October 24, 2012
World Series Preview: Tigers vs. Giants
I bet most teams wish they could sandwich a good-but-not-great year in between two World Series appearances, as the Giants have now done over the past three seasons. What’s most incredible about that three-year stretch, however, is the roster turnover that has taken place. Their lineup is almost completely different, and their non-Cain rotation is now made up of Ryan Vogelsong, a mature Madison Bumgarner, and a how-did-he-manage-to-weasel-his-way-back-into-relevance version of Barry Zito—oh, and one fewer Lincecum. Yes, that was the sound of 2010’s jaw dropping.
Detroit returns to the World Series for the first time since 2006, having failed to actually win a main event since 1984. Despite San Francisco’s recent postseason dominance, however, Detroit figures to be the favorite in this series. Their four-game sweep of the Yankees gives them a fresh rotation that also happens to be filled with superior pitchers to San Fran’s offerings, and if that rotation can pitch anything close to the 1.02-ERA tune it has to this point in the playoffs, this could be an open-and-shut series.
Just one year separates this year’s Giants from 2010’s World Series club, but you’d never know it looking at this lineup. Just one player was in the series-winning Game Five lineup in 2010: Buster Posey (though Sandoval was also on the roster). For all the flak Brian Sabean sometimes takes in sabermetric circles, he’s done a great job rebuilding a lineup that ranked second in TAv this season. Pagan’s numbers look downright silly compared to those of 2011 leadoff man Andres Torres (.230/.327/.337/.251), whom he was acquired for in the offseason, and Marco Scutaro has been an absolute beast since joining the Giants in July, including a .354/.404/.438 triple-slash this postseason.
As Sam mentioned in his NLCS preview, the Giants don’t hit many home runs (fewest in the NL), but “avoid strikeouts, and hit plenty of gaps, with the most triples in the league and the second-most non-homer extra-base hits.” That skill set should continue to play well in the two pitcher havens this series will take place in—AT&T and Comerica—and the ability to avoid the strikeout should come in handy against a Tigers rotation that has accrued a 9.6 K/9 this postseason. The club will, however, be at a disadvantage when they play in Detroit; they lack any sort of reasonable DH candidate, and it seems as though they will carry an extra catcher in order to let Sanchez DH. Yucky.
After being shut down by Oakland’s pitching in the ALDS, Detroit’s offense finally came to life against New York, scoring 4.75 runs per game, including six- and eight-run efforts. While this is an offense heavily reliant upon Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera, it was the rest of the lineup that really came through against the Yankees, in particular Delmon Young, who went 6-for-17 with a home run and six RBI. Cabrera had a good series after a rough start to the postseason, but Fielder continued to struggle (.211/.268/.289 this postseason). Naturally, it’s going to be important for Fielder to contribute more than that if the Tigers hope to hoist the hardware next week. Somewhat paradoxically, while San Francisco’s offense is more balanced and less reliant on star power, Detroit’s lineup doesn’t have a dead spot the likes of Crawford or Sanchez. When the team plays in San Francisco, unless Jim Leyland’s Quintin Berry fixation proves stronger than anticipated, expect Young to play left field with Dirks or Infante moving up to the second spot in the order.