Angels-White Sox: Position analysis

Angels-White Sox: Position analysis

White Sox backstop A.J. Pierzynski honed his game-calling skills with some very good Twins pitchers and has another fine starting staff here. It took him a while to establish rapport with this bunch. He's a very productive hitter. Anaheim's Bengie Molina, after home runs in the first three ALDS games, was dinged by a pitch, although he returned for Game 4. He is a good contact hitter, but very slow. Molina is excellent defensively.

Paul Konerko stepped forward as the White Sox leader, both on and off the field. His 40 homers and 100 RBIs presaged a big blast in the ALDS clincher against the Red Sox. He's not a great fielder, but he's improved his scoop. Also a team leader, Darin Erstad has the fire to light up the Angels. An ex-outfielder, Erstad has become a Gold Glove first baseman with fine range. He's not a power hitter, he has gap-to-gap power.

An import from Japan, Chicago's Tadahito Iguchi's ALDS homer indicated his clutch potential. Mainly, he's been a No. 2 hitter who can move runners along with bunts and grounders. He's steady on defense. An Angels sparkplug, Adam Kennedy had 10 RBIs in the 2002 title-year playoffs, but missed last year's with a knee injury. He's a streaky hitter, but very solid on defense with good range.

Joe Crede banged 22 home runs, but he was very inconsistent. He took a strong finish into the playoffs, however. Crede's fielding also was strong down the stretch for the Sox. Chone Figgins is a versatile guy who plays third against right-handed pitchers and can bring verve to the top of the Angels' lineup. He led the AL with a 62 stolen bases.

Juan Uribe was a defensive upgrade for the White Sox after moving all over the infield in 2004. He had 71 RBIs, including 40 from the No. 9 hole. Orlando Cabrera gives the Angels one of the best defensive shortstops in the game. A key part of the Red Sox World Series run last year, he had 11 postseason RBIs, so he's no stranger to postseason pressure.

Scott Podsednik's speed at the top of the lineup gave the White Sox a new look, although he was thrown out 23 times in 82 attempts. His ALDS homer was his first of the season. The Angels' Garret Anderson has had back problems, but he seemed his old self in the third ALDS game with five RBIs and four hits, including a homer. In left or at DH, he can be a force.

Aaron Rowand has developed into a fine outfielder for the White Sox, although he doesn't cover a wide swath like the great ones. He was 4-for-10 in the ALDS, but rolled into two double plays. Steve Finley plays against right-handers for the Angels, Figgins against lefties. Finley's offense has been dogged by injuries and inconsistencies, but he can still go get 'em in the field.

Jermaine Dye gives the White Sox an experienced presence. He had 31 homers and 86 RBIs, hitting .300 in his last 55 games. Dye has great fielding instincts and a powerful arm. Free-swinging Angels slugger Vladimir Guerrero is a great bad-ball hitter, so there's no pitching around him. He can connect on anything, anytime. Guerrero has a fine arm and is aggressive, if erratic, in the field.

Carl Everett slumped (.204 in September) when the White Sox staggered late and was dropped from the No. 3 spot. He had just three singles and no RBIs in the ALDS. Yet he's a dangerous switch-hitter. Right-handed Juan Rivera or Finley could figure here for the Angels. Rivera, an average offensive contributor, also had playoff experience with the Yankees. He's become a more aggressive hitter for the Angels.

There's no real closer for the White Sox despite Dustin Hermanson's 34 saves this year. Bobby Jenks had two saves, showing some devastating stuff in the ALDS. So it's a mix-and-match situation, depending on the hitters and manager Ozzie Guillen's gut instincts. The Angels are topped off by Francisco Rodriguez, who took over from Troy Percival with electric material and stunning results. He has a fine supporting cast including setup man Scot Shields, Brendan Donnelly and Kelvim Escobar. They were tough down the stretch.

There's not much to choose from in the White Sox dugout, although Willie Harris was 7-for-19 (.368) as a pinch-hitter this year. He can play infield or outfield. Others are infielders Geoff Blum and Pablo Ozuna and catcher Chris Widger. The Angels have versatile Jeff DaVanon and infielder Maicer Izturis, both of whom supply speed and defensive skills. There's also Robb Quinlan, the alternate for Figgins at third, and catcher Jose Molina, the lighter-hitting version of his brother.

Chicago skipper Guillen sometimes gives the impression of managing by the seat of his pants, but his moves, as his success proves, generally are well-founded. He's outspoken, effervescent and likes to keep umpires on their toes (witness Game 3 of the ALDS). Mike Scioscia could teach the White Sox a thing or two about small ball. The Angels skipper has been using it for years with success. He's an astute handler of pitchers. He won the 2002 World Series and this is his third postseason in six years as manager.

The White Sox, propelled by the ALDS sweep of the Red Sox, are on a roll. They shrugged off a late-season swoon, their only real test of adversity, and have won eight straight games. They've got that whole haven't-won-it-all-since-1917 thing going. What isn't known is how they'll hold up under the increasing grip of the October octopus. Still around from the Angels' 2002 seven-game victory against the Giants are several players: Anderson, Erstad, Kennedy, the Molinas, Rodriguez, Shields, John Lackey and Jarrod Washburn among them. That experience can only help when the nitty gets down to the gritty.

Dick Kaegel is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.