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October 25, 2012

Playoff Prospectus

World Series Game Two Preview: Tigers at Giants

by R.J. Anderson

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No matter how Game One turns out in any series, Game Two is always described as pivotal. This Game Two figures to be no different. The Tigers need to win, especially after seeing their ace Justin Verlander fall in what appeared to be a decidedly lopsided battle. If Detroit loses Game Two, expect to start hearing about how Game Three is of the “must-win” variety.

Tigers (Doug Fister) vs. Giants (Madison Bumgarner) – 8:00 p.m. ET

Projected Starting Lineups

Tigers vs. Bumgarner (L)

Giants vs. Fister (R)

Austin Jackson, CF (R)

Angel Pagan, CF (R)

Omar Infante, 2B (R)

Marco Scutaro, 2B (R)

Miguel Cabrera, 3B (R)

Pablo Sandoval, 3B (S)

Prince Fielder, 1B (L)

Buster Posey, C (R)

Delmon Young, LF (R)

Hunter Pence, RF (R)

Jhonny Peralta, SS (R)

Brandon Belt, 1B (L)

Avisail Garcia, RF (R)

Gregor Blanco, LF (L)

Gerald Laird, C (R)

Brandon Crawford, SS (L)

Doug Fister, P (R)

Madison Bumgarner, P (L)

Fister is a fun pitcher to watch. His sinker sits in the high-80s, but he gets by with wits and location.  Expect to see plenty of sinkers early in counts, though he will mix in an occasional curveball. He also throws a cutter and a changeup. Fister lives to disrupt timing and goes to his cutter when ahead in the count against left-handed batters. He lacks a true outpitch, so batters have to be on guard for just about anything once the count gets to two strikes. At his best, Fister is a strike-throwing sinkerballer that changes speeds and keeps the ball on the ground.

Fister’s last start came October 13—Game One of the American League Championship Series—so he’s working on nearly two weeks’ worth of rest. In that game, Fister threw 6 1/3 scoreless innings despite walking four and allowing six hits. Fister walked four or more batters just once during the regular season, so a repeat performance would be uncharacteristic.

Opposing Fister is Bumgarner. The young southpaw works primarily off his fastball-cutter combination, though he has a slider, curveball, and changeup in his arsenal as well. Bumgarner’s arm angle gives left-handers fits. Righties get a better look at the ball and hit 19 of the 23 home runs Bumgarner allowed this season. If he is locating the cutter, he is going to break a bat or two and generate some groundballs.

This postseason has not been kind to Bumgarner. During the Divisional Series, he allowed four runs and seven hits over 4 1/3 innings. In the Championship Series, the Cardinals touched Bumgarner for eight hits and six runs in 3 2/3 innings. Bumgarner failed to reach 75 pitches in either outing, and there has been some concern about his effectiveness. The Giants’ decision to start Bumgarner serves as a vote of confidence. Whether Bumgarner rewards San Francisco’s faith in Game Two could determine whether he makes another start in this series and whether the series lasts six or seven games for that to even be a possibility.

Bumgarner is also part of the Matchup of the Game. Although much of the talk this postseason has been about keeping the batters in front of Miguel Cabrera off the bases, Cabrera himself has reached roughly 37 percent of the time through the first two rounds. That means Bumgarner’s ability to retire Prince Fielder could prove vital.

Fielder and Bumgarner have squared off on 10 prior occasions, with Fielder “winning” six of those matchups by reaching base: three singles, two walks, and a hit-by-pitch. Bumgarner favors his fastball against most left-handed batters but relies on his sinker and breaking balls when facing Fielder. Location is key in pitching and business alike, and Bumgarner has a history of pitching Fielder away. The big man’s willingness to go with the pitch to the opposite field has shown up in the base hits, but each of those pitches was up in the zone. If Bumgarner can stay down in the zone or locate inside on Fielder, then he could walk away victorious.

Behind the plate is 10-year veteran Dan Iassogna. Iassogna boasts a wider zone than his Game One counterpart Gerry Davis. He’s kind on pitches inside to right-handed batters or outside to left-handed batters, which should prove beneficial to both pitchers. Fister’s sinker could receive some beneficial calls, while the emphasis on Bumgarner’s ability to locate glove-side could be alleviated by an expanded zone. Iassogna worked first base in Game One of the series.

R.J. Anderson is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see R.J.'s other articles. You can contact R.J. by clicking here

Related Content:  Madison Bumgarner,  Doug Fister

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