Things are certainly a lot different than last year. In '04, the talk was all about how the manufacturing that served the Angels well over a 160+ season couldn't cut it in the postseason. There, what you needed in addition to reliable starting pitching, was a team that could give you a few big innings. Being in close games night-in night-out was too stressful, too chancy to be the way to a World Series. The Angels needed some pop. They got it.
Since arriving midsummer, Mark Texeira is hotter than anyone in baseball except Manny. His OPS is at 1.081 and he's slugging .632. That's their pop. And the entire lineup has responded. Just as Manny seems to have sparked a young group of Dodgers, some guys who, after last season, we weren't sure had it anymore, have shown us they do. Vlad and and Garret, namely. Even Torri Hunter looked suspect at times, but for the season he's now brought his tally up to 153 hits (37 of them doubles) and 85 runs. Chone Figgins had a terible start to the season but has improved his numbers dramatically. Where before the Angels relied heavily on Figgins to get on and steal everytime, then get ready to get over on the bunt, then tag, all they're asking him now is to get on every once in a while and make a nice big sprint from first to home. Same goes for Howie Kendrick and Mike Napoli, who've filled roles nicely in this lineup. All in all, the Angels can put together big innings. Throughout the sweep in '07, this was maybe the Sox only fear, and now they've got to face it.
The Sox, on the other hand, are somwhat limping into the stretch. Lowell and Drew are obviously still question marks (at the time of post). Both players' troubles, however, seem to have a greater effect in the field, so it's possible they will be able to produce. On the bright side, several key players got or stayed hot in September. Jacoby hit .340 for the month and had 11 extra base hits, Pedroia was hitting .400 over the final week of the season, and Coco hit .375 with a .444 OBP to close out the season. Youk has been the lineup's rock. The newcomers have meshed well, though Bay's strikeouts and Lowrie's recent struggles continue to be a concern. Ortiz has concerned some people over the year, but most seem to think that in the crisp of autum, he'll be back in form. All in all, the Sox look strong up front, but with a lot of question marks after Youk.
The Sox can match the Angles on any given night, but now it's a matter of doing it without fail. Overall, the hitting edge goes to the Angels.