I was going to write up a little MLB playoff preview a few weeks back. I never got around to it. Someone asked me for a World Series prediction and I said Reds/Tigers, but that was as close as I got to making a post. I probably should keep the “no baseball,” streak going, but in the end it is the World Series. A fairly significant sporting event the last time I checked.
How the Tigers Got Here: On the arm of Justin Verlander for the most part. Detroit’s 88-74 record isn’t too inspiring, but after Texas imploded down the stretch the AL became wide-open. One of the stories of this post-season has been cold bats. None were colder than NY’s as Detroit cruised through the ALCS. Detroit has gotten the best mix of offense and pitching to this point and the biggest stumbling block might be their long layoff.
How the Giants Got Here: I’m not sure, exactly. The Reds lost their ace, the Braves lost the play-in game and the Cardinals blew a 3-1 lead. Other than that, the Giants have been incredible. Despite a hit-or-miss offense the Giants have survived without much contribution from Tim Lincecum. The unsung duo of Barry Zito and Ryan Vogelsong has been huge. This isn’t quite like the team that won the 2010 World Series, but SF still relies on a stout bullpen and big home field advantage.
The Melky Factor: Melky Cabrera helped carry the Giants offense for a good portion of the season before his PED suspension. He’s served that time, but the Giants have chosen to keep Cabrera off the World Series roster. Hard to argue that he isn’t one of the best 25 guys on this team. Is this a nod to the integrity of the game? Is it fair to the rest of the players on the Giants to leave Cabrera at home?
Most Important Tiger: Justin Verlander. The Tigers have their rotation set, which means Verlander will start at least two of the first five games. If he can continue his dominant run through the post-season it’ll be difficult for the Giants to prevail. Remember two years ago, it was then Rangers’ ace, Cliff Lee, who couldn’t hold down the Giants offense on route to a disappointing series. Hard to see Verlander having that type of meltdown and with SF’s starting pitching not quite in 2010 form, he’s one of Detroit’s biggest advantages.
Most Important Giant: Madison Bumgarner. I’ve lost faith in “Big-Time Timmy Jam” Lincecum. The Giants are going to need someone to give them a solid outing before they get back around to Matt Cain. Going on talent, Bumgarner would be the best candidate, but he’s been mostly lost since late-August. Can the Giants really expect Zito and Vogelsong to hold up against this AL lineup? At some point I think Bumgarner gets some important innings in this series, whether it’s a start or out of the ‘pen. Could swing the momentum.
What Vegas Says: Verlander is (-170) tonight against Barry Zito, which is a pretty significant line for a World Series game. Despite that, Detroit is only (-175) for the series. True favorites, but certainly not overwhelming. Odd that Detroit will be significant favorites in two of the first 5 games, but the series price stays in check. The Giants do have home field, and the underdog NL team has been the spot to be in recently.
Final Prediction: Tigers in 6 Games. The Tigers have the best pitcher and the best hitter. That’s always a good place to start. What concerns me a bit is Detroit’s bullpen. The Giants are loaded with intangibles. I wouldn’t be surprised to see them pull out a game or two in the late innings. Bottom line, I think they split the first four games, Verlander turns the momentum in game five and then it’s over. Like I was going to pick the Giants.