen, they'll have a very good chance of taking the series in the end.  If they get the win but Washburn(?) throws a complete game loss or the Sox take a big early lead but don't manage to chase Gregg and Yan before the 8th, the Angels will be in pretty good shape going into Anaheim.  On the other side, if the White Sox manage to lose game 2, I'm going to go ahead and declare their season over.
     4. Game 5:  I'd say "if necessary," but I'm predicting the Sox take at least game 2, and I think there's a good chance they'll be 2-2 after four.  Regardless of where the series stands at that point, the White Sox need to win Game 5, if only because it should be their best single-game matchup after tonight.  The Angels will start either Byrd again -- in which case the Sox had better solve him, since he's the worst starter on the Anaheim staff -- or tonight's starter on short rest; if he goes long tonight, he shouldn't be able to on Sunday, and if he's pulled early tonight and the Sox have done what they need to do in games 3&4, the Angels' bullpen will be running on fumes.

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