Why the Rockies will beat the Red Sox

First off, I’m not sure that I believe the Rockies can beat the Red Sox. Second, I’m not sure that what I believe belongs in the equation. The Rockies seem to believe, and that could be a scary thing for the team from Boston.

Lineup

Once again using the flawed but simple and useful metric of OPS+, here’s a rundown of the starters for both clubs at each position:

Catcher

Yorvit Torrealba: 76
Jason Varitek: 103

Sure, Varitek had the better offensive season, but his first name isn’t Yason. Eh, who am I kidding; advantage Red Sox.

First base

Todd Helton: 133
Kevin Youkilis: 117

Similar hitters, both are outstanding fielders. Youkilis’ ridiculous ALCS notwithstanding, slight advantage to Rockies.

Second base

Kaz Matsui: 87
Dustin Pedroia: 112

Advantage to Red Sox, but not as great as you might think. Matsui has been terrific in October.

Third base

Garrett Atkins: 113
Mike Lowell: 124

Lowell also is a better defender. Slight advantage to Red Sox.

Shortstop

Troy Tulowitzki: 109
Julio Lugo: 65

Tulowitzki is a very good young shortstop who sometimes is mistaken for a great young shortstop. Lugo is… alive…

Left field

Matt Holliday: 151
Manny Ramirez: 126

Wow, I hadn’t really looked at Ramirez’ numbers before now. He had a serious down year, which of course means that he was better than most everyone else. Slight advantage to Rockies, unless the Red Sox find themselves down five runs late in a game and Ramirez hits a solo homer, in which case Boston gets extra style points.

Center field

Willy Taveras: 89
Coco Crisp: 83

Two defense-first guys in center. Call it a draw. If Jacoby Ellsbury starts for Boston, maybe give the Red Sox a slight advantage on the assumption that scouting reports on him won’t be as complete.

Right field

Brad Hawpe: 129
J.D. Drew: 105

Advantage Rockies, although as recently as last season, Drew had a higher OPS+. This one is closer than many folks might realize.

Designated hitter

Ryan Spilborghs: 111
David Ortiz: 171

I’m assuming the Rockies will have Spilborghs in the lineup at Fenway. Obviously the team representing the league that is still experimenting with the DH gets a huge advantage here.

Bench

Seth Smith: 271 (8 PA)
Cory Sullivan: 81
Chris Iannetta: 71
Jeff Baker: 61
Jamey Carroll: 56

Ellsbury: 131
Eric Hinske: 83
Alex Cora: 75
Doug Mirabelli: 63
Bobby Kielty: 60

This looks like a wash to me. Boston gets Ortiz over Spilborghs in games at Coors Field.

So, to summarize:

Strong advantage to Rockies: shortstop
Mild advantage to Rockies: first base, left field, right field
Draw: center field, bench
Mild advantage to Red Sox: catcher, second base, third base
Strong advantage to Red Sox: DH

As you can see, this is pretty well split down the middle. The Red Sox will miss Ortiz in Colorado, where he might hit a homer every time up (and even a few when he’s in the on-deck circle), but they’re strong enough elsewhere that this shouldn’t be a problem. The two teams are very evenly matched on offense.

Rotation

How about the pitching? (We’re using ERA+ here.)

Jeff Francis: 112
Josh Beckett: 145

You have to ask? I like Francis, but seriously. Then again, he beat Brandon Webb in Game 1 of the NLCS, and Webb had a better year than Beckett. It’s easy to dismiss this matchup, but probably not wise.

Ubaldo Jimenez: 111
Curt Schilling: 122

Forget the ERA+, forget their ages; Schilling’s playoff experience trumps everything.

Josh Fogg: 96
Daisuke Matsuzaka: 108

Fogg has been dubbed “Dragon Slayer” because he’s beaten several high-profile pitchers this season. He still isn’t a very good pitcher himself, but since the Rockies seem to be charmed just now, we’ll call this a draw.

Aaron Cook: 116
Jon Lester: 104

Cook is an extreme groundball pitcher; Lester was susceptible to gopheritis at times this season, which could be a problem against the Rockies offense at Coors Field. Advantage Colorado.

On paper, Boston’s front two look a lot better than Colorado’s. As Francis showed in the NLCS, though, anything can happen once you move the game from paper onto a diamond. If the Rockies can split at Fenway, they’ll be in real good shape for Games 3-5 at Coors Field.

Bullpen

Next up, the relievers:

Manuel Corpas: 231
Matt Herges: 162
Brian Fuentes: 155
LaTroy Hawkins: 140
Jeremy Affeldt: 137
Jorge Julio: 122

Jonathan Papelbon: 256
Manny Delcarmen: 232
Hideki Okajima: 214
Javier Lopez: 153
Mike Timlin: 139
Kyle Snyder: 124

Geez, that’s a devastating bullpen the Red Sox have. Colorado’s is terrific, but there isn’t much of a comparison here, unless you’re looking at the back-end guys. None of the Boston relievers give up many homers. If the Rockies are going to do damage, it’s not going to be against these guys.

Conclusion

For the Rockies to win this series, they need to split in Boston. They need Torrealba and Matsui to stay hotter than anyone has a right to expect. They need the young rotation to step up and stare down their more seasoned counterparts.

The Rockies need a lot of things to go right to make this happen. What they’ve got going in their favor is the fact that over the past five or so weeks, virtually everything has gone right. Regardless of “true level of talent” or any other theoretical constructs we can devise, Colorado’s belief in itself just might be enough to carry the Rockies past one final postseason opponent and bring a world championship to Denver.

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