Now that the League Championship Series are complete, it is time to look forward to tomorrow night when the 2013 World Series will begin. The Giants will be making their 19th World Series appearance; their second in the last years and third in the last ten.
They will be facing the Detroit Tigers, who are in the Fall Classic for the eleventh time, and this appearance is their first since 2006, and only their second since their most recent World Series win in 1984.
Despite the fact these are two of the oldest franchises in baseball, this marks the first time they have met in the World Series.
Despite all that, it is time for a patented Dubsism breakdown of what we can expect from these two teams competing for Major League Baseballs’ ultimate prize.
We’ve been covering baseball all season, so it only makes sense to see what we’ve been saying about these teams all season long.
San Francisco Giants:
What We Originally Said:
Upside: The San Francisco Giants have one of the best pitching staffs in baseball. Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, and Madison Bumgarner form one of the best 1-2-3 combinations in the game.
Downside: The San Francisco Giants have one of the worst offenses in baseball. With the losses of Cody Ross and Carlos Beltran, this team may find itself relying on a 3-4-5 heart of the order consisting of Pablo Sandoval, Buster Posey, and Brandon Belt.
The Mid-Season Haiku:
Pitching carries team
Even though Lincecum sucks
Melky keys offense
The Late Season Run-Down:
When Melky Cabrera got suspended, the prevailing wisdom was the Giants’ offense would implode. Rather, the Giants hit a season-high on Monday being 19 games above .500, and offense is having no problems scoring despite the fact they are last in the National League in home runs. Matt Cain said it best:
“All these guys are finding different ways to get on base, drawing out the at-bats or getting a hit or walk. They’re doing a good job getting timely hitting.”
What We Originally Said:
Upside: Last season, the Motor City Kitties finished in the top four in runs scored, batting average, on-base and slugging percentage. The numbers can only get better with the off-season acquisition of first baseman Prince Fielder, who just happens to be a career .282 hitter averaging over 32 home runs and 93 RBI per season over the last six years.
Downside: How does the move of Cabrera back to third base work out? What will be the impact of losing DH Victor Martinez? And I’m not sold on the rotation beyond Justin Verlander and Doug Fister.
The Mid-Season Haiku:
Cabrera and Fielder
Yet team lacks power
The Late Season Run-Down:
Rick Porcello needs to sue the Tigers offense for non-support. Porcello hasn’t seen a Tiger touch the plate in 23 innings in which he’s pitched. The shutout run began with the sixth inning of Porcello’s start Aug. 12 at Texas, continued through the next 17 innings of three starts and through the first five innings of a start at Comerica Park against Cleveland.
The Tigers come into the World Series off a four-game sweep of the Yankees, but it is really difficult to tell if that series was a result of the Tigers being hot, or the Yankees folding faster than Superman on laundry day.
Both these teams live and die on their pitching staffs, which is really ironic when it comes to the Tigers, since they have a Triple Crown winner in Miguel Cabrera and backed that up with Prince Fielder, who went .313/30 HR/108 RBI. The problem with the Tigers offense is it really is only those two guys. No other Tiger even comes close to Fielder’s numbers, the only two other respectable producers are Delmon Young and Austin Jackson. This explains while the Tigers have two of the most potent bats in the American League, they still only ranked 10th in home runs and 6th in runs scored.
As far as the Tiger pitching staff is concerned, they have four solid starters (one of them being the best in the game), and the Detroit bullpen has been solid, except for the sudden disappearing act of closer Jose Valverde. When your closer gives up 7 earned runs in his last 2.1 innings pitched, that’s a problem no matter who you are.
Awaiting the Tigers are the red-hot Giants, who are coming off wins in three straight elimination games, the last one being a dominant 9-0 showing over the Cardinals on Monday night.
In those three elimination games, the Giants racked up 29 hits. The Giants don’t boast any super-star talent at the plate, save for MVP candidate Buster Posey. The thing that should have Verlander and the rest of the Tiger pitching staff staying up nights is the fact that San Francisco’s line-up is coming together at precisely the right time, especially since Posey hase only managed 8 hits in 45 post-season at-bats, with two home runs and 6 RBI. The Giants are getting key hits throughout the lineup. Just look at the last three games of the NLCS:
Game Five: San Francisco 5, St. Louis 0
- Pablo Sandoval – 2 for 4, with a home run
- Brandon Crawford – 1 for 4, with 2 RBI
- Barry Zito – 1 for 2, with an RBI
Game Six: San Francisco 6, St. Louis 1
- Marco Scutaro – 2 for 3, with 2 RBI
- Pablo Sandoval – 2 for 4, with an RBI
- Ryan Vogelsong – 1 for 3, with an RBI
Game Seven: San Francisco 9, St. Louis 0
- Angel Pagan – 2 for 5, with an RBI
- Pablo Sandoval – 1 for 4, with an RBI
- Hunter Pence – 2 for 5, with 2 RBI
- Brandon Belt – 2 for 5, with a home run
- Brandon Crawford – 1 for 4, with an RBI
- Matt Cain – 1 for 3, with an RBI
Not only is the Giants’ production coming from up and down the line-up; even the pitchers are getting in on the act. Brandon Belt is showing signs of becoming a power source from the left side, and if Posey returns to his MVP-caliber form, the Giants will prove formidable.
What it all means is this series will likely boil down to two issues; the pitching match-ups and who can get clutch hits.
The Likely Pitching Match-Ups
- Game 1: Barry Zito (SF) vs. Justin Verlander (DET)
It’s hard find two more opposite pitchers in terms of their styles. Justin Verlander is a old-fashioned fireballer with 100-mph gas, while Barry Zito is a master of the big, sweeping curveball.
There are some commonalities between the two, however. They are both southpaws. They are both Cy Young Award winners. They can both be dominant when they have their best stuff.
However, there’s another common trait the may not bode so well for the Tigers. At home this season, Zito is 8-5 with 4.00 ERA. The trouble is that Verlander also does his best work at home, and the World Series opens in San Francisco. Verlander went 8-6 in away games with a 3.57 ERA, compared to 9-2 with a 1.65 ERA in the friendly confines of Comerica Park.
When it comes to facing each other’s teams, Zito has a slight edge. He is 8-6 with a 2.91 ERA against the Tigers in his career, having last faced them in 2011, earning the win behind six solid innings of shutout ball. Verlander last faced the Giants in 2008. He did not receive a decision in his six innings of work, giving up two earned runs on five hits while striking out seven.
To win this series, the Giants likely have to beat Verlander at least once. Game one looks to be their best bet.
- Game 2: Tim Lincecum or Madison Bumgarner (SF) vs. Doug Fister (DET)
San Francisco has not announced its starting pitcher yet, but the smart money says it will either be Bumgarner or Lincecum against Fister.
Bumgarner went 16-11 with a 3.37 ERA during the regular season, but he struggled in both of his postseason starts. That has him currently in the bullpen, and deep in Bruce Bochy’s doghouse. However, since the Giants had to use Matt Cain in Game 7 of the NLCS, this may be Bumgarner’s chance for redemption. At home this season, Bumgarner went 10-3 with a 2.38 ERA. He has made only one start against the Tigers in his career, earning a no-decision in 7.1 innings pitched in which he only gave up one run on five hits with nine strikeouts
Meanwhile, Lincecum has been an enigma this season. Before the all-star break, he was ghastly. Since then, he was a key component of the stretch drive. All together, Lincecum struggled this season, going 10-15 with a 5.18 ERA. Although he had a better record on the road (6-6) compared to at home (4-9), Lincecum actually pitched better at home this season. His home ERA was 4.15 compared to 6.43 on the road.
Fister went 10-10 in 2012 with a 3.45 ERA. On the road, he was 4-7 with a 3.70 ERA. He has never pitched against the Giants in his career.
- Game 3: Anibal Sanchez (DET) vs. Ryan Vogelsong (SF)
Ryan Vogelsong has been simply dominant this postseason, going 2-0 with a 1.42 ERA in three starts. During the season, he went 14-9 with a 3.37 ERA. On the road in 2012, Vogelsong was 7-5 with a 3.87 ERA. in 2012. Like many of the Giants starters, he has just one career start against Detroit, which came in 2011. He received a no-decision in that start, pitching 6.1 innings and giving up two earned runs while striking out five.
Meanwhile, Anibal Sanchez was 4-6 with a 3.74 ERA after coming to Detroit from the Miami Marlins in a mid-season trade. Having pitched in the National League this season, he is the Tigers’ pitcher most familiar to the Giants. Sanchez has a career record of 3-1 with a 1.98 ERA against San Francisco, although he was 1-1 with a 4.38 ERA in two starts against the Giants in 2012.
- Game 4: Max Scherzer (DET) vs. Matt Cain (SF)
Monday night, Matt Cain showed why he is the Giants’ go-to guy this season. Despite some occasional struggles, Cain still proves tough to beat when the stakes are high. Cain went 16-5 with a 2.79 ERA during the regular season and added a perfect game to his resume against the Houston Astros early in the season. While he has never faced the Detroit Tigers in his career, Cain has posted a road record of 8-2 with a 3.56 ERA this season.
Opposing Cain in Game 4 will be Max Scherzer. While Scherzer is a formidable pitcher; he went 16-7 with a 3.74 ERA and led the American League with a strikeout ratio of 11.1 Ks per nine inning pitched, he was snake-bit against the Giants during his career with the Diamondbacks. Then, he was 1-3 with a 5.12 ERA against San Francisco. His last start against the Giants came as a Tiger in 2011 in which he lasted just two innings, allowing six earned runs in a loss.
- Game 5: Justin Verlander (DET) vs. Barry Zito (SF)
Unless the Giants swap up their rotation, or unless we have a postponement, this looks to be a rematch of Game 1, with Verlander facing Zito again. Beating Verlander in Detroit is a tall order, but Zito is 5-2 with a 1.67 ERA for his career at Comerica Park in Detroit though.
- Game 6: Tim Lincecum or Madison Bumgarner (SF) vs. Doug Fister (DET)
The real mystery here is which Giant pitcher tosses his way out of the bullpen and into this starting role. The match-up clearly favors the Giants, if either Lincedum or Bumgarner return to their usual form. Not only is Doug Fister 4-7 with a 3.70 ERA on the road this season, but this will be his first career start against the Giants as well as his first start at AT&T Park.
- Game 7: Ryan Vogelsong (SF) vs. Anibal Sanchez (DET)
This is a big bag of “What ifs?”
What if we get a postponement after Game 5? Would Jim Leyland pitch Verlander in Game 7 on short rest?
What if we get a postponement after Game 5? Would Bruce Bochy pitch Matt Cain?
As it stands now, this would be a rematch of Game 3. During his career in the National League, Sanchez has been one tough customer at AT&T Park, posting a 3-0 record with a scant o.36 ERA, complete with two complete game shutouts against the Giants.
However, I don’t think there would be much questioning a Leyland decision to go with Verlander on three days rest, and even less if this game gets pushed back due to weather.
Similarly, the same could be said of a Bochy decision to bring Matt Cain back on four days rest. Granted, Vogelsong has been dominated in October, but Cain is a proven big-game pitcher with World Series experience.
The Bottom Line:
The Tigers Win If:
- Verlander wins both of his scheduled starts, and Jose Valverde re-establishes himself in the Tiger bullpen
- The Tigers wrap it up early. If this series gets to the last two games in San Francisco, the odds are against them
- Somebody besides Cabrera and Fielder provides some offense
The Giants Win If:
- They beat Verlander at least once, particularly in Game 1
- The clutch hitting continues and/or Buster Posey returns to his MVP form
- Bumgarner and/or Lincecum remembers it’s October
The Dubsism Prediction:
San Francisco wins in six games.