Why the Angels lost to the Red Sox

The postseason is a crapshoot. Our (insert slang for excrement here) doesn’t work in the playoffs.

What? You mean that excuse has already been taken? I guess I’ll fight through the pain and try and come up with something else. This is one article that I hoped to never have to write.

If pressed, I have to admit that the Angels were actually not the better team. You can tell this from the most simple stat, the fact that they won two fewer games than their first round opponent, and confirm it by looking deeper, such as their inferior run differential, which at +91 was very good but less than half of their opponent. I was hoping that it wouldn’t matter. Sure, they weren’t the better team, but how often does the second best team (by regular season record) win a five game series? Would you believe 49% of the time coming into the 2007 playoffs?

If you believe that, you get a prize, because it’s true. I threw out ties and in the history of five game playoff series, from 1969 to 1984, and then from 1995 to 2006 the team with the better record has won 42 of 82 playoff series. Maybe it was crazy to think that the team with a 49% chance of winning should pull it out, but only 2% crazier than those who had faith in the 51% team.

In game one, there wasn’t much that could be done. John Lackey gave a home run in the first and that was pretty much the ballgame. He got hit hard in the third inning, though he settled down and pitched well after that. It was the kind of game that should keep a team in the ballgame, provided that they score runs, which of course they didn’t. Ervin Santana pitched the 7th and 8th innings and looked tremendous. While he had a horrible season, Ervin still has the best arm on the staff and hopefully this is a good sign for 2008, when he will regain his rotation spot after Bartolo Colon leaves as a free agent. For two innings, Ervin was throwing strikes in the upper 90s, looking every bit as dominant for two innings as Josh Beckett was for nine. Even if he can find some consistency as a starter, Ervin is not a total lost cause, as he would make a dominant late inning reliever.

In game two the Angels played as well as they would in the series, the only game that was close. They had two good chances to break the 3-3 late tie in their favor. In the 8th inning with runners on second and third and two out, Chone Figgins fouled off several pitches from Jon Papelbon before taking a called third strike. He had our best singles hitter up in a situation where a single would have done some damage, and he was not overmatched by any of Papelbon’s fastballs. But he took a breaking ball, and that was that. The Angels should have had Vladimir Guerrero up in the 9th, but due to an injury had to be replaced by the much less dangerous Mike Napoli. I have to believe that for Guerrero to come out of that game he must have been in serious pain.

In game three Jered Weaver pitched well outside of back to back fourth inning home runs. The Angels had their best chance to do something in the bottom of the third: With two out the Angels put runners on first and third with two outs and Guerrero up. Guerrero was walked intentionally because our cleanup hitter, who drove in 65 runs in his last 68 regular season games had to be removed for one of our little guys, Reggie Willits. Willits popped out to end the inning. Anderson has played the series with an eye infection and that’s what forced his exit. What I wonder is what made him decide he couldn’t go on. Was it his line drive out in the first inning? Or was it the bloop double in the second that he had trouble seeing? If it was playing defense that forced him out, and not his ability to see pitches at the plate, why couldn’t we have found this out in pregame practice? The Angels used a perfectly good outfielder, Juan Rivera, at DH. Couldn’t he have started in left with Anderson at DH?

That’s what Angels fans have left to ponder as the postseason goes on without us. Its time to start wondering if this is the year Arte Moreno buys another big bat to complement Guerrero. Perhaps Alex Rodriguez will leave the Yankees after all. Perhaps we make an offer Andruw Jones can’t refuse. This is not a weak Angels team by any stretch of the imagination, not matter how bad they looked in this series, but hopefully by next spring they will be a little stronger.

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