Continuing our look at the strategies the managers employ, we move on to the American League.
What John Farrell likes to do: Maybe it's the ex-pitcher in him, and maybe it's just having Jacoby Ellsbury and Shane Victorino around, but Farrell likes to push his baserunners. The Sox led the majors in successful double steals (a perfect eight-for-eight), and stole third more than any team in the postseason (successful 17 out of 19 times). All while swiping bases at an MLB-best 87 percent clip, ranking fourth in the majors in steals. The downside of that aggressiveness is reflected in their making the most outs at home plate in the league (25).
What Farrell doesn't do is order intentional walks, because the 10 he had his pitchers hand out was easily the lowest tally in baseball. Or pull his starting pitchers -- only Jim Leyland and Robin Ventura had fewer quick hooks in the AL than Farrell's total of 28. That works well in the regular seasons, especially when you have a solid and deep rotation like Boston had, but managing in the postseason is often about knowing exactly when to go to the bullpen. Farrell also avoided using relievers on consecutive days, doing that just 71 times -- only John Gibbons did so less often in the majors. We'll see if that ends up having an impact on his decision-making in Games 2 or 4 of the LDS.
On offense, Farrell will platoon Jonny Gomes and Daniel Nava in left, so expect to see a lot of Gomes in this series with Matt Moore and David Price lined up to start three of the five games if necessary. Some fans will call for rookie Xander Bogaerts and his right-handed bat to get some time at shortstop, but Stephen Drew will likely be in there every day. But Bogaerts and Mike Carp do provide good pinch-hitting options off the bench if Farrell needs a better matchup against a Tampa Bay reliever.
What Joe Maddon likes to do: Just about everything. If you're keeping score in a Maddon game, use a pencil, not a pen. He shifts his fielders aggressively, but he also uses more defensive replacements (56) and pinch-hitters (193) than any other manager in the AL. He platoons across multiple positions (especially with infield-outfield dual-purpose assets like Ben Zobrist, Kelly Johnson and Sean Rodriguez). Beyond a general commitment to bat Evan Longoria third or fourth and his catchers eighth, he designs every lineup card with an eye to that day's specific matchup, leading to the highest tally of unique lineup cards this year (147 in 162 games). In short, John McNamara he ain't.
With his pitching staff, using Baseball Info Solutions' Quick Hook metric, Maddon is the quickest hook in the league -- if a starter struggles early, he'll reach for his pen and sort out his subsequent needs tomorrow while there's a game to win today. Of course, he rode Price all the way in the tiebreaker game and stuck with Alex Cobb for 107 pitches in the wild-card game, so he may have a little more faith right now in his starters. He's asked more relievers to work on consecutive days than any other AL postseason manager, something you usually can't avoid having to do in the postseason.
Substantively, he doesn't avoid the intentional walk -- with 38 he had the second-highest tally in the AL behind Eric Wedge. But even there, he had his reasons, usually resorting to them with bullpen lefties to avoid a bad matchup (instead of pulling his pitcher), or with starter Roberto Hernandez against a tough lefty bat.
Minus B.J. Upton, this Rays team doesn't run as often as previous versions, with just 73 steals. And as you might expect from a sabermetrically inclined manager like Maddon, the Rays don't bunt much, with just 24 sacrifice bunts (the Red Sox also had just 24).
Advantage: It's an interesting matchup between two very different types of managers. Farrell doesn't make mistakes, while Maddon tries everything because he has to. I'm leaning Farrell if only because I expect his way wins out in this series.