MLB Playoffs: 10 Players To Watch in World Series
Looking Ahead to World Series
The Detroit Tigers come into the 2012 World Series with a long layoff just like they did when they made their last appearance in 2006. This time around, it sounds like that Jim Leyland has taken the time to at least keep his players into the game after bringing the instructional team up to Detroit over the past weekend. The San Francisco Giants come up red hot with their bats and with their pitching after winning the last three games against the Cardinals and are home to start this series with just one day of rest in between series so the rust factor definitely won’t come into the play for the team by the bay.
This is a series where Detroit’s pitching has to stay as hot as they did during the American League Championship Series and San Francisco’s bats must stay going like they did in the final three games of the National League Championship Series. On the flip side, the Tigers must find a way to hit arguably some of the best pitchers in the league with the likes of Matt Cain, Ryan Vogelsong and Barry Zito, who will start Game 1. The Giants have a mighty hill to climb in Game 1 facing Justin Verlander but if they can get through that and get to the Detroit bullpen, they have a fighting chance of making this a long series that could go the distance.
Here are the ten players that I think will be most key during the 2012 World Series that I feel will go six or seven games.
Verlander is the biggest piece to the puzzle obviously for a Tigers victory in the World Series and wants to make up for his performance six years ago. He has held current Giants hitters to a .213 average over his career in limited at-bats and has to continue that domination. For the Tigers to win, Verlander must win Game 1 and Game 5 to keep the pressure on the San Francisco hitters. Detroit is counting on Verlander and he has come through several times before and needs to do it two more times this season if Detroit gets their first championship since 1984.
One pitcher that must keep his pitching power up is Romo, who has given up just one run in this postseason as the Giants has made this remarkable run of rallying in elimination games. Romo hasn’t seen many Tigers hitters with five of the eight at-bats by current Detroit hitters coming from Omar Infante, who is 1-for-5 with two RBIs and three strikeouts against the 29-year-old. Romo has that same beard that Brian Wilson sports and has been pitching a ton like him in this postseason. The Tigers can’t swing on Romo’s slider if they stand a chance of getting to him.
Scherzer is one of those sink or swim guys in his career and gets the Game 4 start at home on Sunday night. Scherzer must get his normal 8-12 strikeouts against a Giants team that hasn’t had much success against him in their careers with 17 strikeouts in 62 at-bats. Also, Scherzer has been a hot pitcher over the past 2+ months with a 6-1 record since August 1 and is dominating hitters at this point. The Giants need to find a way to get his pitch count up and try to get him out of the game before he finishes six innings.
Sandoval has turned it on over the past four games with a .381 average as the Giants rallied against the Cardinals. Sandoval has had some success against Detroit pitching with a .269 average including one big statistic. Sandoval is 2-for-3 with two RBI against Detroit closer Jose Valverde and that may come into play at several points in this World Series. Detroit has to attack Sandoval as a left-handed hitter and not turn Sandoval around as Sandoval is close to .300 this season hitting right-handed. Sandoval is one of the few long ball threats in the Giants lineup and may need to hit a few in this series.
Fielder has struggled this postseason, hitting just .211. However with the production of Miguel Cabrera this season, the Giants may be tempted to pitch around Cabrera some and take their chances with Fielder. With all the experience Fielder has from the National League, he has seen the Giants’ pitching a lot more than most of his teammates and that will be a big advantage for Fielder. It is a big spot for Fielder, trying to bring home a title that his father Cecil couldn’t do for Detroit. The pressure will be high but you have to figure Fielder is up for the task in his first World Series.
The NLCS MVP was red-hot with a .500 average against the Cardinals and seemed to get even more motivated after Matt Holliday’s hard slide early in the NLCS. Scutaro is on his third team since December after being traded from Colorado to the Giants in late July and has been an anchor at second base. Scutaro must keep hitting at a torrid pace, even if it is not at a .500 rate. Scutaro has seen a lot of the Tigers pitchers and is hitting .250 against Detroit pitching. Scutaro is just 6-for-34 against Justin Verlander and Game 2 starter Doug Fister so the Tigers must take advantage of that.
The AL Triple Crown winner has been a rock for the Detroit offense all season long and will be expected to do that in this World Series. Cabrera is hitting .278 in the postseason but has picked it up in recent games. There is no doubt that Cabrera needs a huge series for the Tigers to win this series and I think he will. While he is hitting near .200 against San Francisco pitchers, Cabrera makes adjustments like no one else in the league and will continue that. The Giants pitching staff has to make the same adjustments if Cabrera keeps hitting them solidly.
Posey has had a rough October, hitting just .178 but you can’t discount what he does behind the plate for the Giants’ pitching staff in keeping everything together. Posey has faced Detroit Game 3 starter Anibal Sanchez eight times with just one hit in eight at-bats but now must bring his bat back to its regular season level to help the Giants out offensively. The Tigers must keep Posey down throughout the series as Posey, like Sandoval are the biggest threats in the lineup. If Detroit can do that, San Francisco may be in big trouble looking for their second title in three years.
One player who wants to rebound more than anyone in this World Series is Valverde, who has had an October to forget with a postseason ERA of 27.00. The Tigers need Valverde to get on track and be his normal self on the mound in the late innings to shut down the Giants and protect any late lead that Detroit may have. San Francisco can use the tape from Valverde’s previous postseason meltdowns this year and may find a key or two to getting to the overly excited reliever that would take him out of his game and mellow Valverde out.
Another man who has had a season that hasn’t gone the way he has really wanted in Lincecum. Lincecum had a high ERA in the regular season and has been mostly in the bullpen for the postseason except for his Game 4 start in the NLCS against the Cardinals in a loss. Lincecum needs to be ready to go though and has pitched four scoreless innings in relief at home this postseason. The biggest chance to see Lincecum is right away in Game 1 in relief of Barry Zito. If Lincecum pitches well in that scenario, it is possible he gets a start in this series anyway.