World Series Preview – Detroit Tigers vs. San Francisco Giants
It’s finally here. The journey that started in mid-February when hope was bountiful has culminated with a battle for baseball’s highest honor, World Series champions. Neither team took the most straight forward route to get here, both trailing in their division for at least a chunk of the season. The Giants, of course, were on the brink of elimination in six of their 12 games this postseason to this point. But here they are. The Giants had the better record, but my gut feeling is that Detroit has the better chance to win the series. I wish I was writing another Royals series preview like I wrote throughout the entire season, but I will say that I’m not at all upset with the participants considering who the final four choices were. For most Royals fans, the feeling is probably the same as mine.
Giants regular season record:¬†94-68 (tied for 3rd best record in NL)
Tigers regular season record:¬†88-74 (tied for 7th best record in AL)
Let’s break down the different facets of the game.
I think it’s a bit unfair that the Giants are characterized as a bad offensive team when really they’re pretty average. What they lack is power as they ranked dead last in baseball in home runs with just 103 and 20th in total extra base hits. They benefit from a bunch of triples and a fair amount of doubles. The two parks in this series, Comerica and AT&T actually both play to the Giants’ collective offensive strength. A big chunk of the Giants strong offensive showing throughout the season came from Melky Cabrera, who is obviously not returning at any time during this World Series. The way Marco Scutaro has been hitting recently has helped offset a lot of that loss and Gregor Blanco has shown his usual propensity to draw a walk here and there. Other than Buster Posey, who has struggled a bit in the playoffs, the Giants lack star power, but do have a fairly deep lineup in terms of slightly below average to slightly above average hitters. Plus they have potential if Sandoval or Belt get hot to give Posey a running mate in the lineup.
The Tigers are built a little differently than the Giants. We’ve seen a lot of them in Kansas City, so I don’t have to remind you that it’s Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder and then a half step down is Austin Jackson. The rest of the lineup has the potential to step up and make for a pretty deep lineup, but in times of famine for them, Detroit’s lineup isn’t one that is too tough to navigate after the top four hitters. Andy Dirks helped to deepen the lineup at times, but it’s hard to count on him considering his track record isn’t exactly flawless. I really thought Brennan Boesch was going to take a step forward and that Alex Avila was going to build on his strong 2011, but they haven’t, so the Tigers lineup has holes.
Advantage: Tigers but only because Delmon Young and Jhonny Peralta are hot right now and they don’t have to face Verlander/Scherzer/Fister/Sanchez
When the Giants went to the World Series in 2010, people gave them a legitimate shot because of their rotation featuring Tim Lincecum on the verge of his second Cy Young Award, Matt Cain, a not terrible Jonathan Sanchez and an emerging Madison Bumgarner. Well Matt Cain is still one of the better pitchers in baseball and Madison Bumgarner had a nice season, but looks to be about out of gas this year. Luckily for the Giants, Ryan Vogelsong has emerged in the past two seasons because Tim Lincecum hit a wall that many predicted for him years ago. He’s been pretty good out of the bullpen, but in his one postseason start, it wasn’t exactly smooth sailing. Amazingly the Giants got a fantastic start from Barry Zito in game five of the NLCS to help start their comeback, but can you really count on that again?
The Tigers starting pitching is the talk of the postseason. They have benefited from getting to play the Yankees (a statement I never expected to make), but that’s a legitimately great playoff rotation with Verlander, Scherzer, Fister and Sanchez. Verlander is the clear number one, maybe in all of baseball, and the rest follow in no particular order. Scherzer is coming off an injury at the end of the year, but all four pitchers are coming off a great end to the regular season and have looked great in their postseason starts. That’s a tough rotation.
The Giants bullpen, even without closer Brian Wilson, was very good in 2012 relying on four relievers with excellent results. The closer now is Sergio Romo, though Santiago Casilla held the job for much of the regular season. Both are excellent relievers. From the left side, former Royals lefty Jeremy Affeldt had another solid season and has been absolutely outstanding in the playoffs. Add in freshly acquired Jose Mijares and George Kontos who hasn’t been great in the playoffs, but had a nice regular season and the Giants bullpen is tough. They come at you with arms from both sides that can get strikeouts with relatively few walks. Add in the previously mentioned Tim Lincecum as a weapon and that bullpen is very tough.
The Tigers bullpen has been the subject of much criticism in the postseason, and that’s not entirely fair. Only two relievers have even given up runs for the Tigers in the playoffs. The issue is that the two relievers are their eighth inning guy in Joaquin Benoit and their closer, Jose Valverde. And Jose Valverde hasn’t just been bad, he’s been brutally terrible. The Tigers have been using their time off to try to get him right, but it’d be awfully hard for Jim Leyland to trust him in the World Series. Phil Coke was used to close out games during the ALCS, but I’m not sure how much I’d trust him either in spite of his postseason success. Of course, for all relievers the postseason is littered with tiny sample sizes. The Tigers bullpen was solid, but not great in the regular season. Jim Leyland is hoping his starters just throw complete games to avoid having to worry about it.
This is where the Tigers really struggle. Around the diamond, they’re just not very good defensively outside of center field and maybe second base. That sentiment gets magnified in National League parks where Leyland said Delmon Young would play left field during the World Series. The Giants, on the other hand, play very solid defense at most positions. They lack a little at third, but up the middle is great and their whole outfield can really go get it. I’m not sure that the defense is going to make or break the series, but it’s the one area where the Giants have a decided advantage. In a close game, this could be a difference maker.
This is a pretty quick and dirty way of analyzing these teams. My gut reaction going in was that the Tigers have the better chance and I’ll stick with that. I think they win the series in six games. It’s hard to count the Giants out after what they’ve shown us so far in the postseason, but I really think the Tigers starters are going to shut down the Giants offense. There’s always the chance that the Tigers don’t show up like what happened in 2006, but I still think the Tigers are the champions in 2012.
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