Monday, October 02, 2006

Playoff Preview: Tigers Versus Yankees

The Detroit Tigers are making their first post-season appearance in 19 years after achieving their first winning record in 13 years. The Tigers started out the season 76-36 but ran out of gas down the stretch going 19-31 from August 8 through the end of the season. They ended up losing the division title to the Twins on the last day of the season. The New York Yankees, on the other hand, are making their 12th consecutive post-season appearance, remained steady all year long and go into the season with a healthy all-star line-up after a year of injuries. There is no doubt that the Yankees will be heavily favored nationally but the Tigers have a talented healthy pitching staff and I’m expecting a good series. Here is my preview:


Overview


Tigers

Yankees

Record

95-67

97-65

Head to Head

2

5

Runs per game

5.1

5.7

Runs allowed per game

4.2

4.7


The Yankees were by far the most productive team in the league but finished 5th in the league in run prevention. Conversely, the Tigers topped the league in run prevention and finished 5th in run production. They say good pitching beats good hitting. I don’t really believe that but good hitting doesn’t beat good pitching either. On paper, these teams look fairly evenly matched overall.


Offense


Tigers

Yankees


Rate

Rank

Rate

Rank

BA

.274

5

.285

1

BB/G

2.65

13

4.01

1

Isolated power

.174

4

.176

3

OBP

.329

12

.363

1

SLG

.449

5

.461

3

OPS

.777

7

.824

1


The Yankees have no weaknesses as batters. They can hit for average, can draw walks and hit for power. The Tigers power is surprisingly comparable to the Yankees but they can not draw walks and thus rank near the bottom of the league in OBP. The plate discipline of the Yankees batters compared to the Tigers batters is the single biggest difference between the two teams and it is the thing that most worries me going into the series.


I won’t do a position by position run down because the Yankees beat the Tigers at every position offensively. The only exception may be shortstop where Carlos Guillen is much closer to Derek Jeter than most fans across the nation realize. I think there is a good chance that Guillen will come out of this series more famous than he is now. Even considering defense, the Tigers don’t match the Yankees at any other position overall.

Pitching


Tigers

Yankees


Rate

Rank

Rate

Rank

FIP

4.36

3

4.45

6

ERA

3.84

1

4.42

7


The FIP stats indicate that the Tigers and Yankees might not be as far apart in pitching as they are in overall run prevention. If you go by ERA, the Tigers look to have a far better staff but the closeness in FIP indicates that fielding may have something to do with it.


The Tigers go into the series with a starting rotation of Nate Robertson, Justin Verlander, Kenny Rogers and Jeremy Bonderman versus the Yankees quartet of Chien-Ming Wang, Mike Mussina, Randy Johnson and Jaret Wright. Neither team has an ace but I like the Tigers depth especially with Johnson hurting.


The bullpens should play a key role. A healthy Mariano Rivera is always very tough but he only pitched 4 times in September. He reportedly is fine but if the forearm prevents him from being a daily closer, the Yankees bullpen is vulnerable. Todd Jones is not dominant but had an excellent season as the Tigers closer and Joel Zumaya is far superior to any setup man for the Yankees. Zumaya could be a very big man in this series.


Defense


Tigers

Yankees


Rate

Rank

Rate

Rank

DER

.704

1

.697

2

HBT Fielding

+56

1

+4

3

HBT Ground

+74

1

-9

6

HBT Air

-18

13

14

3



Fielding is harder to measure but both teams are strong defensively as the Tigers and Yankees are #1 and #2 in defensive efficiency. The Hardball Times looks at types of balls hit (ground ball, fly ball, pop up, line drive) in an attempt to break down DER further. These stats are explained further in an article by Dave Studeman. They indicate that the Tigers superior defense seems to be primarily due to fielding grounders while their ability to catch balls in their air is not very good. I find this breakdown very interesting and I want to research this further in the off-season.


Predictions

The Yankees lost to teams that they were supposed to beat in each of the last 4 post-seasons. This year will be no different as I see the Tigers pitching their way to an upset in 5 games. The hitting hero and series MVP will be Carlos Guillen. The top pitcher will be Joel Zumaya.

2 comments:

  1. Lee, I love your blog, and usually fall under the category of stat geek. But in a short playoff series unfortunately it's random to such small sample sizes that it rarely matters. Watching the Tigers fold like a tent for a month and a half and become the team they were the last 2 years leads me to believe they have absoluely no shot of winning even a game in this series. There free swinging offense, and the Yanks ability to wear down starting pitching is a mismatch of huge proportions. If Zumaya could go 4 in a game I'd give them a shot, short of that I just can't see it. Hope you're right though.

    ReplyDelete
  2. yeah, I know what you are saying. The Yankee line-up is unbelievble. I'm usually a realist but the first playoff in 19 years is bringing out the fan in me.

    I think we just might see Zumaya go really long tomorrow. He isn't being used today so he should be well rested.

    ReplyDelete

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