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MLB Detroit TigersMLB Playoffs

MLB Playoffs: 5 Detroit Tigers To Watch In The World Series

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2012 World Series: 5 Detroit Tigers To Watch

Fielder
Tim Fuller-US PRESSWIRE

The Detroit Tigers were shaping up to be one of the more disappointing teams in all of baseball for much of this season, as they failed to completely overwhelm the rest of a fairly mediocre American League Central division right from Opening Day like many expected them to do.

The Tigers did eventually overtake the rest of the division with a nice late season run while the Chicago White Sox struggled, and have taken that momentum right into the playoffs with series wins over the Oakland Athletics and New York Yankees to earn their first trip to the World Series since 2006. If the St. Louis Cardinals win the NLCS against the San Francisco Giants we will see a rematch of that year’s Fall Classic, which the Cardinals won.

The Tigers have plenty of star power across the diamond, from Triple Crown winner third baseman Miguel Cabrera to annual Cy Young candidate Justin Verlander and first baseman Prince Fielder. Fielder was one of the biggest fish in the free agent pond last winter and surprisingly landed in the Motor City.

But it is often the more unheralded names that become key components to a team winning the World Series, whether it be with a timely hit or two, an excellent defensive play when the game is on the line, a key stolen base or a big strikeout from out of the bullpen in a late-game situation.

Leaving out the big names like Cabrera, Verlander and Fielder, here the five Tigers I feel will be the biggest factors in the team winning the franchise’s first World Series since 1984.

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5. CF Austin Jackson

AJ
Robert Deutsch-US PRESSWIRE

Jackson put together a solid ALCS against the Yankees, hitting .353 with a .421 on-base percentage with at least one hit in all four games and a run scored in three of four contests. He is one player in Detroit’s every day lineup with speed to burn despite stealing just 12 bases during the regular season, so if he can get on base and grab the attention of the opposing pitcher that should make things easier for those behind him in the lineup. Jackson is also a plus defender in center field, so it would not be surprising to see him make multiple highlight reel plays during the World Series.

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4. RP Phil Coke

PCoke
Tim Fuller-US PRESSWIRE

Coke had two saves in the ALCS in place of closer Jose Valverde, despite having just one save during the regular season. Manager Jim Leyland is unlikely to turn back to Valverde in the ninth inning given how he has struggled recently, leaving Coke the most likely option to close games depending on how Leyland handles his pitching staff. If he can continue to be effective in the role, the Tigers may be able to win their first World Series since Ronald Reagan was president.

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3. SP Max Scherzer

Scherzer
Kelley L. Cox-US PRESSWIRE

Scherzer pitched well in the clinching game of the ALCS, allowing just one run on two hits over 5.2 innings while striking out 10 Yankees and walking two. He has allowed just two runs in his two starts this postseason (11 innings), with 18 strikeouts and three walks. Scherzer is the one pitcher in the Tigers’ starting rotation who has stuff that rivals that of ace Justin Verlander, which stands to make him less susceptible to any deficiencies Detroit has defensively. But if he can’t go a little bit deeper into his starts during the World Series, the struggles of the Tigers' bullpen may be magnified.

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2. SS Jhonny Peralta

JhonnyP
Rick Osentoski-US PRESSWIRE

Peralta hit a decisive two-run home run in Game 4 of the ALCS, and hit .389 (7-for-18) with two home runs and three RBI during the series as a whole. It may surprise some people to find he has been a productive postseason hitter during his career (.297, 6 HR, 16 RBI over 118 at-bats), including a .343 batting average (12-for-35) during this playoff run for the Tigers. Peralta can definitely help bolster the production Detroit gets from the bottom part of their lineup, and he is my dark horse pick for World Series MVP if they win.

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1. DH/LF Delmon Young

DY
Brad Penner-US PRESSWIRE

Young was named ALCS MVP after hitting .353 with two home runs and six RBI in the Tigers’ sweep of the New York Yankees. He has seven home runs over the past two postseasons for the Tigers, which is a franchise playoff record, and continuing that run hitting behind Cabrera and Fielder will be a big key once again. Young will be forced to play left field in the National League park during the World Series, which is clearly not an ideal scenario for Detroit manager Jim Leyland given how bad he is defensively. But as long as he has a bat in his hand Young's contribution has a chance to be valuable and possibly noteworthy.