The Fall Classic begins Wednesday night, and at this time everyone has begun making bets and predictions on who will win. Some make their choice of winner based on gut instinct, others choose a team simply because it’s who they want to win. Others look at facts to help them decide. Here are some reasons why the Detroit Tigers should take home the title of “World Champions.”
1. Justin Verlander. Verlander didn’t have as great a year as he did in 2011 if you’re looking at his wins and losses, but his earned run average was still very good throughout the regular season. This is a guy that doesn’t give up a lot of runs. He’s also able to pitch deep into games which will keep the Tigers’ bullpen off the mound, and since their regular season closer, Jose Valverde, has been shaky of late, that is a very good thing. Verlander will be pitching twice in the series, while Matt Cain, the Giants’ ace, might only be available for Game 4. Oh, and Verlander is becoming more Verlander-esque as the season goes on. He has won his last seven starts and only gave up five total runs in those games. And the pressure isn’t too much for him, either. In the first game of the postseason, he gave up one run to Oakland while going seven innings. His next start was Game 5 of the Division Series, in a win-or-go-home situation. He just goes out there and pitches a complete game shutout. Then he went eight and one-third innings in the Championship Series against the Yankees, only giving up a solo home run late in the outing. With this guy on the mound twice in the World Series, you can pretty much count on two wins.
2. Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder. Cabrera won the Triple Crown, a feat that hadn’t been accomplished since 1967. He’s a great hitter and has a knack for coming through in big situations. Having Prince Fielder batting behind him helps his success, too. Fielder drove in 108 runs and hit 30 homers during the regular season. Cabrera is the king, sporting three crowns, and Prince is the prince. He’s always behind the king, supporting him and backing him up. These two do more than just hit home runs, which is a good thing considering that AT&T Park allowed the fewest home runs in the major leagues this year. They just come through with big hits and always pose a presence in the minds of opposing pitchers.
3. Madison Bumgarner is scheduled to pitch Game 2 for San Francisco. Bumgarner only pitched eight innings in his two postseason starts and gave up 10 earned runs. If he has another shaky start, it would probably mean the Tigers would head back to Comerica Park up two games to one, unless Verlander doesn’t go out and pitch in Game 1 how everyone expects.
This should be an entertaining World Series, though. It matches up the two most experienced active managers, Jim Leyland and Bruce Bochy. Leyland has 21 years of experience, Bochy has 18 so far. Little decisions made throughout the course of a game affect the outcome. These guys are excellent at making those decisions.
The Giants won the World Series two years ago. It’s been 28 years for Detroit. But you can’t say the Giants have more experience. The Tigers made it to the Fall Classic in 2006 and again in 2011. A few faces have come and gone since then, but the core pieces have remained in place.
It’s the never-say-die attitude of San Francisco that could tip the balance. In both postseason series thus far in 2012, the Giants won three games in a row to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. They were on the ropes against Cincinnati and won, then again, against St. Louis, and won.
The starting pitchers of Detroit have been terrific in the playoffs. Phil Coke has done a nice job out of the bullpen, too. But there is still the element of uncertainty for the Tigers when it comes to their bullpen. Late in the game, when they need to close it out, it’s going to be up to Leyland to choose who takes the ball. The team doesn’t have much faith in Valverde right now and he was the closer all season long. Now, in the playoffs, they need to have someone else pick up that role. It’s really tough to have a guy pick up a closing role when he hasn’t had the regular season experience. If San Francisco can get to the bullpen for a lot of innings, then they might wear out Coke and he wouldn’t be available to pitch. Then what happens? Does Leyland bring Valverde out? Or go with someone else? Either way, if that situation occurs, it would look like the Giants would have the edge.
Bottom line: the Tigers’ starting pitching is too good. The bullpen won’t have to pitch a lot of innings. The Tigers’ offense is also too much for the Giants. Barring a World Series slump from the king and his prince, the Tigers should be able to put up enough run support to back up the pitchers.
It’s been 28 years. Get ready to party, Detroit.