Stop me if you’ve heard this before: the Detroit Tigers will take on the New York Yankees in a playoff series. This time however, the stakes will be elevated. In 2006 and 2011 the Tigers eliminated the Yankees in the ALDS series. In 2012, these two teams will square off in the ALCS for the right to represent the American League in the World Series.
The schedule looks like this:
Game 1: Saturday in New York at 8:07 eastern
Game 2: Sunday at 4:07 eastern
Games 3-5: the series moves to Detroit. Tuesday and Wednesday’s games will be 8:07 eastern starts while a potential Game 5 on Thursday would begin at 4:07 eastern.
Games 6 & 7 will be in New York, if needed. Both games would be 8:07 start times.
The Tigers are heading east as they have twice in the last 7 postseasons to take on the Bronx Bombers. Recent history suggests the Tigers certainly won’t be intimidated, and in fact, might feel like the favorite coming in. As nice as the past success is however, it is nothing more than a neat little footnote in what will likely turn into a long, tense series.
As much as the Tigers would have preferred the homefield advantage, it could have turned into a problem because old Mother Nature is about to rear her ugly head this weekend in Michigan. All indications are that baseball should be played without delay at Yankee Stadium. Weather really caused the Tigers trouble last postseason and it appears as though that will be a non-factor this time around.
Both Detroit and New York played a full game 5 series in the ALDS round of play. Detroit now jumps on a plane to get ready for Saturday while the Yankees get to stay home and sleep in their own beds, waiting for their opponent to show up.
The Yankees won the regular season series by taking 6 of 10 from the Tigers. The pitching matchup in Game 1 will almost certainly be Doug Fister v. Andy Pettitte.
Much like the Tigers, Joe Girardi’s team failed to get into an offensive rhythm against the O’s, mustering up just 16 runs through the 5-game series.
Former superstar 3rd baseman Alex Rodriguez was benched in Game 5 as he continued to disappoint in October. While ARod takes most of the heat, teammates Curtis Granderson and Nick Swisher offered very little from the batter’s box as well.
These two teams aren’t all that dissimilar. They rely on some middle of the order power and a solid leadoff man to get their runs. That formula hasn’t been paying dividends thus far in the playoffs though.
Who then, has the advantage?
Offensively, I think it’s basically a dead heat. If Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder can get hot Detroit could be the team to beat here but neither player had a strong ALDS.
From a starting pitching perspective, you have to love the Tigers. They allowed just 5 earned runs in 34.1 innings pitched against the A’s. Game 1 will go to Fister. Look for Anibal Sanchez in Game 2, followed by Justin Verlander and then Max Scherzer.
The Yankees will have some decisions to make. Pettitte will go on Saturday and then we’ll probably see Hiroki Kuroda on Sunday. Girardi might go with Phil Hughes against Verlander in Game 3 or let CC Sabathia pitch on 3 day’s rest.
Overall, the Tigers clearly have the starting pitching advantage.
In the bullpen, the Tigers are better than absolutely no one still playing baseball. New York can finish games with David Robertson and Rafael Soriano. Jim Leyland taps Joaquin Benoit in the 8th and Jose Valverde in the 9th, and the prays as fast and hard as he can for 6 scraggly outs.
Defensively, the Tigers are also not the Yankees’ equal. Mark Teixeira and Robinson Cano are excellent at 1st and 2nd. The best Detroit has to offer is Austin Jackson in center.
Both teams feature elite managers. Despite Leyland’s voluminous postseason resume, I believe that neither team has much of an advantage here.
Right now I’d give the mojo factor to the Tigers. They just knocked off Team Mojo in the A’s and seem to have a bit more to play for than New York. The Yankees didn’t receive much of a home crowd turnout for a series deciding Game 5 on Friday, which was sad to see.
Detroit’s fans will be out in droves, as always, to try and help will their team to its first World Series appearance since 2006.
Categorically, the matchups are fairly even. To me, the biggest differential is Detroit’s rotation compared to New York’s. The Tigers are superior there and that’s why I think the Tigers win this series. It might take 7 games, but these flawed, yet dangerous Detroit Tigers will be heading to the big dance in about a week and a half.