World Series head-to-head position analysis
World Series position-by-position matchups
After an incredibly one-sided ALCS and an exciting, seven game NLCS the composition of the World Series is set: the National League Champion San Francisco Giants will have home advantage against the American League Champion Detroit Tigers with the series starting on Wednesday night.
There are a few ways in which the Giants have the advantage. One is the aforementioned home advantage, but slightly perversely another is the fact that they had to play seven games in the NLCS (and in fact became the first team to ever play a full five games in the LDS and then win a Game Seven in the LCS) may prove to be an advantage. In general it has not been; since 1985 teams playing a full seven games in the LCS are only 4-6 in the World Series (discounting the occasions where both teams played seven game LCS). However, every time (a total of three) a team who has played seven LCS games has faced a team who swept the LCS the team to have played seven games has gone on to win the World Series. So that looks like and advantage to the Giants as well.
But that is all history; only a few of the players in this series were involved with those games. (Though one of those teams to be defeated after sweeping the LCS was the 2006 Tigers.) So how do the current teams match up? I have gone through them position by position and it's quite even. For the specific breakdown, read on...
Starting pitching: Tigers
The Tigers starting pitching has been dominant this postseason and especially in the ALCS. To be fair, they were only up against the New York Yankees who looked like they could not buy a hit, but part of that was the pitching. The Giants have not been poor overall, but a handful of shocking outings are what put them behind the eight-ball in both the NLDS and NLCS. The Tigers have not been similarly vulnerable and their starters are yet to concede more than two earned runs in a single outing this postseason with an astonishing combined ERA of 1.02.
Relief pitching: Giants
Although the Tigers' starting pitching has been excellent, their bullpen has been badly unreliable. Jose Valverde alone conceded as many unearned runs in 2.1 innings as his entire starting rotation did in 62. By contrast the Giants bullpen has been solid all postseason, posting a 2.70 ERA in 360 innings spread over the course of their twelve games.
It's hard to top the favourite for the NL MVP, Buster Posey. Posey has has a rather quiet postseason so far, going just 8-45 with the bat (.178) and six RBIs. But the Tigers can hardly count on that continuing and it will be asking a lot of either Gerald Laird or Alex Avila to match him.
First Base: Tigers
Prince Fielder of the Tigers v Brandon Belt of the Giants and with respect to the very good range and glove shown by Belt in the postseason so far there is only ever going to be one winner in this.
Second Base: Giants
The NLCS MVP was Marco Scutaro who hit an even .500 (14-28) in that series and displayed impressive form with the glove as well. He backs that up with a solid .306 in the regular season and gives the Giants a clear advantage in this position.
Third Base: Tigers
Just as it was hard for the Tigers to do better at catcher than the favourite for the NL MVP, it will be hard for the Giants to do better at third base than the favourite for the AL MVP. Miguel Cabrera won the AL Triple Crown already this year and managed .313 with four RBIs in the ALCS for good measure. To be fair, the Giants do put up a decent fight with Pablo Sandoval, but there is simply too much to do.
This is a very close one as neither Jhonny Peralta of the Tigers nor Brandon Crawford of the Giants are particularly dazzling with either glove or bat. Peralta has more experience and better career numbers though, so provides a slight edge to the Tigers.
Left Field: Tigers
This is another tough one; the Tigers probably have an edge with Andy Dirks over Gregor Blanco anyway (though it's close). However, for at least the first two games of the series, the Tigers will almost certainly play ALCS MVP Delmon Young in left field as there is no DH. It's speculative, but very likely and that secures the advantage for Detroit.
Centre Field: Tigers
Angel Pagan is a very good centre fielder who hit a solid .288 in the regular season. However, Austin Jackson is a better centre fielder who hit .300 in the regular season and whose great speed allows him to patrol the vast outfield of Comerica Park.
Right Field: Giants
As good as Avisail Garcia has looked in his limited regular season playing time and his postseason thus far, he is up against a right fielder with 24 regular season home runs and 104 regular season RBIs in Hunter Pence. The advantage goes to the Giants.
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