And then there were two. The Detroit Tigers finally have an opponent to prep for and a flight to book. Wednesday night at 8 p.m. on Fox will commence the 2012 World Series between the Detroit Tigers and San Francisco Giants.
Lately, the Detroit Tigers have been living the good life. After tripping up the A’s in the ALDS, the Tigers swept the Yankees to claim the AL pennant. Meanwhile, the Giants have been doing some miraculous things over in the senior circuit. After being down two games to none in the NLDS they came back and won 3 straight to beat the Reds. Again facing a two-game deficit in the NLCS, the Giants took it to the never-say-die Cardinals and won the last 3 to snatch the NL pennant away from St. Louis and set their sights on a World Series.
Many people in the Midwest aren’t all that familiar with San Francisco. They are managed by Bruce Bochy and wiped out all competition in the NL West this year, taking the division by 8 games. Historically, they have used excellent starting pitching as their calling card, although that has not been the case quite as much in 2012.
As I have done for the Tigers and their opponent for the first two rounds, here is a ‘tale of the tape’ of sorts along with my prediction for who will win the Series:
Detroit has averaged just 4 runs/game in the postseason as compared to 4.4 runs/game for the Giants. The two teams were basically neck and neck during the regular season. The Tigers hit .268 as a team, the Giants .269. Detroit plated 726 runs, the Giants 718. Probably the biggest difference came in the home run department. Despite a down power year for some Tigers, they clubbed 163 homers while the Giants managed to clear the fences just 103 times.
But don’t take the Giants offense lightly. They added Hunter Pence and Marco Scutaro at the trade deadline. Pence is always dangerous and Scutaro has been nothing short of a revelation at 2nd base. In addition to their late season additions, the Giants pack some firepower in the names of MVP candidate Buster Posey and Pablo “Kung Fu Panda” Sandoval. Centerfielder and leadoff man Angel Pagan is also a very important player for Bochy’s team.
The Tigers had been plodding along during the postseason until lighting CC Sabathia and the Yankees up for 8 runs and 4 homers last Thursday. Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder have been relatively quiet this postseason, something that might not bode well for the Giants. Austin Jackson is always the ignition of the Tigers’ engine and has had a strong run so far in October.
The big difference makers have been Delmon Young (.294 avg., 2 HR’s, 8 RBI’s) and Jhonny Peralta (.343 avg.). If these two can stay hot then Detroit has a slight edge offensively. If the long layoff somehow cools them off and Detroit’s bats struggle, things could get messy.
Remember, in an NL park there will be no DH so Young will slide back into left field. This will take a lot of playing time away from Avisail Garcia and Quintin Berry. Until Detroit returns home, both players will be relegated to pinch-hitting/defensive replacement duties as Andy Dirks will get the start and play right field.
Advantage: Tigers, but just barely
The Giants have long boasted a dominant starting rotation, but times have changed a bit. Tim “The Freak” Lincecum has been freaking out his own team and fans more than the opposition this year but has had a decent postseason working as both starter and reliever. Madison Bumgarner was excellent during the regular season but has struggled tremendously of late. He may not start at all in the World Series if Bochy elects to go with the hotter hands. Barry Zito has his ups and downs. Now the Giants go as ace Matt Cain and renaissance man Ryan Vogelsong go.
Vogelsong (2-0, 1.42 ERA) has been dealing in the playoffs and Cain is a legit ace who can shut down anybody. The problem is both pitchers were just used in Games 6 and 7 of the NLCS and won’t start up again until likely Game 3 of the World Series.
Detroit has been able to set up their rotation to perfection. Justin Verlander will go in Game 1 and is followed by Doug Fister, Anibal Sanchez, and Max Scherzer. Verlander is 3-0 in the playoffs with a 0.74 ERA. Fister is at 2-0, 1.35. Sanchez is 1-1, 1.35. And Scherzer checks in at 1-0 with a 0.82 ERA. Nobody has it rolling like the Tigers’ starters. Assuming they can stay sharp following nearly a week off, this is a clear cut edge in Detroit’s favor.
The counterparts to Detroit’s struggling duo of Joaquin Benoit and Jose Valverde is Santiago Casilla and Sergio Romo of the Giants. Both pitchers have been excellent all season long and into the playoffs. Throw lefties Javier Lopez and Jeremy Affeldt into the mix and the Giants have the experience and talent to edge the Tigers out here.
Phil Coke saved Jim Leyland’s bacon in the ALCS. A repeat performance should not be expected though. Coke gave up a .394 batting average against v. righties during the regular season. I don’t think he’ll be that bad again as he clearly has some good stuff going on the mound right now, but he might not be nails like he was against the Yankees’ lefty-heavy lineup.
Detroit claims to have fixed a few mechanical flaws in Valverde’s delivery during the break. I know how hard this will be for Tiger fans to accept, but he will pitch in this series, and very likely in a save situation. Brace yourself!
Believe it or not, the Tigers actually committed 16 less errors during the regular season than the Giants. In line with that, Detroit has booted it 4 times through the first 2 rounds of the playoffs while the Giants have coughed up 6 errors. The Tigers did allow 74 unearned runs during the regular season to just 56 for San Francisco.
One thing should scare Tiger fans more than any other and that is Delmon Young playing left field at AT&T Park. Delmon has been DH’ing almost exclusively for well over a month now. To toss him into the field, in a yard every bit as big as Comerica Park, and maybe bigger, is a frightening proposition. With that in mind:
The Giants last won a World Series in 2010. It’s been since 1984 for the Tigers. The city, the fans, team management, and the players are starving for another title. Detroit has shown a lot of moxy so far in the playoffs by winning tight games, overcoming some major adversity, and having fun while doing it.
To say that one team wants it more than another at this stage would be folly. It takes a lot of mojo for a team to make it this far. Even knowing that it just feels like the Tigers have that special vibe going right now.
There aren’t many managers that are Bruce Bochy’s senior, but Jim Leyland is one of them. Bochy has been managing for 18 years, has a 26-25 career postseason record and the 2010 championship under his belt. His players play for him the way the Tigers play for Leyland.
Leyland, coming into this playoff season and in his 21st year of managing (7 with the Tigers), had some job security issues on the back burner. 7 postseason wins later I think it’s safe to say he’ll be the lead man once again in 2013 and probably beyond. His career playoff record is 39-30
Both of these managers are at the top of their profession.
Picking the Winner
So far I’ve picked the Tigers to beat Oakland in 4 (they won in 5) and New York in a long series (they swept). The more I see this team operate and move toward their goal, the more I believe they are a team of destiny.
The Tigers will break their 28-year World Series championship drought in 5 games. Justin Verlander will close it out next Monday at Comerica Park. Book it.