Prediction vs. Reality: Game 2 of the 2012 WS

Throughout the 2012 World Series, I’ll be taking a look at what I thought I’d be writing alongside what actually happened.
What I thought I’d be writing: Something that started with “Madison Bumgarner has allowed the Tigers to get back into this series, as his late season struggles continued…”

What actually happened: Madison Bumgarner is back and the Giants appear to be a team of destiny, catching every break and, what’s more, taking advantage of those breaks. Plenty of teams can have a 3-1 bunt fall miraculously fair, stopping perfectly to load the bases, but not every team can then get not one but two runs, despite there being a double-play immediately after said miracle-bunt.

And then, not only that, but their pitching (starting and bullpen) has been brilliant so far. One wonders, for example, whether Prince Fielder would have been sent home if the Tigers had shown more power this series so far. That said, you could argue that it was the right move- only heads-up plays by the Giants’ fielders (especially Marco Scutaro and Buster Posey) were able to get him at the plate. It was a nice call by the umpire too, one that I worry might have been blown until I saw the replay.

Right now, the Giants are most definitely in the driver’s seat: they have defeated the undefeatable (Verlander) and silenced the Tigers’ mighty bats. And, it should be noted, they haven’t even had their two best pitchers (Cain and Vogelsong) go yet. Game 3- Sanchez vs. Vogelsong- is a must-win for Detroit. If the Tigers don’t win tomorrow, it might not simply mean that the Giants will be the World Champions, it will mean that a sweep could be in the making.

Prediction vs. Reality: Game 1 of the 2012 WS

Throughout the 2012 World Series, I’ll be taking a look at what I thought I’d be writing alongside what actually happened.
What I thought I’d be writing: Justin Verlander is the new face of baseball. He’s won the Rookie of the Year, he’s won one Cy Young Award and will probably win another, he’s won an MVP, he’s thrown two no-hitters, he reportedly is dating SI covergirl Kate Upton, and now he can add to his list of accomplishments the title of “Mr. October,” as he wrecked the San Francisco Giants with a complete-game shutout where he struck out 12 as the Tigers won 7-0 in Game 1.

Barry Zito did better than most probably expected, but he couldn’t duplicate his NLCS Game 5 performance, giving up 4 earned runs….

What actually happened: The Giants won 8-3 in Game 1 and Pablo Sandoval is Mr. October. He may not have the same pedigree as the previous hitters to go deep thrice in one World Series game (Babe Ruth, Reggie Jackson and Albert Pujols are Hall-of-Famers or will be one day, while “Kung Fu Panda” won’t), but he probably did it against the best pitching. While Reggie Jackson and Albert Pujols did it against three different pitchers and Babe Ruth did it before the flame-throwing pitcher had become commonplace, Sandoval did it with two home runs against the greatest pitcher on the planet, a previously-thought untouchable Justin Verlander. His third home run, against Al Albuquerque, must have seemed downright mundane compared to his earlier exploits.

Meanwhile, on the mound, Barry Zito has continued his resurrection, going 5.2 innings, giving up six hits and only one earned run, while himself driving in a run against Justin Verlander. If you thought that this would happen- and that he would be replaced in the game by Tim Lincecum (the first time since 1983 that a Cy Young winner relieved another Cy Young winner in the World Series)- then you are a liar.

Of course, this now puts the entire series into question. While many thought that the Tigers might be rusty, few thought that rust would hit Verlander, especially as hard as it did. What was supposed to be the 29-year-old’s coronation has now turned into a possible wake for the 2012 Detroit Tigers, who now must come back from this 1-0 deficit while dealing with the now-questionable starting pitching and a relief corps that has it’s former anchor (Valverde) in shambles. Thankfully for the Tigers, Game 2 will be against Madison Bumgarner, who was bad down the stretch and struggled in his previous postseason start this year. If the Tigers can get a jump on him and Doug Fister can play with minimal rust, they still have a good shot at making this a tied series heading back to Detroit.

Nuggets of Info heading into the World Series

Here are little nuggets and factoids as we head into the World Series:

  • The last time the Detroit Tigers won the World Series, it was 1984, when they defeated the Padres in five games. On that Padres team: Bruce Bochy, now the manager of the San Francisco Giants. In fact, the last player to get a hit in that series was Bochy, who singled in the top of the ninth inning in Game 5.
  • With this World Series, the Giants have faced every member of the American League’s Original Eight with the exception of the Browns/Orioles.
  • Not many players from the 2006 Tigers and 2010 Giants are still on their teams. Only Justin Verlander, Omar Infante and Ramon Santiago were on the 2006 Tigers, and the only regular position players from the 2010 Giants who still are on the team are Buster Posey, Aubrey Huff and Pablo Sandoval (and Sandoval wasn’t even on the postseason roster in 2010), although there are still plenty of pitchers left from 2010.
  • Barry Zito is a career 8-6, 2.91 ERA pitcher against the Detroit Tigers.
  • Prince Fielder is a career .274 hitter with 5 HR against the San Francisco Giants.
  • Notable players who have had significant time with both franchises: Darrell Evans, Larry Herndon and Harvey Kuenn.
  • The “Ex-Cub Factor” is sometimes said to be able to predict the winner of the World Series, by saying that the team with more ex-Cubs will lose. In this case, the Tigers will win, as they have no players who had an official appearance with the Cubs. The Giants, meanwhile, have two ex-Cubs (Xavier Nady and Angel Pagan).
  • Not like it matters, but in all-time interleague match-ups, the Giants have won 7 of the 12 meetings.

And now you know.

The Continuum’s 2012 World Series Preview

It’s the 108th World Series! If this were the Super Bowl, we’d give it a cool Roman numeral name, like World Series CVIII, but that’s not how it works, so it’s just called the “2012 World Series”.

On paper, it could be either a treat or a blow-out. The Tigers could maul the Giants like they mauled the Yankees, taking advantage of their superior pitching and their more powerful hitters.

But, on the other hand, the Giants will be fresher and have more momentum, having only just recently finished their series against the Cardinals. This might not seem like much, but consider that in history, there have been three times where a team that swept their LCS faced a team that went the distance in an LCS in the World Series. All three times, the team that had to go the distance won. In addition, San Francisco has the more settled bullpen, and they will have home-field advantage, primarily because various Giants (most notably the now-exiled Melky Cabrera) beat up on Detroit über-ace Justin Verlander in the All-Star Game.

So how will it turn out? Check out my analysis after the jump:

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Which team could “take” the Tigers? It could depend on how the LCS ends.

Well, thanks to Barry Zito’s vintage performance last night, the Giants have forced the Cardinals back to San Francisco, where St. Louis and Chris Carpenter will have to beat Ryan Vogelsong in Game 6, or, failing that, will have to hope that they and Adam Wainwright can outdo Matt Cain in a climactic Game 7. In other words, it’s a whole new series that could go either way.

Meanwhile, in Michigan, the Tigers, having already swept away the complacent Yankees, are going to stay sharp by scrimmaging their Instructional League team. The Instructional Leagues are semi-formal affairs to get low-level minor leaguers- generally those who played in the short-season leagues- some more experience. It’s a win-win: the Tigers will be able to remain sharp, and the minor leaguers will be able to test themselves against, well, some of the best players on the planet.

So, assuming nobody gets hurt, the Tigers will still be relatively fresh against whoever the National League sends out against them. So, who would have a better shot against Detroit?

I’m not sure, but I feel like it would be the Cardinals. Well, unless if they have to win in seven games, in which case I’d probably go with the Giants. Well, maybe.

Here’s what I mean:
Game 1 of the World Series will be Wednesday, weather permitting. The Tigers will be starting Justin Verlander, probably followed by Scherzer, Fister and then Anibal Sanchez. A formidable group for any team.

If the Cardinals win Game 6 on Sunday, their rotation would likely have Adam Wainwright leading off, followed by Kyle Lohse (or maybe Lance Lynn)  on Thursday and then Chris Carpenter for Game 3 on Saturday. Given the fact the Cardinals have a better bullpen than the Tigers seem to have (so, is Coke officially the closer now?), this would give them a decided series advantage if the Tigers’ starters were to stumble.  But if they have to go 7, they will be stuck with sending Lohse/Lynn in the first two games with their two aces having to be held back for games 3 and 4. Sure, they will still have the bullpen and their playoff-veteran defending-championship lineup, but going against Verlander and Scherzer with your third and fourth starters seems like a recipe for going down 0-2.

By contrast, the Giants, although they will, by necessity, be unable to use Cain and Vogelsong in games 1 and 2 if they advance, will still have some good pitchers who can fill the shoes. Barry Zito, for example, still can “have it” like he did last night, and he is a veteran. Few would argue about him starting a Game 1. Madison Bumgarner and Tim Lincecum both are covered with question marks, but I’d probably rather pick between those two guys than possibly having to send out Lance Lynn against Miguel Cabrera and friends, especially after the number that the Giants offense did against him last night (with significant aid of an errant throw off second base by Lynn).

Finally, although it was admittedly an extremely small sample size, various Giants were able to get to Justin Verlander during this year’s All-Star Game. Again, extremely small sample size (and Verlander admitted later he wasn’t pitching it like he would a regular season or playoff game), but you do have to wonder if that might give the Giants something of a psychological edge.

Or maybe Verlander and the other Tigers pitchers will just embarrass whatever team comes against them, just as they did their 1966 Orioles vs. 1966 Dodgers impression on the Yankees. Actually, that might be the most likely outcome, isn’t it?

How the series look right now

It is, as I have noted before, almost impossible to predict October. Who would have thought, for example, that Derek Jeter would get hurt, that Robinson Cano would enter a record-breaking slump, or that the Reds would lose three straight at home to the Giants to end their season.

However, already we are getting some indication of how the rest of the two series might go.

ALCS: The Yankees are in big trouble. Very, very, big trouble. They can’t hit to save their lives, the one guy they had who was hitting (Jeter) is down for the count, they lost the first two games of the series at home. No team has ever come back from an 0-2 deficit in the Best-of-7 LCS when those two losses came at home. And, what’s more, there odds of winning game 3 must be considered perilously low, as they will be facing Justin Verlander. Perhaps they would have a good chance in Game 3 had they been able to run out C.C. Sabathia against him, but instead they will be sending out Phil Hughes. Hughes is hardly a scrub, but no sane man would say they’d want him on the mound instead of Verlander, especially in Comerica Park, which favors the pitcher.

With that in mind, one would probably want to say that the Tigers are in the driver’s seat. However, that would probably be overestimating things. You see, although it looks like the Tigers have this series in the bag, that isn’t necessarily true. If Verlander has a bad day (or Hughes has an unusually great day), they could very well lose tomorrow’s Game 3. They would then be facing C.C. Sabathia. Admittedly, the Tigers would be sending out Max Scherzer, who, while no Sabathia, would definitely have good odds of being able to meet and defeat the Yankees than Phil Hughes is to do the same against Verlander and the Tigers.

Even if the Yankees were to somehow win the next two games though, I would have to say the advantage still would preside with the Tigers. The reason, much like the reason they should be considered heavily favored tomorrow, lies with Verlander. Verlander would be pitching any Game 7… and Sabathia wouldn’t (at least, not on normal rest).

Advantage: Tigers

NLCS: This series has only gone one game, and given how nuts last night’s game was, as well as the many twists and turns the NLDSes (NLDSii?) were, it may seem folly to predict what may still lie in store. One thing is for certain though: the Giants would be greatly helped if they win tonight. As I said earlier, losing the first two games at home in a LCS series is almost a death sentence, although admittedly the Giants were able to survive a similar situation in the NLDS. The result tonight is extremely up in the air: on paper, one would think having Ryan Vogelsong on the mound would put one in a better position than Chris Carpenter, who although the better pitcher only had limited playing time this year due to injury (it is a bit of a miracle that he is playing at all right now).  Carpenter, though, has done very well in the postseason so far, throwing 5.2 in his NLDS start without giving up a earned-run. Still,

Past tonight and Game 3 (when Matt Cain will presumably start), though, the Giants are facing a somewhat chaotic pitching situation. Madison Bumgarner has been dreadful this October so far, Barry Zito struggled greatly in his NLDS start, and Tim Lincecum was so dreadful during the later parts of this season (after seemingly recovering from first-half struggles) that he’s been used from the bullpen in the postseason. Although, admittedly, Lincecum has done very well out of the bullpen, so maybe he deserves another shot at starting this year. The Cardinals, on the other hand, have a relatively stable starting pitching staff, and they have Carlos Beltran and David Freese, players who have always (and are) stepped up in October.

So, come to think of it, maybe it’s more clear that I thought that it’s ADVANTAGE: CARDINALS.

 

Exit, Magglio

Magglio Ordonez will retire this weekend. He’ll go down as one of the better right-handed hitters of his generation and should receive at least some consideration for the Hall of Fame. I don’t think he’ll make it, but he should at least be in the conversation.

Look over his statistics: In 1848 games and 7745 plate appearances, he hit .309, with a .871 OPS (on-base plus slugging), and a respectable 294 home runs and 1236 RBIs. He made it to six All-Star Games, won three Silver Sluggers and came in second to Alex Rodriguez in the 2007 MVP voting, the year he won the AL batting title. Had it not been for injuries, he could have accomplished even more.

There certainly have been people who have gotten into the HoF with less.

I, personally, don’t think he should make the HoF, but he is a better candidate than many of the other “Hall of the Very Good” candidates that get thrown out there every now and then.