The Detroit Tigers won the ALCS in a four-game sweep over the New York Yankees, which gives them time to move around their pitching rotation however they see fit in the World Series. As for the San Francisco Giants, they weren’t so lucky. It took the team a full seven games to pull off an unlikely come-from-behind series victory in the NLCS, leaving their pitching rotation to be set from the bottom up. Advantage Tigers.
In Game 1 of the Fall Classic, Detroit will send their ace Justin Verlander out to the mound to face off against San Francisco’s streaky Barry Zito. Verlander has the obvious edge. During the playoffs, he’s been almost unhittable with a god-like 0.74 ERA, 0.62 WHIP and .122 batting average against. In three starts, he’s perfect with a 3-0 record and one complete game, shutting down the Oakland Athletics in Game 7 of the ALDS.
In the regular season, he ranks in the top tier of almost all AL pitching categories, which includes 238.1 innings pitched (1st), 6 complete games (1st), 239 strikeouts (1st), 2.64 ERA (2nd), 1.06 Whip (2nd) and 17 wins (4th). The collection of top rankings pits him as the likely AL Cy Young Award winner.
Meanwhile, Zito hasn’t accomplished much in these playoffs, except his one capricious Game 5 shutout over the St. Louis Cardinals that no one in their right mind saw coming. The game upped his postseason averages to a 1.74 ERA, 1.45 WHIP and .250 batting average against. But it might just serve as a mirage after just two starts. During the season, he averaged a 4.15 ERA, which gives the Giants a cause for concern. If (and when) he faces Verlander twice in the World Series, it’s as close to a sure thing he’ll lose both games.
In Game 2, the Giants are still less equipped to handle the Tigers hot pitching. Detroit will serve up Doug Fister at AT&T Park on Thursday against the likely starter Tim Lincecum, who struggled to find the strike zone in his last start.
Fister has been just plain nasty in the postseason. In these playoffs, he’s amounted a 1.35 ERA, 1.35 WHIP and a .245 batting average against in two starts. That includes his last start, a manhandling 0.00 ERA against the Yankees in the ALDS in Game 1. Though, there is still room for his faults to show through. During the season, he was an meager 4-7 on the road with a 3.70 ERA.
Still, Fister is pitted against Lincecum. In each game you put the two-time Cy Young award winner out on the mound, you can’t be sure what you’re going to get. In his three brief relief stints in these playoffs, he’s tallied just one earned run in eight innings of work. Yet, his last start didn’t go according to plan. “The Freak” allowed five earned runs in 6.1 innings and a pivotal loss to the Cardinals in Game 4, leading the team to once again think he’s run out of steam. His new idea of pitching from the stretch didn’t work. His fastball couldn’t find the strike zone and his off speed pitches slipped into the higher parts of the strike zone. If he does continue to fault, look for Madison Bumgarner to pitch in long relief.
The Giants key to winning the World Series lies in Game 3 and Game 4, where they’ll send out Ryan Vogelsong and Matt Cain, respectively. If the team doesn’t find themselves down 2-0 already, they’ll still have a chance. Vogelsong has pitched lights out for San Francisco in the postseason so far. He’s tallied a remarkable 1.42 ERA and earning a 2-0 record in the process. During the season, he’s averaged a 3.37 ERA, but it drops to 3.87 on the road.
He’ll be facing Anibal Sanchez who has a career 1.98 ERA against the Giants. Though, he has an ugly 4.38 ERA this season with a 1-1 record against them this season.
Game 4 will present a problem for the Tigers, even though they’ll be playing at home. Starter Max Scherzer possesses a career 1-3 record with a 5.12 ERA against the Giants, all coming in 2011. He has, however, been a consistent starter for Detroit this year, compiling a 16-7 record with a 3.74 ERA, leading the AL with a heroic 11.1 strikeouts per nine innings. He’ll hope to stave off Cain, who has been just as dominant.
Cain, coming off a dramatic Game 6 NLDS outings against the Cardinals, has boasted a Cy Young-caliber year for the Giants and is the one notable ace the team can really rely on. On the road, Cain has produced an 8-2 record with a 3.56 ERA. And all signs point to him regaining his form after his last stellar outing.
While San Francisco may have the edge in the later games of the World Series, Detroit’s front loaded pitching staff will, in all likelihood, pitch twice in the possible seven-game matchup. Their days off have served them well, positioning their starters in the best way possible. They’ll return to their dominating postseason, one in which they’ve combined for a miraculous 1.02 ERA in the playoffs. Moreover, four pitchers have totaled 66 strikeouts of the 19 walks they’ve handed out in nine games, accumulating the best strikeout-to-walk ratio in postseason history through the LDS.
If it wasn’t known yet, the Giants are in for a rude awakening. Combining a fierce pitching staff with some of the best power sluggers in the game — Prince Fielder, Miguel Cabrera — will make the Tigers almost unbeatable.
Tigers in six.