Saturday, October 13, 2012

Starters Continue to Carry Tigers

The Tigers starting pitchers were able to overcome offensive and defensive deficiencies throughout the season and can take much of the credit for Detroit winning the AL Central Division.  The starters also led the Tigers past the Athletics in their divisional series.  Ace Justin Verlander led the way with two wins including a shutout in Game 5, but Doug Fister, Anibal Sanchez and Max Scherzer also excelled.  The quartet combined for a 1.30 ERA and 41/10 K/BB in 34 2/3 innings.

The Tigers needed everything their starters gave them, because the offense struggled versus the Athletics.  The hitters combined to bat .252/.293/.337 with just 3.4 runs per game.  Their four top hitters during the regular season - Austin Jackson, Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder and Andy Dirks all posted OPS's under .700 for the series. The bullpen was another sore spot for the Tigers especially set-up man Joaquin Benoit and closer Jose Valverde who combined to allow 5 runs on 8 hits in 4 2/3 innings.

The Yankees performance versus the Orioles was very similar to that of the Tigers.  Their starting rotation of CC Sabathia, Phil Hughes, Hiroki Kuroda and Andy Pettitte posted a 2.04 ERA and 32/8 K/BB ratio in 39 2/3 innings.  Their bullpen performed much better than the Tigers allowing just one run in 11 1/3 innings. 

New York's offense struggled even more than the Tigers.  They batted just .211/.278/.333 and scored 3.2 runs per game versus a less than stellar Orioles staff.  Five regulars - Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson , Alex Rodriguez, Steve Swisher and Ichiro Suzuki all had OPS's under .600.

I expect the both Tigers and Yankees to hit a little better in the championship series, but it should still come down to pitching. The Tigers have the better ace and the better rotation, so I'll give them the edge there.  What could kill the Tigers is their bullpen which started to struggle long before post-season.  Regardless, I'm picking the Tigers in seven on the strength of their starters. 

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