Inside MLB | Five reasons the Tigers will win the World Series
Published: Wednesday, October 24, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, October 24, 2012 08:10
With the Fall Classic kicking off tonight, there is no doubt that the Detroit Tigers are the best team in baseball. In an October where five of six series have gone to the seven-game limit, the Tigers swept their way into the World Series with a 4-0 victory over the New York Yankees in the American League Championships Series (ALCS). While the San Francisco Giants have had to fight off six postseason elimination games to get here, Detroit has had only one. The Tigers have the better pitching and the better lineup, but their advantage extends further than that. Here are the top five reasons why the city of Detroit will be hosting a well-deserved victory parade when the World Series is complete:
1. This year’s MVP
Miguel Cabrera has been a freak of nature this season, winning the triple crown with a .330 average, 44 home runs and 139 RBI. In the ALCS, he was 5-for-16 with a home run and a double, and remains the league’s toughest out. New York came into the series with a plan to pound him inside over and over, and for most of the time, they were successful. But CC Sabathia left one mistake just slightly over the plate, and it was hammered deep into the seats as the Detroit faithful took their brooms out.
What makes Cabrera even scarier is that he can’t be pitched around when Prince Fielder is the man on deck. Fielder had an impressive year himself, batting .313 with 30 home runs, and though he’s trailed off a bit in the postseason, as most players have in this pitcher-first October, it’s not enough to allow pitchers to start getting comfortable putting Cabrera on first base. And if you have to pitch to Cabrera, bad things will happen.
2. Last year’s MVP
In his two trips to the postseason prior to this year, Justin Verlander has been far from the ace we’ve seen on the hill for years during the regular season. In fact, coming into 2012, he had never finished a postseason series with an ERA below 5.00.
Yet after putting in a likely second-consecutive Cy Young Award-winning season, Verlander is finally projecting his July self on October hitters. He’s more patient with fastballs, establishing control first and pitching 100 mph-fastballs later. Through three playoff starts, including a pivotal complete-game shutout of the Oakland A’s in Game Five of the American League Divisional Series, he has pitched 24.1 innings with a 0.74 ERA. He’s allowed just 10 hits while striking out 25.
He’s also facing a lineup full of hitters that have rarely seen him, a fact that almost definitely favors the pitcher. If they take two or three at-bats to figure things out, the Giants could very well already have lost Game One, and home field advantage.
3. Rest in peace
Yes, history has favored the fresher team, and only one of the seven teams that swept a League Championship Series has gone on to win the World Series. But this is a Tigers team that has been here before, losing the 2006 World Series after sweeping the ALCS, and three-time Manager of the Year Jim Leyland is not going to let that happen to his squad again. The team has been scrimmaging with its practice squad during the week to stay fresh and should be good to go tonight.
Meanwhile, the benefits the Tigers have accrued from their rest are tangible. Giants ace Matt Cain pitched Game Seven of the NLCS on Monday night, meaning he won’t be available until Game Three of the World Series and wouldn’t be able to make his second start until either Game Six on three-days rest — a situation he’s never pitched in his professional career — or Game Seven.
San Francisco also only had five days off throughout the postseason, fewer days than the Tigers had off this week. With nagging injuries like Buster Posey’s hamstring problem threatening to have an effect on a series, a team that has now played 174 games this year could use some time off.
4. Young Bloods
That’s referring to both the young talent the Tigers have in Avisail Garcia and the Delmon Young, who exploded in October. After playing just 23 professional games before the postseason, Garcia is 6-for-18 in a platoon role so far in these playoffs. The Giants have two lefties in their rotation — Madison Bumgarner and Barry Zito — but Garcia will likely to be a thorn in the side of both at the bottom of a Tigers lineup that San Francisco wants to avoid turning over as much as possible.
Young, meanwhile, has become a certified postseason star over the past two years. The ex-Minnesota Twin, who spent his first two postseason years being swept by the Yankees, is now the world’s newest Yankee killer. In 2011, Young went 6-for-19 with three home runs against the Bombers in the ALDS and ended up with five overall in the playoffs. This year, he’s hitting .294 in October, and though his home run total is down, he did have the game-winning RBI in all four games of the ALCS, earning series MVP honors in the process. He has at least one hit in seven of his last eight games and there’s no reason to think his bat will cool down in the fall classic.