|OS Real Time|
|Mark Forums Read|
|Edit Your Details|
Gary Armida's Blog
World Series: Stars vs. ResiliencyPosted on October 24, 2012 at 08:25 AM.
The San Francisco Giants and the Detroit Tigers look so very different. The Tigers have a core of superstar players that give them an advantage during a short series. Two of their superstars are of the elite variety, already two of the best to ever step foot on a baseball field. Justin Verlander and Miguel Cabrera are that good and are already in that class. The Giants have a budding superstar in Buster Posey and one of the best pitchers in the game in Matt Cain, but they are not a team about star power. Playoff baseball tends to lead to role players having the spotlight and the Giants had that with Marco Scutaro leading the way. There is talent on the Giants, but they are not a star driven team like the Tigers.
The Tigers slogged through the regular season, falling well short of preseason expectations of dominance. They stayed close because of a weak division and finally overtook the Chicago White Sox during the last week of the season. The Giants started slow, but they took over first place in the National League West on July 14th and held that position for all but two days for the rest of the season.
The Tigers weren’t built for the regular season as their bullpen was thin, they battled some injuries, and their defense was poor. All of those deficiencies get exposed over the course of 162 games. They made one deadline deal to deepen the rotation and to finally have a full-time second baseman. 88 wins were enough for the division title.
Meanwhile, the Giants were the ideal regular season team as their rotation and bullpen were both incredibly deep and their offense just gave enough to support the staff. They also made a couple of deadline deals by supplementing their offense as well as finding a regular second baseman. 94 wins were the fourth highest total in Major League Baseball.
Yet, as different as the two teams seem, they have striking similarities. Both offenses had similar slash lines as the Tigers hit .268/.335/.422 while the Giants hit .269/.327/.397. While the Tigers hit 60 more home runs than the Giants, they only scored 8 more runs. Both offenses, especially with their mid-season additions, scored enough runs to support their pitching staffs.
Both teams’ success is based on their rotation. Both will send a solid four starters to the mound during the series. Of course, nobody can match up with Justin Verlander. The Tigers hold a distinct advantage by having Verlander ready for game one and game five. Verlander’s presence places a bit of urgency on the Giants. They cannot go into an elimination game against Verlander. He doesn’t cough those up. Barry Zito, San Francisco’s game one starter, has compiled a great rebound season, but the Giants are heavily overmatched.
Once Verlander is finished, the series becomes interesting. Matt Cain is clearly the second best starter in the series while the rest of the pitchers have similar strengths and weaknesses. Madison Bumgarner is one of the most talented pitchers in the series, but he looks tired, giving up 10 runs in 8 innings during his two postseason starts. Doug Fister and Ryan Vogelsong are both solid, yet not dominating pitchers. Tim Lincecum has looked poor all season and Max Scherzer is wildly inconsistent. The rotations are so strikingly similar in that they both have one guarantee, two solid starters, and one big question mark.
The Tigers’ staff led all of Major League Baseball in terms of WAR with a 24.8 value. The Giants were a mediocre 18th with a 14.7 value. Tigers’ pitchers strike out 8.29 batters per nine innings while Giants pitchers strike out 7.67 batters per nine. The Giants walk about one more batter per nine innings than the Tigers do.
But, the most striking similarity and the one that looks to be a big series difference maker is the bullpen. Neither team has a definitive closer. Bruce Bochy has played match ups since the early part of the season. Jim Leyland stuck with his closer, Jose Valverde, for most of the season, but his postseason meltdown has forced Leyland to work his bullpen. He used Phil Coke to close out the Yankees, but he remains open about using a committee in this series. When asked about his closer, Leyland answered, “Not really, just going to play it by ear, see what happens. I don't really have any definite information on that yet. We'll just see how the game plays out, who's coming up. Like I always say, I hope we have that to worry about. If we do, we'll come up with somebody.”
Bochy lauded his bullpen for their performance since Brian Wilson was placed on the disabled list early in the season. “Well, I think it has to start with the pitchers involved. I mean, they have to buy into it, and sometimes they have to set their ego aside because they may want a certain role. But how it has to work is they have to ask what they can do to help the ballclub, and it really doesn't matter what role you put them in. I have four guys that could close the ballgame, I think. They're comfortable pitching late in the game,” said Bochy.
Bullpens often play a key role in postseason series. The advantage looks to swing to the Giants when it comes to the bullpen. They’ve all been used in multiple roles this season. Romo, Casilla, Afleldt, and Javier Lopez all finished games this season. And, perhaps even more importantly, five of the Giants’ relievers were members of the 2010 World Series team. Relief pitchers aren’t usually that consistent. For this group to have an extended run of excellence and to succeed in any role is nothing short of amazing. The Giant’s group are experienced, playoff tested, and deep.
The Tigers weren’t a mix and match bullpen this season or in recent seasons. Yet, they shut down the Yankees in part because Leyland changed his bullpen management after game one. The Tigers have Al Alburquerque and Coke as options, but eventually Joaquin Benoit and/or Jose Valverde will have to get someone out. The Giants bullpen doesn’t anything remotely close to a problem area, giving them the one big advantage over the Tigers.
In order to overcome that advantage, the Tigers will need their starters to give them length. That isn’t a problem with Verlander, but the pressure will fall on Doug Fister to be that solid number two starter as both Anibal Sanchez and Max Scherzer are combustible. Verlander and Fister have to pitch four quality games that give the Tigers innings. If Fister cannot pitch deep into his games, the Tigers will have difficulty. The Giants starters don’t have that pressure. Their bullpen is a nice safety blanket.
The challenge to each staff will be to get their opponents to actually strike out. Tigers pitchers were fourth in the Major Leagues with their 8.29 strikeouts per nine innings. The Giants ranked 12th with their 7.67 K/9. But, neither team has an offense that has the propensity to strike out. The Tigers batters compiled an 18 percent strikeout rate, the 6th lowest in Baseball. The Giants’ 17.7 percent strikeout rate is 4th best. With theoretically more balls put into play, there will be more pressure on the defense. For the Tigers, this is bad. They are the fourth worst defense in baseball according to UZR and 6th worst accord to DRS. The Giants don’t fare well in DRS, but their UZR ranks 13th. While the Tigers did improve with the addition of Omar Infante to play second, they are playing Delmon Young in left field in game one. There will be pressure on the defense. And, if the Tigers can’t match their strikeout rates in the series, there is even more chance that their defensive inefficiencies come into play.
The final series of the 2012 Major League Baseball League comes down to two teams with similar statistics that get their results in a far different way. The Tigers have the three stars. The Giants are the more well-rounded team. The Giants bullpen is not only a strength, but one that has already performed in the World Series. The Tigers have to score early to avoid the Giants strength. The Giants will have to be patient and get into the Tigers bullpen.
Can two elite players, a star, and a solid team beat a well rounded team with a bullpen built to win close, pressure filled games?
In a series that could go either way, stars have a major impact on a short series. The Tigers have dominated in the postseason while the Giants have played six elimination games. While the Giants have thrived, they cannot follow that same pattern again. Justin Verlander won’t let them get back into the series.
Despite having the better bullpen, homefield advantage, and an offense that doesn’t strike out, the Giants will be facing the best pitcher of this generation at least twice. That doesn’t bode well. They’ll face one of the best hitters of this generation and have to deal with Prince Fielder behind him. The stars will be the deciding factor of the series.
Meaningless prediction: Tigers in seven. Verlander wins 2, saves game seven, wins series MVP.
BORN: April 17, 1975 (38)
JOINED: Oct 26, 2003 (9 years, 213 days ago)
MEMBER # 13,930
JOINED: Oct 26, 2003 (9 years, 213 days ago)
MEMBER # 13,930
2,669 Forum Posts
0.76 Posts Per Day
147 Blog Entries
284 News/Blog Comments
2 Reader Score Votes
0 Chalkboard Messages
233,746 Arena Visits
Gary Armida's Blog Categories
More Gary Armida's Friends