A.J. Pierzynski had a knack for being in the middle of controversy in the ALCS. Quite obviously, he called the right pitches, too, with the White Sox starters dominating the Angels. Although he can be a very productive hitter, he didn't have much impact in the ALCS. The Astros' Brad Ausmus, as demonstrated in the postseason, isn't an offensive force. However, he's recognized as a smart game-caller and strong defensively, the epitomy of backstop excellence.
FIRST BASEEDGE: WHITE SOX
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, and he banged two more, collecting seven RBIs against the Angels. His playoff bag: 11 RBIs, four homers. He's not a great fielder, but he did very well in the ALCS.
A powerful pinch-hitter, Lance Berkman has taken over for Astros legend Jeff Bagwell. Berkman's 11 homers and 27 RBIs in the last 30 games indicated how well he recovered from knee surgery. Berkman also plays left field because Mike Lamb can fill first nicely.
SECOND BASEEDGE: ASTROS
An import from Japan, Tadahito Iguchi indicated his clutch potential with a big ALDS homer, although he didn't do much against the Angels. Mainly, he's been a No. 2 hitter who sacrifices himself effectively with bunts and grounders. His fielding was a big help to the White Sox pitchers in the ALCS. Craig Biggio went away from his high-kick swing and banged 26 home runs this season. Hitting well in the postseason, Biggio can kick-start the Astros from any angle. Defensively, he's slowed a bit.
THIRD BASEEDGE: ASTROS
Joe Crede banged 22 home runs in 2005, but he was very inconsistent. He took a strong finish into the playoffs, however, and really came to life against the Angels. His three RBIs in the wrapup game were huge. Crede's fielding was strong down the stretch. Morgan Ensberg was the Astros' best player this season, pounding 36 homers with 101 RBIs. He kept it going in the postseason, spraying hits and knocking in runs.
SHORTSTOPEDGE: WHITE SOX
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. Uribe teamed with Iguchi to give the Sox starters a strong backup against the Angels. Adam Everett wasn't expected to provide much offense, but he chipped in nicely in the playoffs. Defensively, the Astros have no worries with Everett.
LEFT FIELDEDGE: WHITE SOX
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 in the regular season. His ALDS homer was a big surprise, but igniting the Sox with singles and steals is his forte. Also, Podsednik provides center-field fielding in left. Chris Burke, springing off his famous 18th-inning homer, became a pivotal player for the Astros. Normally a second baseman, he provides some uneasy moments in the outfield. The Astros might use Berkman here, however, tilting the edge.
CENTER FIELDEDGE: WHITE SOX
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. Against the Angels, he hit just .167. The Astros' Willy Taveras is no Carlos Beltran -- he's a speedy blur in the outfield and on the bases. He batted well (.348) in the first eight playoff games.
RIGHT FIELDEDGE: WHITE SOX
Jermaine Dye gives the White Sox an experienced presence. He had 31 homers and 86 RBIs this season, hitting .300 in his last 55 games. Against the Angels, he had three RBIs. Dye has great fielding instincts and a powerful arm. Jason Lane, whose slide knocked Abraham Nunez out of the NLCS, can whack homers (26 in the regular season) and drive in runs. He tends to be streaky at the plate.
DESIGNATED HITTEREDGE: WHITE SOX
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, but contributed three ribbies against the Angels. The DH will be used in Chicago, where the World Series will open. That could open a spot for Bagwell, who was limited to pinch-hitting duty in the NL portion of the playoffs. The Astros could also use Lamb or Berkman in that spot.
The White Sox have a bullpen? Who knew during the ALCS? 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 Astros have arguably the best closer in the game in Brad Lidge. The hard-throwing Lidge gets good support from Dan Wheeler and Chad Qualls, but the quality falls off from there.
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: infielders Geoff Blum and Pablo Ozuna and catcher Chris Widger. Guillen has hardly used his bench in the postseason. Astros manager Phil Garner likes to use his extra guys. Bagwell provides a superb threat as a pinch-hitter. If Lamb's not starting, he provides extra oomph. Orlando Palmeiro and Jose Vizcaino are skilled veteran pinch-hitters. Eric Bruntlett can give Biggio late-inning backup.
Guillen sometimes gives the impression of managing by the seat of his pants, but his moves -- as his success proves -- are generally well-founded. He showed a lot of faith in his starters against the Angels, and look at the results. He's outspoken, effervescent and likes to keep umpires on their toes. "Scrap Iron" Garner has pushed a lot of buttons in the playoffs and always seems to hit the right one. Bringing a team from 15 games below .500 in May to the final round is a spectacular achievement.
INTANGIBLESEDGE: WHITE SOX
The White Sox, after sweeping the Red Sox and flattening the Angels, are on a roll. They shrugged off a late-season swoon, their only real test of adversity, and have won 12 of 13 games. They've got that whole haven't-won-it-all-since-1917 thing going, and the South Side will be ultra-hyped. Not that White Sox fans will have anything on the Houston folks, who'll raise the closed roof of Minute Maid Park in their team's first World Series. The club's thundering surge from early-season obscurity provides a believe-it-or-not quality.
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
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