The Red Sox were the better team, period! John Lackey, Torii Hunter, you are both entitled to you opinion. But you are wrong.
The Angels won 100 games. The Red Sox 95. That is where a lot of the “Angels being better” argument lies. And the fact that the Angels beat the Red Sox 8 of 9 times this season. Wins are wins, the most important stat of them all. But there are other circumstances. The Angels played in an absolutely pathetic division. A division that contained three teams that were much, much worse than the fourth best team in the American League. The best run differential in the AL West for a team outside of the Angels was -44 (Oakland). The AL East consisted of four teams that had RD’s of +62 or better. So the Red Sox played in the toughest division in baseball, and the Angels played in what was most definitely the worst of the three in the American League. Any of the first four teams in the AL East would have easily won the AL West had they been drawn that division in place of the Angels.
The Angels win with “pitching and defense.” Great, good for them. But the Red Sox ERA+ was 5% better as a team. Against better competition, the Red Sox actually surrendered three fewer runs. Three runs is irrelevant, but the Red Sox play in a “hitters park,” while the Angels play in a neutral park. But both teams had good pitching, it was pretty close in that department. But the defensive battle goes to the Red Sox. Boston had the fifth best “DefensiveEfficiency” in all of baseball, while the Angels were 14th. So the Red Sox were clearly better at turning balls in play into outs than the Angels were. But even this wasn’t as clear cut as the playoffs made it look. The Red Sox looked far superior on the defensive side of the ball in this series then that of the Angels, but even if the Angels are not quite as good defensively as the Red Sox, it wasn’t as big a gap as the ALDS seemed to suggest.
The one thing that was a large difference between the two teams, outside of Jon Lester giving up zero earned runs in 14 innings, was the quality of at bats the Red Sox had. Up and down the lineup, the Red Sox have “tough outs” as the BPS likes to refer to them as(outside of Varitek). But even Varitek doesn’t lack TOO much in his approach, he simply cannot hit very well anymore. Ellsbury (to a lesser extent) Pedroia, Ortiz, Youkilis, Drew, Bay, Kotsay (somewhat) and Lowrie all approach their at bats well. And if a pitcher is going to have success against the Red Sox, it is not going to be because the Red Sox fail at the way they go about their at-bats. The Red Sox, whether it because of Magadan or the talent the team withholds, probably some of both, know how to go about an at bat. They are patient, they know how to take a walk, and they are great at looking for a pitch that they can hit. They still fail a lot, as does every team, but they aren’t lacking in the way they come up to the plate and execute. Now one can enjoy their team of free swingers, I on the other hand will take this approach any day of the week (unless one could have the success Nomar did). Mark Teixera was very good in his approach, but he was one of the few that did it consistently well in the Angels lineup (Vlad is of course an exception).
Statistically, the Red Sox offense was far superior to that of the Angels to begin with. The Red Sox OPS+ was 108, while the Angels was 96. 96! That is below average. And they were 10th in runs scored too, so they didn’t have some magical ability to score runs from not getting on base. They somehow won many games, but they didn’t get on base (11th in OBP) and they didn’t score runs. Mark Teixera made the offense better, statistically or not. It gave them an overall upgrade at first base over Kotchman, a bat that could make the opposing pitcher work, and make that same pitcher pay too. He is one of the better hitters in the game. But Kotchman was average, maybe a little better, so to upgrade to a good hitter can only do SO much. I think the Tex acquisition was the right one, guys like Kotchman can be found elsewhere, with more ease. But the Teixera’s of the game are not easy to come by, and he gave them a better shot to win it all than Kotchman did. But the team, with or without Mark Teixera, did not get on base enough. If they want to swing at every pitcher and get on base a lot over a large sampling, then so be it. But they didn’t get on base, and the runs didn’t fall into their lap. I prefer the higher OBP than the ability to bunt and swing earlier in the count, but maybe that is just me.
I know I sound confident now, I am. I felt the Red Sox were the better team going in, but I couldn’t truly tell if it was the objective stats I rely on, which are in the Red Sox favor. Or maybe because I happen to root for the Red Sox and have seen them win a championship in the past year. That being said, I kind of left the playoffs to declare who the best team was. I thought the White Sox were the fourth best of the field, but I wasn’t as sure who the best was, and still are not. After all, the Rays were basically tied for the second best run differential in the game, they had a slightly better defensive efficiency then the Red Sox. Had the same ERA+, and were 5% worse in OPS+. Those numbers are pretty close. Whoever wins this series was and is the best team in the American League this season.