World Series preview: Tigers hold narrow advantage

Okay, so I was half right with my Championship Series predictions.  Yes, you could argue that I absolutely nailed the Detroit Tigers over the New York Yankees pick, as the Tigers dominated the Yanks and swept them 4-0.  And, up until the Giants made a furious rally, my pick of the Cardinals in 5 looked pretty good as well.  Alas, San Francisco did not quit when the going got tough, so here we are.

The World Series will be played with the San Francisco Giants representing the National League and the Detroit Tigers playing from the American League.  Let’s take a quick look at how we got here.

The Tigers defeated Oakland in five games in the Division League Series, bolstered by strong pitching performances from ace Justin Verlander and went on to annihilate the Yankees, sweeping the series four games to zero.

It could be argued that the Yankees series came down to the Yanks falling apart, while the Tigers were able to keep it together. However, it is necessary to give credit where credit is due, as the Tigers were able to expose shaky New York pitching and limit their opposition’s struggling stars. Detroit will have had nearly a week of rest before tonight’s game and should look the part of a fresh, championship-contending team when they take the field.

Photo Courtesy of Flickr/geno k

The Giants are a different story, their path to the World Series has some experts already labeling them the “most clutch” team in the history of the playoffs (a gross, gross overstatement, but you get the idea). They have had their backs up against the wall in both series.

Falling behind 2-0 in the NLDS against the Cincinnati Reds before storming back and winning three straight to claim the series. Then, they found themselves in a 3-1 hole against the defending champions St. Louis Cardinals in the NLCS before again rattling off three straight wins to take the series in seven games, advancing to the World Series.

On paper, the Tigers look the better team, especially when it comes to pitching. If we assume the series goes five games or more, you can all but pencil in two victories for Detroit at the outset because ace pitcher and Game One starter Justin Verlander has been the definition of lights-out. Three games started in the playoffs, three wins and only two runs given up in 24 innings pitched.

Therefore, if this trend plays itself out tonight, expect at least eight innings out of Verlander and, at most, one run given up. Lest we forget, the rest of the Tiger’s pitching staff is more than adequate as well. Want to hear an insane statistic? Of course you do.  Every starting pitcher on the Detroit Tigers holds a postseason ERA under 1.50.

The Tigers do not give up many runs and their hitting has been very solid as well. They may not hit many home runs, but they can manufacture runs like no other team in the game. With their pitching, three or four runs a game could be enough to capture the title.

Don’t rule out San Francisco just yet, however. As recently as three weeks ago this team looked lost and headed for a very early playoff exit. They lost their All-Star closer early on in the year, their former ace, Tim Lincecum, was having the worst season of his career and despite having good seasons, starters Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner struggled to maintain consistency.

But, what a difference a couple of weeks makes. Lincecum has looked like “The Freak” of old in his past couple starts and even Barry Zito, whose name is synonymous with poor free agent contracts in baseball, has turned in a couple quality starts.

The Giants’ bats have been great as well, allowing them to hang around games and extend series. As we saw against the Cardinals, they will exploit any mistakes made and are capable of scoring runs in bunches— a quality they will need against the Tigers’ pitching.

Despite the Tigers' perceived advantages, the Giants have a shot to win it all. Why? Because its baseball, it’s the World Series, and a team that's got its mojo going for them is a scary, scary team. That’s why you don’t pick against the 2004 Red Sox.

That’s why you don’t pick against the 2009 Yankees. The Giants have already demonstrated they can come through when backed into a corner and are comfortable playing from a disadvantageous position. I’m thinking they’ll fall behind again, maybe 2-0, maybe 3-1, but I’m thinking this series goes seven.

And if it comes down to game seven, you’ll have Verlander pitching on short rest for Detroit, against Lincecum, or Cain, or Bumgarner, all of whom can pitch eight shutout innings.  The World Series could all ride on one game, winner-take-all and anything can happen. I’m still going with the Tigers though.

Detroit Tigers in 7.