With the Fall Classic upon us let’s take a look at the top storylines for the series and end with a completely subjective prediction that should only be used for entertainment purposes.
1) The Tigers Rotation: The Tigers’ starters have rolled through the postseason with a 1.02 ERA. Small sample size and struggling offenses? Sure, but 1.02 is hard to do no matter what. Led by reigning Cy Young and MVP, Justin Verlander, the rotation is stacked. Fister, Sanchez, and Scherzer all range from above average to fringe-elite starters and are all pitching extremely well right now. If the Tigers get the same kind of pitching they got in the ALDS and ALCS in the World Series, the Tigers will coast to a title.
2) The Bullpens: So the Tigers bullpen, not pitching very well right now. Not pitching very well at all. Maybe that’s harsh. Benoit and Valverde aren’t pitching well right now. Coke, Dotel, Alburquerque, Smyly, and Porcello have been solid in the postseason. After two meltdowns, Leyland has unofficially removed Valverde from the closer role and gone with a Phil Coke-by-committee approach that has worked out well. I’m an advocate for closer-by-committee for all teams and at all times of the season, so I think this approach will work for them, but they still have to execute when they are called upon. The Giants on the other hand, have a strong pen with Lopez, Casilla, and Romo in the late innings and Lincecum available as a super reliever. Bottom line? Score on the Tigers pen and the Giants starters if you want to win.
3) Delmon Young: It’s weird just writing that. But Young has hit in a big way during this postseason and last. There’s a good deal of disagreement about whether or not postseason performance is a skill set, but whether it’s luck or ability, Delmon is delivering for the Tigers. If he continues to hit well behind Jackson, Cabrera, and Fielder, it will be hard for San Francisco to limit the Tigers to the two runs they need to if they are going to face those Tigers’ starters. The other Delmon angle is that he has to play LF in Games 1, 2, 6*, and 7*(*if necessary). Since coming to Detroit, Young has been a terrible OF. No one who played more than 150 innings in LF this year posted a worse UZR/150. Granted, Delmon wasn’t asked to play the field very much and was a full time DH, but he’s about to man the position for at least two of the most critical games of the season against a team that puts the ball in play. Hopefully, the Tigers’ arms can punch out enough hitters to limit the Delmon liability.
4) The Fans: Both cities have high energy fans that create a rowdy atmosphere. Both cities have great parks. I don’t know that it will affect the outcome, but it will be cool to watch on TV.
5) The Managers: Bruce Bochy and Jim Leyland are different managers, but also heavily criticized in different ways. Bochy thinks walks are outs in disguise (not my joke, but I can’t remember who told it) and Leyland thinks RBIs are baseball’s more critical stat. That said, both managers have good to excellent reputations as leaders of men, which will certainly be on display with a championship on the line. Most critically, how Leyland has handled the situation with Valverde could result in a giant meltdown or a champagne celebration. Certainly something to watch. Additionally, Leyland will be faced with the tough call on when to pinch hit for his frontline starters, and how he responds will dictate a lot that happens in this series.
6) The Tigers Defense: It wasn’t good this season. It was pretty strong in the ALCS. If it’s solid, that’s a huge swing in the Tigers’ favor.
7) Marco Scutaro: The dude is on fire. If that Marco Scutaro shows up, the Giants might just break through on the Tigers. If he doesn’t, it will be tough for them.
I’m expecting a good series and these teams haven’t seen very much of each other in the last several years and have never met in the World Series. Both clubs will be relying a lot on scouting reports instead of experience with each other, and I think that will make for a very close and unpredictable series. (As a side note, Verlander has said in the past he relies heavily on past at bats versus hitters as opposed to video)
I think this is an objective pick, but I obviously have a strong rooting interest.
Tigers in 6. Austin Jackson WS MVP.