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The Fall Classic begins tonight in San Francisco, and the irony involving this matchup is rich. The National League won home-field advantage by winning the All-Star Game in the Kansas City. Justin Verlander was rocked and Melky Cabrera was named the MVP, but was later suspended 50 games for performance enhancing drugs.
Flash forward to tonight and the Giants, without Cabrera, are hosting the Tigers, with Verlander pitching out of his mind. Here’s how I think the World Series plays out of the next week or two.
Detroit has the edge, but it’s not has overwhelming as many people believe. Yes, it all starts with Verlander. Whenever he’s on the mound, it’s almost certain the Tigers will come out on top. After that remains in question. Max Scherzer and Doug Fister have been great so far, but remember, the New York Yankees couldn’t hit a beach ball during the ALCS.
Meanwhile, the Giants rotation has been more impressive. Matt Cain, Ryan Vogelsong and Barry Zito have outperformed everyone’s expectations. The series could hinge on San Francisco’s enigma, Tim Lincecum. If he can channel some of his former self, the Giants could win this series.
However, the edge still goes to the Tigers because of Verlander.
This might be the biggest mismatch in the Fall Classic. The Giants should always be favored in late-game situations due to their bullpen. Most of the baseball world thought San Francisco was done once Brian Wilson’s season was over, but Sergio Romo, the three lefties (Jeremy Affeldt, Javier Lopez and Jose Mijares) and two unknowns (Geogre Kontos and Santiago Casilla) have given Bruce Bochy plenty of options after the 6th inning.
The Tigers have blown a few leads already, largely because of Jose Valverde who’s no longer the starter. Jim Leyland turned to Phil Coke, who converted two save opportunites in the ALCS, but his inexperience at closer could thrust Joaquin Benoit or Octavio Dotel.
San Francisco’s bullpen has proven to be a strength for the past three years, giving the Giants a significant advantage over a Detroit pen that is in complete disarray.
It’s no secret that the Tigers have not been one of the better fielding teams in baseball. Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera are on this team for their bats and nothing more. Johnny Peralta and Omar Infante are decent combo up the middle, but can cause some headaches from time to time.
The Giants have the edge in the infield, with Marco Scutaro, Brandon Belt and even Pablo Sandoval, who makes a few spectacular plays despite his size. And don’t forget about Buster Posey behind the plate.
In the outfield, the Tigers have a slight edge with Austin Jackson, but I wonder how Andy Dirks and Quintin Berry will adjust to the spacious outfield at AT&T Park.
The heart of the Tigers lineup is fearsome. However, the Giants have better roster 1 through 9. Posey has done much of the heavy lifting, but the emergence of Scutaro has taken some of that pressure off my vote for the NL MVP. If San Francisco can neutralize Fielder and Cabrera (easier said than done) it will put more pressure on guys like Alex Avila, Jackson and Delmon Young.
This will be interesting to watch. Bruce Bochy has continued to push all the right buttons during the Giants magical run. Jim Leyland on the other hand, has made some questionable decisions, but so far they have paid off dividends for the Tigers. I trust Bochy more in a close game during the late innings.
Many feel like this series is a mismatch. I don’t. Both teams are evenly matched in almost every single area. The bullpen is the one place where there is a significant advantage. Giants in 7