Sox no match for Jays, except where it counts most Starting pitching will make the difference for Chicago

October 05, 1993|By Jim Henneman | Jim Henneman,Staff Writer

CHICAGO -- If position-by-position comparisons are any indication, the American League Championship Series that opens here tonight should provide a classic matchup.

It also could be the ultimate test as to whether good pitching always stops good hitting -- or if there can be an exception to that long-standing baseball belief.

The Toronto Blue Jays get most of the check marks in head-to-head matchups -- but the Chicago White Sox appear to have a big edge with their four starting pitchers. Here's a close look at the two teams:

FIRST BASE

Blue Jays -- It wasn't a fluke that John Olerud flirted with a .400 average for more than half the season. He has developed into one of the best young hitters in the game. He is more of a gap than power hitter, as his 54 doubles will attest. Solid in all offensive phases, he is average defensively and a below-average runner.

White Sox -- There are a lot of people who think Frank Thomas is the best all-around hitter in baseball, and it's hard to argue the point. He hits for both power and average and still is disciplined enough to draw 112 walks. Without question Thomas is the focal point of the White Sox offense. He missed four games at the end of the season with tendinitis in his left forearm, but is expected to be 100 percent for the postseason.

Edge: No weaknesses here, but give the White Sox the advantage.

SECOND BASE

Blue Jays -- Roberto Alomar is the premier player in the game at this position. He is virtually without a weakness. A superlative defensive player, he has great instincts for the game. A switch-hitter, he's better from the left side, and has surprising power. An ideal hitter to bat behind Rickey Henderson and ahead of the potent middle of the Blue Jays' lineup.

White Sox -- Joey Cora is one of a number of underrated, or overlooked, players in the White Sox lineup. He's also a switch-hitter, but with limited power. A threat to steal a base occasionally, he has good range in the field, but also can be erratic.

Edge: Clearly to the Blue Jays.

THIRD BASE

Blue Jays -- Ed Sprague is vastly overshadowed in the awesome Toronto lineup, but cannot be taken lightly. Originally signed as a catcher, he has made enough progress to be better than average defensively. He's considered a potential 25-30 home run player. His pinch homer in Game 2 may have been the biggest hit in last year's World Series.

White Sox -- Robin Ventura had an off-year, but still was the second most productive hitter for the White Sox. He has improved tremendously on defense and despite a sub-par average, is a solid threat from the left side of the plate. He has deceptive power, and when he's on a hot streak, he can be destructive.

Edge: White Sox.

SHORTSTOP

Blue Jays -- Tony Fernandez has been better accepted the second time around in Toronto, possibly because the Blue Jays were desperate for someone to plug a gaping hole in the middle of their infield. His acquisition from the Mets at midseason was instrumental in the Blue Jays' success. He's still a spectacular, but erratic, fielder, and another switch-hitter who is better from the left side.

White Sox -- Before a knee injury that sidelined him most of last year, Ozzie Guillen was one of the game's most spectacular players. He doesn't have the same mobility, but he's still an excellent defensive player with a lot of range. He's become a legitimate threat as a left-handed hitter, though he has limited power.

Edge: Very slight to the White Sox.

LEFT FIELD

Blue Jays -- Rickey Henderson has been a disappointment since being obtained from Oakland two months ago, but he's still one of the game's prime-time players. He's not the base-stealing threat he used to be, but Henderson still can disrupt a defense in a lot of ways. He's performed well in the glare of postseason play, and can be expected to do so again. He has exceptional power for a leadoff hitter.

White Sox -- Tim Raines is not the force he once was, but is still a formidable switch-hitter. His power and speed have diminished, but Raines still is capable of stealing a base or hitting a home run.

Edge: Blue Jays.

CENTER FIELD

Blue Jays -- Devon White has no peer defensively and is one of three base-stealing threats at the top of the Toronto lineup. He covers more ground, with ease, than any outfielder in the American League, and is another switch-hitter with surprising power.

White Sox -- Lance Johnson is solid in all phases of the game, with the exception of hitting for power. He's a sound outfielder and a good base stealer.

Edge: Blue Jays.

RIGHT FIELD

Blue Jays -- After a strong first half, Joe Carter is regrouping at the right time. He has been the anchor of the Blue Jays' offense for three straight division championships. A better-than-average outfielder with a good arm, he has explosive power and a knack for driving in runs with more than 100 RBI in seven of the past eight years (he had 98 in the other).

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