Not that you can ever really expect a losing team's players to come right out and say "holy crap those guys are way better than us," but
“It’s frustrating,” [Lackey] said after the Angels were eliminated by the Boston Red Sox in four games of their ALDS. “We lost to a team that’s not better than us.”
The feelings in the clubhouse after this year’s elimination were nothing like those a year ago when the Red Sox beat them, Lackey said.
“Totally different,” he said. “They were better than us last year. They’re not better than us this year.”
“Honestly, I feel we’re better,” Hunter said. “We are better...But it was tough walking off that field, knowing you should be the one moving on (to play Tampa). We’re a better team than those guys. But they got it done." (link)
By regular W/L record, the Angels were five wins better than the Red Sox, the former of whom played in a cupcake division, and the latter of whom played in a battlefield.
By Pythagorean W/L record, the Red Sox were eight wins better than the Angels.
By second order W/L record, which is based on equivalent runs and equivalent runs allowed, the Red Sox were 17 wins better than the Angels.
By third order W/L record, which is based on adjusted EqR and adjusted EqR against, the Red Sox were 18 wins better than the Angels.
The Red Sox are the best team in the Major Leagues. By a decent margin. There isn't another team in baseball that couldn't walk off the field after a loss to Boston and at least take solace in the fact that they lost to somebody better. The Angels, meanwhile, might (might) have been the worst team to qualify for the playoffs. It kind of depends on how you weight the midseason Teixeira trade, among a few other things. But that doesn't matter. Here's what it comes down to: if the Angels played in the AL East, they likely would've finished fifth. That's where they would've belonged according to true talent, anyway. The AL East featured four of the five best teams in the Majors, and the fact that Boston still managed to come out of that as well as they did is incredible.
There's no doubt in any smart baseball man's mind that the Red Sox are better than the Angels, and while I'm sure Lackey and Hunter were just talking out of frustration last night, over time it would behoove them to come to terms with the fact that they just didn't measure up. They weren't even close. The Red Sox are terrific and the Angels simply fluked their way into a franchise year, and while a lot of aspects of the MLB postseason are broken, the fact that Boston came away the victor is evidence that a few bits of it still work.
Better luck next year, Anaheim. If there's any justice in the world, next time you really will lose to somebody worse. And I bet it'll taste even sweeter.