by Keith Glab, BaseballEvolution.com
September 30, 2011
Two months ago, the Detroit Tigers
were a running joke. At six games over .500, the Tigers figured to get
beaten down in the postseason should they hang on to win the AL Central.
After going 38-16 in the final two months of the season, Detroit has become the
chic pick to represent the American League in the World Series.
Somewhere along the way, it's been lost that the New York Yankees have
averaged over 98 wins per season over the past three years and don't get the
chance to beat up on weak AL Central teams the way that the Tigers do. The
Yankees need to be considered the favorites to win the American League
Championship, not the Tigers.
Records - Tigers 95-67,
Runs Scored - Tigers 787 (4th), Yankees 867 (2nd)
Runs Allowed - Tigers 711 (8th), Yankees 657 (3rd)
Head-to-Head - Tigers 4-3
Going into the season, I thought the Yankees would be a .500 ballclub due to
thin starting pitching. As it turned out, their pitching has been solid.
Their rotation ranks 14th in baseball with a 4.03 ERA, but their 3.12 bullpen
ERA ranks 4th and has bailed the starters out. New pitching coach Larry
Rothschild should be commended for getting Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon to
party like it's 2005 and being the first Yankees pitching coach in decades to
gat a young Yankees starter to overachieve (Ivan Nova).
Manager Joe Girardi appears to be unaware that Nova is overachieving,
however, as he is electing to pitch C.C. Sabathia on three days' rest for Game
four in order to pitch Nova twice in the series. This is a huge mistake.
Nova may have a sexy win-loss record, but Colon's strikeout-to-walk ratio is
nearly twice that of Nova's. Sabathia may have a history of performing
well on short rest, but it is tempting fate to continue to test him for no
Fortunately for Yankees fans, the rest of the team is good enough to overcome
this managerial blunder. Mariano Rivera and David Robertson form the best
1-2 bullpen punch in baseball. The only weakness in a bullpen that figures
to be bolstered even more by the presence of A.J. Burnett is that Boone Logan
serves as their lone left-handed presence. This won't matter against the
Tigers, however, as Jim Leyland features a right-handed dominant roster.
This explains Detroit's .620 winning percentage versus southpaws and .571
winning percentage against right-handers.
What can you say about their offense? It has scored over 850 runs for
the third consecutive year and the 10th time in 11 years. They led
baseball in both walks and homers, as usual, plus ranked fourth with 147 stolen
bases. There is no easy out in their lineup and even their bench features
some potent bats. Curtis Granderson, Robinson Cano, Mark Teixeira, and
Alex Rodriguez lead the charge, but the depth around them is what makes this
such a potent offense.
Defensively, the Yankees have Derek Jeter and Curtis Granderson holding them
back, costing the team a combined 33 runs on defense. But the team is at
-17 defensive runs because of Brett Gardner's 22
defensive runs saved.
His glove will also come up big in Comerica Park's spacious outfield and Russell
Martin should ensure that the Tigers, who had an MLB-low 49 steals this year,
play station-to-station baseball.
The Tigers can field an adequate defensive team if they
so choose, but it costs them on offense. Austin
Jackson, Ramon Santiago, and Don Kelly are the only
plus-defenders on the team, but none of them swing a decent
bat. Wilson Betemit, Ryan Raburn, and Delmon Young
swing nice bats, but hurt the team defensively.
Magglio Ordonez, Andy Dirks, and Brandon Inge are on the
Division Series roster despite not being particularly good
on either side of the ball.
Because of this need to mix-and-match, manager Jim
Leyland has 14 position players on his postseason roster.
Those are led by the core of Miguel Cabrera, Victor
Martinez, Alex Avila, and Jhonny Peralta. As good as
those four have been, they don't quite match up with what
the Yankees put out there on a daily basis due to the lack
of support from the other 10 position players on the roster.
Eleven pitchers is plenty for a five-game series, particularly since
unanimous-Cy Young-to-be Justin Verlander averages over seven innings per start.
If Doug Fister (8-1 1.79 with Det) is to be believed, the Tigers have a
serviceable rotation behind him. Max Scherzer is solid at Comerica (8-4
3.80) though Rick Porcello isn't (5-5 5.64), and you can't blame Leyland for not
using Porcello in Game 2 just based on his home/road splits, as he's just not a
very good pitcher overall.
The bullpen is a strength of the Tigers, even though their 25th-ranked relief
ERA doesn't inspire. The acquisition of Fister has allowed Phil Coke to
move back to the bullpen, where he has excelled due to left-handed batters
hitting .215 and slugging .295 against him this year. He and fellow
southpaw Daniel Schlereth will need to get some key outs against the likes of
Granderson and Robinson Cano late in games. The real dominance comes with
right-handers Jose Valverde, Al Albuquerque, and Joaquin Benoit.
Valverde's perfect 49 saves this year is mighty impressive, but I don't think
there's even one Tigers fan out there deluded enough to say that they'd rather
have him than Rivera in this series.
OK, Sabathia vs. Verlander. This is what you want
to know about, right? Frankly, I would give Sabathia the
edge. He's actually got a better FIP and xFIP than
Verlander, he's been an elite level pitcher for longer, and
has far more big game experience. The Yankees will
have a better team behind him in every start, whereas the
Tigers essentially need to choose between a good lineup and
a good defense for Verlander.
But apparently, Joe Girardi lacks that confidence. He's pitching
Sabathia on short rest in Game 4, which avoids having him face the Tiger ace
twice. While Sabathia on three days of rest should be enough to handle
Poor Rick Porcello, so should Bartolo colon have been. There's no such
thing as a guarantee in baseball, but Verlander over Nova in Game 5 is about as
close to a guarantee as it gets.
I don't think it gets to Game 5 because the Yankees are simply a better team.
Either way, Sabathia on short rest is still a mistake. If the Yankees win
the series in four games, they probably can't pitch C.C. until Game 3 of the
ALCS. If they don't win in four games, they don't even get to play in the
Prediction: Yankees in Four
Disagree with something? Got something to add? Wanna bring up something totally new? Keith resides in Chicago, Illinois and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.