this'll be quick n dirty.
we have an unusual matchup this year. to begin with, both teams have pedestrian scoring differentials; the sox were +96 (they outscored their opponents 741-645), the astros +82 (693-609). all of the departed playoff teams had better differentials except one -- the padres at minus 40. what's more, two teams that missed the playoffs had better spreads, the athletics (+114) and indians (+147; cleveland missed the playoffs despite having the al's highest run differential).
expect some tight contests.
i think the white sox have a better offense, but not by much. houston ranked 11th in the league in runs scored, chicago 9th. the white sox hold the edge in most of the important stat categories: they were even with houston in obp (.322 each) but outslugged them .425-.408, outbatted them .262-.256, outhomered them 200-161, and outscored them 741-693. it is likely however that most of the sox's statistical advantages are entirely explainable by the existence of the dh in the al; take that away and the teams are essentially even. but then, the astros' figures are inflated by their ballpark; take that away and the edge swings ever so slightly back to the white sox. looking at the lineups, chicago has better on-base ability at the top of the order and more thump in the middle; that makes them the more dangerous of two pretty bad offenses.
but it's pitching that got both these teams here. houston's top trio is formidable, as the cardinals found out. the sox rotation will match up with them better than the cardinals' did, however; they also will have a bigger rotation-pairing mismatch in game 4, the backe gimme, than st louis did. chicago's bullpen appears to be the equal of houston's; no closer like lidge, but they have power arms who strike people out and keep the ball in the park. you have to give the edge to the astros here because their 1-3 guys are the best we have seen since maddux smoltz glavine; but chicago's pitchers are damn good; they have already stymied two offenses (angels and red sox) that are better than the one they will now face. clemens labored against the cardinals and may be ripe; backe is not very good and probably loses his start.
the sox were a tremendous road team (52-29) while the astros were bad (36-45). the sox should win at least one game at minute maid -- likeliest game 4, the backe start. if we assume the stros take the other two home games, they have to go 2-2 in comiskey to win the series. i don't think they can do it; their offense is simply too inept away from minute maid, and the white sox' pitching is just too good. i don't think houston wins a single game on the road; make it the white sox in 6.