World Series: Houston or Chicago?

point counterpoint

point

The baseball season is a long journey, one that travels through the buds on the trees to green leaves to the browns and reds of autumn. But those who can control the journey are the ones who get the final champagne shower in October. This year, that team is going to be the Chicago White Sox, and I am going to tell you why.

They have had slumps, but have used great starting pitching, timely hitting and a bullpen absent of stars but full of confidence to get into their first World Series since the era of the Black Sox and Shoeless Joe Jackson. The White Sox led the AL Central after May, June, July, August and September. If this is not consistency, then I don’t know what is. But the White Sox are more than consistency, they are a team of destiny, a team hungry to take advantage of their first World Series trip in 88 years.

A World Series championship team starts with starting pitching. The Sox pitchers have propelled them to a 7-1 record in the playoffs. Against the Angels, the Sox reeled off four complete games in a row from the starting pitchers.

Let’s start all discussion with Jose Contreras, the likely Game One starter for the Sox. He has pitched an LCS-record four straight complete games.

Then, after Contreras come the Big Three: John Garland, Mark Buerhle and Freddy Garcia. When Buerhle pitches on Sunday in Game Two it will be 10 days between starts, giving his already nasty 12 to 6 curve some extra bite. The Sox will then follow with Garcia and Garland, with 14 and 18 regular season wins respectively.

With the level of consistency and durability in the starting line, scoring runs against Chicago—especially in a series where games in Chicago will see tempertaures in the single digits to low teens—will be very difficult.

But to win ballgames, the White Sox will have to continue to count on their group of overachieving bats. The stat of this series has to be the way this group of players has played against Roger Clemens, a pitcher who will appear at least two times barring a sweep. Paul Konerko (ALCS MVP), Juan Uribe, Scott Podsednik, Joe Crede and Jermain Dye are a combined .404 batting against the Rocket. You will not see a better batting average form any other group of five players on any other team in the league.

Therefore, the bottom line is that consistent pitching from the Big Four and a rough ride for the Rocket will lead to a White Sox 4-2 series victory and the first taste of the bubbly in the Windy City since before the Great Depression.

--Richard Zussman

counterpoint

Every year as the air becomes a little colder, fans ask an age-old question: who will win the World Series?

In many “Fall Classics” the competition is evenly matched, with teams going head-to-head in an exciting match-up. Unfortunately, this year, that’s not the case. The Houston Astros will be crowned the World Series champions in the very near future, and their path to glory will not be difficult.

Here’s why: good pitching always beats good hitting. The Houston Astros arguably have the three best starters in the National League: Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte and Roy Oswalt. With three dominant pitchers starting for the Astros in this series, it is difficult to make a case for the White Sox. The likelihood of the White Sox beating these dominant pitchers four times in a series is highly unlikely. The White Sox have a pitching rotation of former Yankee has-beens who have managed to get hot in October. The reality of the situation is that the White Sox stumbled their way into the playoffs, having played very poorly over the last six weeks of the regular season. Their rotation of makeshift “aces” will not measure up to their counterparts. The Astros also have an edge in relief pitching. Brad Lidge is a dominant closer, and he is backed up by a solid group of set-up men. If the Astros can take a lead into the late innings, the White Sox will have difficulty mounting a comeback. Look for this bullpen to shut down the ChiSox throughout the series. A major, often-overlooked issue in the World Series is the fact that American League pitchers have to hit in National League ball parks. This rule affects any American League team, who are used to having the designated hitter in most games. The White Sox will be at an extreme disadvantage when their inexperienced pitchers step into the batter’s box. What’s more, Astros veteran Craig Biggio is playing with a youthful exuberance that is rarely seen even in some rookies. He knows this is going to be one of his last chances for fall glory, and he will play with passion and fire throughout these contests. While the Astros lack a dominant hitter, they have high-energy offence that will scratch across runs instead of looking for the long ball. The storylines that surround these two teams will make for an interesting match-up initially. The Astros will be trying to win a World Series for veterans Biggio, Clemens and Jeff Bagwell. The White Sox have not won a World Series since 1917. It looks like the fans in Chicago will have to keep on waiting. Take the Astros in six.

--Kevin Cooke

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