Inside Edge, a leading baseball scouting and information service, will provide scouting reports to Yahoo! Sports throughout the MLB playoffs. Here's their breakdown of the Angels-Red Sox American League Division Series.
• The Red Sox offense is one of the most patient in all of baseball. They finished the season ranked second in the league in the following categories:
• Pitches per plate appearance (3.95)
• First pitches taken (they take 76 percent of first pitches in the at-bat)
• Chase Percentage (they chased 19 percent of pitches out of the strike zone – the MLB average is 23 percent).
• The Angels are more aggressive, chasing slightly above the league average, but they ranked fifth in the majors with a .174 batting average on pitches out of the strike zone.
• Red Sox outfielder Coco Crisp was 3-for-29 against the Angels this season, but don't let the .103 batting average fool you. Crisp led all Red Sox with a .357 well-hit average (hard-hit balls / at-bats) against Angels pitchers. Seven of Crisp's outs against the Angels were well-hit.
• Two key hitters in the Angels lineup, Vlad Guerrero and Chone Figgins, both handled Red Sox pitching extremely well in the early innings of games this season, but were not productive in the late innings against the Sox:
Against Red Sox in 2007
First 5 innings
• Red Sox pitchers were second in the league this season with a .234 batting average against the first batter of an inning. The Angels ranked 15th in the league in this department, with a .267 batting average against.
• The Angels and Red Sox ranked 7th and 8th in the league, respectively, in first-pitch strike percentage during the regular season. Angels pitchers threw 62 percent of their first pitches for strikes in September, which was second only to the Minnesota Twins. The major league average is 58 percent.
• Angels reliever Justin Speier has performed admirably since taking over the set-up role this summer. Speier's fastball averages 89 mph, which makes it the slowest velocity on the Angels' staff. But opposing batters are just 9-for-51 (.176 BA) against it this season. Doesn't sound like a lot of at-bats? True. Speier uses his sub-nineties heater for just 39 percent of his total pitches, while throwing his slider 45 percent of the time.
• The Red Sox bullpen is extremely solid. Watch for the following pitchers in particular:
What to watch
Devastating changeup: Not only did opponents hit a measly .172 against his changeup this season, but Okajima threw it for a strike 77 percent of the time (league average is 62 percent). Angels batters were 1-for-10 against his change, and 2-for-18 overall this season.
Boston's closer brings the heat. Opponents hit .110 (17-for-154) against his mid-nineties fastball. Angels batters were 0-for-11 against Papelbon's hard stuff this season.
The Angels are 4-for-10 this season against Delcarmen, but the rest of the league has batted less than .200 against each of his pitches (fastball, curve, and changeup).
GAME 1 STARTERS
• Josh Beckett is 1-0 with a 1.39 ERA in two starts against the Angels this season. The Boston right-hander has held the Angels to just three hits in 26 at-bats on two-strike counts, a .115 batting average against.
• John Lackey has been outstanding against most teams this year, but Boston is not one of them. The Angels ace is 0-2 with an 8.38 ERA in two starts against the Red Sox in 2007. To give the Angels a chance to win Game 1, Lackey will have to be more effective with his fastball. Boston hitters batted .500 (13-for-26) against it in their prior meetings this season.