GIANTS & TIGERS, BUT NO RANGERS

by Dan M | Posted on Thursday, October 25th, 2012

BY:  Dic Humphrey

The middle three games of this year’s World Series will take place this weekend in the home of the American League champions, but unlike the past two years, they will not be played at Rangers’ Ballpark in Arlington.   This weekend’s games will be played in Detroit, and the Tigers’ opponent will be San Francisco, the same team that steamrolled the Rangers in five games in the 2010 World Series.  Interestingly, both The Giants and Tigers were number three in the playoff seeding, allowing both to open the playoffs at home. 

The Giants route to the Series included playing all 12 possible playoff games.  The LDS went the full five games, as San Francisco lost the first two games at home, and then faced playoff elimination over the course of three consecutive games.  The Giants came back to win all of them in Cincinnati, as the visiting team won every game of the series.  Similarly, San Francisco fell behind three games to one to St. Louis in the LCS, and again faced elimination for three consecutive games.  Again, they won them all.  This is a team that can play with its back to the wall.

Detroit faced the red hot Oakland Athletics in the LDS.  They won the first two games at home, and then lost games three and four in Oakland, before wrapping up the series behind Justin Verlander in game five, the only game in the series won by the visiting team.  The LCS went much better for Detroit.  They took games one and two in Yankee Stadium without their ace available.  Verlander then broke the Yankees back by beating them in game three in Detroit, and a day later, the Tigers completed the sweep.

Here are some of the key matchups in this series:

Home Field Advantage:  The Giants have home field advantage by virtue of the National League’s win in the All-Star game.  Interestingly, the starting pitchers in the All-Star game were the Tigers’ Verlander, who was tagged with the loss, and the Giants’ Matt Cain, who was credited with the win.  It is questionable how valuable the home field advantage is.  Of the six playoff series that determined these two teams as World Series participants, only one did not last the full complement of games, and the team with home field advantage lost four of the six.

Offense:  The edge has to go to the Tigers.  They have the three-four batting order combo of Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder.  Better yet, they both usually play in the field such that the Tigers can utilize their normal defensive alignment in the games played in San Francisco when the designated hitter will not be utilized.  The Giants simply don’t have the power to match up with Detroit, as the Tigers out-homered the Giants by 60 in the regular season.  San Francisco ranked fifth at .269, while Detroit ranked sixth at .268 in batting average; and the Tigers barely outscored them – 726 runs to 718.

Starting Rotation:  When the season began, it was unthinkable that the Tigers would have a starting rotation that matched up with San Francisco.  Certainly Verlander was regarded as a true ace, but so were the Giants’ Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain.  That was then.  Now Lincecum is in the bullpen after a miserable season, and Cain is not pitching at the top of his game.  The edge goes to the Tigers in the rotation, especially since the Tigers swept New York in the LCS and can align their rotation to the max.  Verlander starts game one for the Tigers and faces Barry Zito.  What a turnaround for Zito!  He got the nine digit contract when he left the Athletics in free agency, but was such a bust that he wasn’t even on the Giants’ World Series roster two years ago.  Now he’s starting game one, and he’ll be followed in game two by Madison Baumgarner, who has struggled in the post season.  Baumgarner faces Doug Fister.  Those matchups look highly favorable for Detroit, but the Tigers, and especially Cabrera, have struggled against left-handers; so the Giants may have a better chance in games one and two than it would appear at first glance.  When the series moves to Detroit this weekend, the Giants will finally get to start their two best pitchers in the post season – Ryan Vogelsong and Cain in games three and four.  Detroit counters with Anabel Sanchez and Max Scherzer.

Bullpen:  The Giants have a decided advantage once the starters are out of the game.  San Francisco’s pen has compiled a 2.63 ERA in 41 post-season innings this year.  Sergio Romo has been a beast, and Jeremy Affeldt and Santiago Casilla have been especially good.  Tigers’ regular season closer Jose Valverde has fallen apart.  Phil Coke is the likely closer and really the only reliable bullpen hand in the Tigers’ pen.

Defense:  The edge goes to the Giants, but it’s a small edge.  For the Tigers, Cabrera is terrible at third and Fielder is average at best at first base, though Jhonny Peralta has been solid at shortstop.  Surprisingly, the Tigers did finish 17th compared to the Giants 27th in fielding percentage during the season.  Detroit does have good speed in the outfield, especially Austin Jackson in center.  The speed is a necessity as both ballparks have large outfield expanses to patrol.  The Giants have the clear edge at catcher with Buster Posey.

The pick here is the Tigers in five or six games.  The Giants have to face Verlander twice in the first five games, and after going seven games with St. Louis in the LCS, they will not be able to run out their best starting pitchers until the Series shifts to Detroit this weekend.  The likely league MVP’s – Cabrera in the American League and Posey in the National – will be featured.  Momentum is surely on the Giants’ side after the amazing come backs in the two playoff series already won.  The American League team has been the favorite to win the Series in each of the last two years and didn’t; so there is every chance that San Francisco makes it interesting.

 

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