Tag:Jim Leyland
Posted on: October 12, 2011 12:27 am
Edited on: October 12, 2011 12:59 pm
 

Fister puts on clinic, Tigers win first ALCS game

Fister

By Evan Brunell


DETROIT -- "I thought he put on a clinic."

"I thought he put on a pitching clinic."

"I thought it was a pitching clinic."

"Like I said, I thought he put on a clinic."

Naw, Jim Leyland, tell us how you really feel about Doug Fister's start Tuesday night.

As might be evident to you by now, Fister put on a clinic Tuesday night, baffling the Rangers over 7 1/3 innings to hand Detroit its first ALCS victory of the season, narrowing the series to a 2-1 edge in favor of Texas. It was an amazing performance by the righty, even as he saw three seeing-eye singles ding him for a run in the first, taking the air out of the crowd. By the time he left the game a couple hours later, the Tigers were in pole position to win the game.

Tigers-Rangers
"Good sink, good breaking ball, good command," manager Ron Washington raved about Fister after the game. "The first nine or ten pitches he threw in the ballgame were strikes. That's him. He attacked the strike zone. He's going to make you put the ball in play. He did a good job tonight. You have to tip your hat."

Fister's start was not only series-saving, it made history. He is just the sixth pitcher since 1990 to pitch at least seven innings and allow no more than two earned runs in his ALCS debut. The last pitcher to do so was Jon Garland in 2005. Fister didn't allow the Rangers to catch their breath, and even as a notoriously aggressive team, couldn't capitalize on any mistakes -- if there even were any -- by Fister. The strike-machine pumped 73 strikes into Alex Avila's glove, notching 102 overall. Despite racking up the strikes and facing a free-swinging team, Fister only collected three strikeouts, but he's fine with that.

"We were going to attack the zone with our fastball and keep it down and use the defense. We stuck with it," Fister said following the game.  "I'm not trying to get strikeouts. I'm looking for contact and let's go deep in the game."

Everyone knows the story of Fister by now. He was a middling prospect when he debuted with the Mariners two seasons ago and was never thought to be much more than a back-of-the-rotation starter. But suddenly, he started getting better and better and drew the attention of GM Dave Dombrowski in Detroit, who kept trying to acquire Fister. He finally did so at the trade deadline, then saw Fister rip off a 1.79 ERA in 10 starts and one relief appearance. No one expects Fister to keep that up, but you won't see the Tigers complaining. He scuffled against the Yankees in the ALDS, but the team expressed confidence in Fister bouncing back and being the shutdown pitcher he displayed in the dog days of summer. He did just that, and left to a standing ovation from the crowd, tipping his cap multiple times.

"We're at home here in front of fans, and everybody is standing on their feet waving those white flags," Fister said. "It gives me goosebumps to remember walking off on that."

It's giving Tigers fans goosebumps to watch him pitch.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeonBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.

Posted on: October 10, 2011 10:03 pm
Edited on: October 10, 2011 10:09 pm
 

Raburn, Kelly heroes in disappointing loss

Raburn

By Evan Brunell


Ryan Raburn and Don Kelly weren't supposed to play pivotal roles for the Tigers in the playoffs.

And yet, if Detroit had come away with the victory, the story would have been about these two bench players who provided the bulk of the Tigers offense on Monday, collecting three of eight team hits. Raburn's lone hit was the biggest, launching a three-run homer that ended Derek Holland's night and put the Tigers ahead 3-2. It was even more significant given the Tigers' futility with runners in scoring position, having been just 2-for-29 dating back to Game 3 of the ALDS against the Yankees.

"I was just battling ... he kept throwing fastballs up in the zone," Raburn said of the homer, nothing that over time, the Tigers began sitting dead-red on Holland's fastball "For the most part, we battled him real well."

Unfortunately for Detroit, they couldn't capitalize on starter Derek Holland's wildness beyond Raburn's homers. Holland constantly played with fire, issuing four walks and throwing 80 percent fastballs, most of them up in the zone. Detroit kept clinging onto that 3-2 lead, though, with Raburn calling it "nerve-wracking," but things changed in the seventh inning thanks to a Nelson Cruz home run. (Rangers pitcher Scott Feldman, who hurled 4 1/3 innings of relief, said he thought "my beard was going to turn gray.")

Once that happened and the game was tied,
it was Kelly who gave the Tigers hope by doubling in the ninth inning with a runner on first. Unfortunately, that runner, Ramon Santiago, is far from a speedster and was held up at third base. There was some controversy as to whether Santiago would have scored, but Kelly didn't have any opinion on it as he didn't see the play unfold, but skipper Jim Leyland had his answer ready. "The ball came back to [Cruz in right field]," he said. "We were hoping it would kick back, but it didn't. It just came back to him and that's kind of the luck of the draw."

Cruz agreed, saying he got a good bounce and with a man on first base he had to play "no doubles, as close to the gap, as close to the wall. I picked it up as quick as I could. I even bobbled it a little bit. I threw the ball as quick as I could.'

After an intentional walk to Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez popped out. That was the last and best chance Detroit had of coming away with a win and Detroit had to witness Cruz burning them yet again with a walkoff grand slam, the first walkoff in postseason franchise history.

"It's part of the game," Raburn said. "They're a great team out there. They battled."

Kelly concurred, but wasn't ready to give up and start packing his bags for home. "We had some tough games against the Yankees as well," he said, "and we were able to bounce back. That's what we're looking forward to doing tomorrow."

A 2-0 series lead is a tough obstacle to overcome, and going back to the creation of the best-of-seven LCS in 1985, 18 of 21 teams who have taken a 2-0 lead advanced to the playoffs. Those that didn't were the 1985 Blue Jays, Dodgers and 2004 Yankees. Kelly spoke about his experiences growing up as a kid and rooting for the Pirates, loving the chance Pittsburgh gave him as a child to celebrate victories. He's hoping the Tigers can come through for all the Detroit children now that the Tigers are headed back home.

"We've dealt with adversity all year long, and that's not going to change now," he said.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeonBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Photo: Raburn

Posted on: October 10, 2011 12:32 pm
Edited on: October 10, 2011 12:35 pm
 

Former Red Sox exec speaks on Francona, Epstein

By Evan Brunell

WoodforkARLINGTON, Texas -- Peter Woodfork, senior vice-president for baseball operations, working under Joe Torre, is in Arlington for the ALCS. If not for a historic September collapse by the Red Sox, he might have been overseeing an ALCS with one of his former employers.

Before beginning his job with MLB at the start of 2011, Woodfork served for five years as assistant general manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks under Josh Byrnes. Both Byrnes and Woodfork worked together with the Red Sox from 2003-05, with the duo helping bring Boston its first World Series since 1918, working under boy wonder Theo Epstein when the team won the title in 2004.

"I don't think anyone saw it coming early in September," Woodfork said about the Red Sox's collapse prior to ALCS Game 2. "As the month went on and the losses mounted, I am sure it became very real for everyone involved."

While Woodfork hasn't been with the Red Sox for years, he was part of the front-office team that oversaw the hiring of Terry Francona to steer the club. Eight years later, Francona is out as manager.

"Terry is a professional and someone I admire for the way he handled the situations that can arise in a market like Boston," Woodfork said. When asked about Francona's replacement, Woodfork said, "Hiring a manager is an extremely difficult task.  You need to consider a number of factors and make the decision that you believe will be best for the entire organization. The Red Sox have strong leadership and decision makers throughout baseball operations and ownership group.  They will do what is best for the club."

But overturn may not be done in Boston. Woodfork's then-boss, Theo Epstein might depart the team and head for greener pastures, possibly taking over the Cubs. If he does indeed leave to Chicago, the Cubs would be getting an "outstanding" GM, Woodfork said, but Epstein's lieutenant in Ben Cherington -- who also worked with Woodfork -- would be a great fit as a potential replacement.

"Ben has all the experience and characteristics to be successful in any baseball operations role," Woodfork said.

Woodfork has had his hands in many different aspects of baseball. Prior to working in the Red Sox and Diamondbacks organization, he worked in the commissioner's office in the labor relations department, working with all clubs in making sure the labor agreement was appropriately followed, as well as steering clubs through the salary-arbitration process. He was involved with the labor agreement process from 2003-06 that is expiring at the end of the month. Despite the wide range of skills that could translate to being a strong GM, Woodfork refused to consider a possible future as GM.

"At this time, my focus is on my job at Major League Baseball," he said. "My energy is geared toward having a smooth playoffs and preparing for the off sesaon."

If Jim Leyland is any indication of the job Woodfork has been doing thus far, he's doing just fine. After Game 1, Leyland told reporters how impressed he was by Woodfork's work with the two rain delays complicating the game.

"I thought Peter Woodfork from the Commissioner's Office he did a tremendous job keeping this thing going staying on top of it," Leyland said." He really did."

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Photo: MLB.com


Posted on: October 9, 2011 2:30 am
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Posted on: October 9, 2011 2:28 am
 

Short Verlander start throws Game 4 into question

Verlander

By Evan Brunell


ARLINGTON, Texas -- Two rain delays derailed Justin Verlander's start in Game 1, thereby limiting him to just 4 2/3 innings. After tossing just 82 pitches, the question naturally springs to mind: Will Verlander come back to start Game 4? Such a decision could have enormous ramifications on the series, as Verlander pitching in Game 4 would allow him to appear in Game 7, possibly as a starter and certainly as a reliever.

"We're going to go down and look at it," manager Jim Leyland said after the game. "We started to map a couple of things out during the one rain delay, but we don't have anything for you at this time.

"We're not trying to hide anything. We just haven't figured it all out."

Leyland fielded multiple questions on the topic, and started to get irritated on the third question.

"I'm trying to be patient. ... You can talk to me until you're blue in the face about the rotation. I don't have anything for you."

Leyland may not have anything, but the move to start Verlander should be obvious, especially after Porcello tossed 22 pitches in relief of Verlander. While the 22-year-old Porcello has a ton of promise and debuted at age 20 just two years after being picked in the first round, Verlander is clearly the better pitcher at this stage. He should be able to go on three days rest. How can the Tigers not make this move?

While Verlander may have been able to come out of the bullpen regardless in a potential Game 7 should he stay on track to start Game 5, giving Verlander the Game 4 assignment allows the team so much flexibility in Game 7. Maybe Verlander starts, maybe Max Scherzer (drawing the ball in Game 2) still starts and Verlander comes in relief for a few innings. And heck, Verlander drawing the ball in Game 4 would allow the club to go to a three-man rotation, eschewing Porcello and giving Scherzer the Game 5 or 6 start.

Either way, it's never a bad thing to have your best pitcher available in the final, winner-take-all, game.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeonBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: October 9, 2011 2:12 am
Edited on: October 10, 2011 1:43 pm
 

ALCS Game 2: Tigers look to even series up

Scherzer, Holland

By Evan Brunell

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Tigers at Rangers, 4:19 p.m. ET, October 10, Rangers Ballpark

WHO HAS THE EDGE?


Yeah, Texas won Game 1, but the Tigers still have a thin edge in Game 2. Why?

The Tigers constantly threatened to break the game wide open each of the first several innings, but could never get that big hit. Texas was able to smack Justin Verlander around enough that even if there was no rain delay, the right-hander was probably coming out of the game after five or six innings anyways, having allowed seven baserunners. All told, Detroit reached base 13 times compared to Texas' nine, which includes an error by Austin Jackson.

Then add in the pitching matchup, which you can learn more about below. Both Max Scherzer and Derek Holland are pitchers long on potential that have experienced some difficulty putting it all together. Each pitcher's respective performances in the ALDS was strong, and Holland rebounded after a shaky beginning to Game 2, but Scherzer came away more impressive in the end.

PITCHING MATCHUPS

Tigers' Max Scherzer: Going on three days rest after hurling 1 1/3 innings of one-run relief against the Yankees, Scherzer has taken to the playoffs beautifully and also blanked the Yankees for six innings in Game 2. The righty originally was supposed to start Game 4, but that would have limited him to just one start, and the team could have really used him for two. Now they get that chance.

"He convinced me yesterday. And Max, he's up front with everything. He would never mislead me in any way, shape and form," Jim Leyland said prior to Game 1 of the ALCS, being convinced in due part to Scherzer playing catch on Friday and feeling 100 percent."He's raring and ready to go."

Scherzer's posted a 4.09 ERA since the All-Star break, but that doesn't do justice to how good he's been since mid-July. He punched out 78 and walked just 18 in 82 2/3 post-break innings, with a fielding-independent ERA in the low 3.00s showing just how good he's been. He made three starts against the Rangers in 2011, posting a 4.76 ERA in 17 innings, striking out 12 and walking four, with the team winning two games.

"Scherzer, what an arm," Rangers manager Ron Washington raved.. It's unorthodox, doesn't throw anything straight, and for some reason when he faces us, he finds the strike zone with more consistency with all his pitches."

Much like his opponent Monday, Scherzer has struggled with consistency in his command. "It's been a challenge this whole year of constantly making adjustments throughout mechanically with each pitch and how I want to execute it throughout the whole year," the pitcher said. I felt like the last five starts, the way of my stuff and the way of my mechanics, I felt in a good position."

Rangers' Derek Holland: Holland has been tantalizing many with his potential for quite some time, and he's finally starting to deliver on his promise. As Washington put it prior to Game 1 of the ALCS, "Right now he's not a total thoroughbred. He's just a little pony, but he'll develop into a thoroughbred."

Holland has had to battle inconsistency in the past with both command and jitters, He had a forgettable 2010 postseason thanks to that, posting a 4.76 ERA in 11 1/3 innings, but so far this postseason has been an impact lefty. He scuffled in the first inning of Game 2 of the ALDS against the Rays, but pulled it together to go five innings, giving up three runs, two unearned. He also appeared in relief in Game 5, blanking Tampa for 1 1/3 innings.

"Last year, I didn't really know what to expect, how to handle anything," Holland said before Game 1. I have a better idea, especially after being around with [Cliff Lee] and then C.J. [Wilson] has been helping me big time this year in how to handle myself as a starter. This year it's a big difference. I'm a lot more relaxed and I would say composed."

Holland has only started once against the Tigers, coming last season when he held Detroit to one run in four innings, knocked out with a rising pitch count due to walking two and striking out five. Delmon Young had the best success for Detroit against Holland, facing him twice while with Minnesota and collecting six hits in 12 at-bats. Unfortunately, Young isn't on the roster. Wilson Betemit and Victor Martinez are the only active Tigers who have a hit off Holland.

LINEUPS


Tigers Rangers
No. Name Pos No. Name Pos
1 Austin Jackson CF 1 Ian Kinsler 2B
2 Ramon Santiago SS 2 Elvis Andrus SS
3 Delmon Young LF 3 Josh Hamilton CF
4 Miguel Cabrera 1B 4 Michael Young DH
5 Victor Martinez DH 5 Adrian Beltre 3B
6 Ryan Raburn RF 6 Mike Napoli C
7 Jhonny Peralta SS 7 Nelson Cruz RF
8 Alex Avila C 8 David Murphy LF
9 Brandon Inge 3B 9 Mitch Moreland 1B

Max Scherzer RHP
Derek Holland LHP

NOTES
  • Unlike the NLCS, there's no rancor between the teams involved in the ALCS. During Jim Leyland's press conference, he went on and on about how amazing Ron Washington has been in Texas and said that they are not enemies, just friends managing against each other. Meanwhile, both teams fraternized during BP with smiles on everyone's face. Miguel Cabrera was a popular man and could be sighted laughing uproariously with Washington.
  • Nelson Cruz's home run snapped a 1-for-16 skid in the postseason following a brutal September. It was a special homer for him too, as it's his seventh postseason homer (in just two seasons). That's the most in Rangers franchise history, breaking a tie with Juan Gonzalez.
  • The winning team in Game 1 of the ALCS has won the series 24 of 41 times, or 59 percent. That number dips to 52 percent when you limit it to only when the ALCS shifted to a best-of-seven since 1985. However, seven of the last 11 ALCS have been won by the Game 1 losing team.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeonBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.


Posted on: October 7, 2011 7:12 pm
Edited on: October 8, 2011 4:45 pm
 

Tigers vs. Rangers ALCS preview

By Evan Brunell

Detroit-Texas ALCS

The Tigers and Rangers share one thing in common -- both teams have AL pennants to their name in recent seasons, but fell short in the World Series. Jim Leyland took Detroit to the World Series in 2006, his first season with the club, winning 95 after the Tigers registered five straight seasons of at least 90 losses, including 119 in 2003. It's taken them some time to return to the postseason, but they're here after downing the Yankees in five games. Detroit will be leaning on the electric arm of Justin Verlander, who won Rookie of the Year in '05 but gave up 17 runs in 21 2/3 innings across the 2005 postseason. He'll get a chance at redemption against Texas, who appeared in the Fall Classic a mere season ago.

The revamped Rangers may have lost Cliff Lee, but their offense is as potent as its ever been in franchise history, adding Adrian Beltre and Mike Napoli to its monstrous lineup. Seeking to become the first consecutive AL pennant champion since the 1998-2001 Yankees, Texas will be relying on C.J. Wilson and its formidable bullpen to keep the Tiger offense in check. However, Texas' own offense needs to play up to its billing, as the team scored just 16 runs in the LDS, least among any team. (Granted, Texas was the only advancing club to play a series in less than five games, bouncing Tampa Bay in four.)

TEAM INFORMATION

Detroit Tigers (host games 3, 4, 5*)
95-67, AL Central champions
ALDS
: Defeated Yankees in 5 games -- View coverage of ALDS Tigers-Yankees
Manager
: Jim Leyland
Regular-season batting statistics: .277 batting average (3rd in AL), .340 on-base percentage (3rd), .434 slugging percentage (4th)
Regular-season pitching statistics: 4.04 ERA (7th), 1.32 WHIP (8th), 2.27 K/BB (6th)
Star player: SP Justin Verlander -- 24-5, 2.41 ERA, 251 IP, 0.92 WHIP, 250 K

Texas Rangers (host games 1, 2, 6*, 7*)
96-66, AL West champions
ALDS
: Defeated Rays in 4 games -- View coverage of ALDS Rangers-Rays
Manager: Ron Washington
Regular-season batting statistics: .283 batting average (1st), .340 on-base percentage (5th), .460 slugging percentage (2nd)
Regular-season pitching statistics: 3.79 ERA (13th), 1.24 WHIP (5th), 2.56 K/BB (5th)
Star player: C Mike Napoli -- .320/.414/.631, 432 plate appearances, 30 HR, 75 RBI

*if necessary

WHO HAS THE EDGE? (Click player name for statistics)

Let's break each position down and see which team has the edge...

Catcher: Alex Avila vs. Mike Napoli, Yorvit Torrealba


Being a quality catcher is difficult to do. You have to be able to call a game, develop a rapport with pitchers, block balls effectively, have a gun for an arm... and oh yeah, hit too. The latter category is what Avila and Napoli excel at, as both rank 1-2 in baseball in catcher offense. Napoli of course, blows away Avila in offense, but the Ranger also has 28 less games at the position, in large part due to another capable catcher also on the roster in Torrealba -- but the Tigers have Victor Martinez, too. Defensively, Avila holds the edge, and this is just too close to call.

First base: Miguel Cabrera vs. Mitch Moreland, Michael Young


Moreland could feasibly be at first base the entire series, as he's a favorite of the club and all of Detroit's starters are right-handed, but Young could steal a couple games if the team wants to get Torrealba or Craig Gentry into the lineup. Either way, both these players pale in comparison to Miguel Cabrera who, if it wasn't for Justin Verlander lucking into 24 wins (to be clear, he's a very good pitcher, but win-loss records have nothing to do with player quality), he could very well be the favorite for the MVP award. Cabrera led all of baseball in doubles, batting average, OBP and decided to swat 30 homers too. Moreland is still scrapping to be a full-time player and Young just can't field.

Second base: Ramon Santiago vs. Ian Kinsler


This isn't even close. The Tigers have cycled through six second basemen this season, with five of them receiving at least 17 starts. Santiago won the job basically by default, as Carlos Guillen can't stay healthy, Ryan Raburn split his time between left and second then lost his job for a complete inability to hit and Scott Sizemore was traded. Santiago is like Raburn in that he can't hit, but can flash a solid glove. Kinsler, meanwhile, was one of the most valuable second basemen in the game.

Shortstop: Jhonny Peralta vs. Elvis Andrus


Andrus can pick the ball, get on base and steal bases. Peralta can't steal any bases and can only play a passable short. But boy, can Peralta hit. Here's the thing, though -- people tend to overvalue offense because it's easily quantified, and you can see with your eyes the impact a bat can have. Stolen bases and defense, not so much. But they are important facets of the game as well, and when you factor everything in, this is a dead-even.

Third base: Wilson Betemit, Brandon Inge vs. Adrian Beltre


Adrian Beltre is an awesome player, there is no doubt about that. He posted the second-best season of his career and slugged three home runs to pace the narrative of Texas winning the ALDS. However, the gap between Beltre and the Tigers' crew isn't as large as one might think. Betemit rakes against righties, while Inge is capable against left-handers. But don't ask them to face the opposite-handed pitcher. Inge also has excellent defense at the hot corner and is a great late-inning replacement for Betemit. All told, the duo combines into a pretty good player. Good enough that the difference between Detroit and Texas at the spot is not significant.

Left field: Delmon Young vs. David Murphy, Craig Gentry


Young injured himself in Game 5 of the ALDS, but reports are that he should be fine for the ALCS. If not, Raburn will start in his place. Young has played his way into a 2012 role with the Tigers, but he's doing so on the backing of a hot streak that might not be sustainable long-term. He's a statue in left field and his value is tied up completely in swatting home runs. Murphy, meanwhile, parlayed a hot September into more playing time and has been sharing time with Gentry, with Murphy getting PT against right-handers and Gentry mostly playing against lefties. If Young wasn't performing well as of late, this would probably be a slight edge to the Rangers, but as long as Young's hot streak is carrying him, we'll call this even.

Center field
: Austin Jackson vs. Josh Hamilton


This isn't a difficult decision at all. Hamilton is one of the best hitters in the game and is the reigning AL MVP. Austin Jackson, meanwhile, rode a lot of luck to a .293 batting average last season that sank to .249 this year. He has strong defense, but is miscast as the leadoff hitter.

Right field: Magglio Ordonez vs. Nelson Cruz


At one point this season, Ordonez contemplated hanging his spikes up. Good thing he didn't, for he hit .365 from Aug. 21 to the end of the year and finished the ALDS with five hits in 11 at-bats, including a 3-for-3 effort in Game 2. When Ordonez is hot, he can still beat any pitcher, regardless of his advanced age. But his defense is questionable, and Nelson Cruz is a better hitter at this point. Although Cruz is slumping significantly, gathering just one hit in 15 trips to the plate during the ALDS against the Rays, he remains the better player.

Designated hitter: Victor Martinez vs. Young


A certain three-year-old, I'm sure, would pick Young here with an edge. But both Martinez and Young are remarkably similar in production at the DH spot, and the numbers are uncannily similar even though Young has played in 14 more games. Take a look:

Martinez: .330/.380/.470, 12 HR, 103 RBI
Young: .338/.380/.474, 11 HR, 106 RBI

How can you not call this even?

Starting pitching: Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Doug Fister, Rick Porcello vs. C.J. Wilson, Derek Holland, Colby Lewis, Matt Harrison


The order listed here is the order that both teams have announced will go in the ALCS, so let's judge it on these parameters. For one, the Tigers clearly lose by not being able to set up their rotation they way they wanted. Rick Porcello, obviously the lesser member of the quartet, will start twice while Max Scherzer only draws Game 4 after appearing in relief during Game 5 of the ALDS. Regardless, the Tigers still hold an overall edge here. You don't need me to throw more platitudes Verlander's way, and Fister has been a revelation since coming over from Seattle (although he's veering fast into overrated territory) and Scherzer is a quality pitcher whose potential breakout has been tantalizing pitchers for quite some time.

Over in Texas, C.J. Wilson is a great pitcher, but doesn't quite stack up to Verlander. Porcello matching up against Derek Holland pits a battle of proming young pitchers, especially Holland, who is showing signs of emerging into an ace but is lacks consistency and is prone to the wild inning if he lets the game get away from him. Lewis has an incredible postseason record, but his propensity to give up the long ball held him back in the regular season. Harrison impressed against the Rays by punching out nine but could only last five innings and the jury is still out on just how good a picher he is.

All told, yet another matchup where both teams look even -- but not quite, as Verlander is the man that tips the scales in the Tigers' favor.

Relief pitching: Jose Valverde and co. vs. Neftali Feliz and co.


Both Valverde and Feliz are good pitchers when on, but both can also be maddeningly inconsistent. The Tigers closer can point to his 49 of 49 record in saves, but he walks way too much to be reliable. Feliz, meanwhile, took a clear step back from last season when he closed 40 games as a rookie and lost his strong command. He's been much better since the All-Star break, though, and if I had to pick one closer, I'd take Feliz. Texas also has a vaunted setup corps, boasting Mike Adams (who is still one of the best relievers in the game despite a spike in home runs allowed), Koji Uehara, Alexi Ogando, Mike Gonzalez and Darrell Oliver most notably.

Texas' 3.79 bullpen ERA during the regular season was fifth-best in the AL and would have been even better with full years of all relievers mentioned sans Feliz and Oliver, who have been with the club all year. By comparison, the Tigers' two best relievers are Al Alburquerque and Joaquin Benoit, but Alburquerque only pitched 14 1/3 innings in the second half and did not look good in Games 1 and 4 of the ALDS. The Tigers pen has a chance to be a good one, but Texas is the better bet to come out on top in the war of bullpens.

Defense


Defensive statistics are getting a bum rap these days, and it's understandable. Quantifying defense is a very difficult thing to do and no defensive metric out there can be relied on. However, when you have a large sample to draw from, multiple numbers to look at and enough of a disparity in the numbers, it becomes obvious which defense holds up. And that's the Rangers, who score well in defensive metrics, largely on the strength of Andrus, Kinsler and Beltre, while the Tigers are affected by the tin gloves of Betemit, Cabrera, and Young the most.

DetroitPREDICTION

Both teams shape up to be remarkably even all across the board -- even though both teams are the last two standing in the AL and it makes sense that they would be equals, it's not often you see such a balanced division. It will come down to the postseason mantra of good pitching always beating good hitting, and given the presence of Verlander, I'll give the nod to Detroit vanquishing Texas in six games, while Daniel Knobler likes Detroit too, but in seven.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeonBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.



Posted on: October 7, 2011 1:18 am
Edited on: October 7, 2011 12:40 pm
 

Grading the Tigers-Yankees ALDS



By Matt Snyder


Jim Leyland's tinkering. Leyland was roundly mocked on Twitter for his choice in the two-hole of the batting order throughout the series. He used a different lineup five different times in five games while Yankees manager Joe Girardi kept the same lineup throughout the entire ALDS. And look at the Tigers' three wins. Magglio Ordonez was 3-for-3 with a run scored in Game 2. Ramon Santiago was 2-for-4 with two huge RBI in a Game 3 victory and Thursday night in Game 5, Don Kelly opened the scoring in the first inning with a solo home run. Give Leyland credit for pushing the right buttons, specifically with who he batted second, but generally throughout the entire series.

The Tigers' back-end duo of Joaquin Benoit and Jose Valverde wasn't perfect in the series. Valverde made Game 2 interesting with a bad ninth and Benoit walked in a run Thursday night, even if it was an inherited runner. Still, the Tigers blew zero leads with either pitcher on the mound and the duo was a major reason for the series victory. Benoit in particular had to work out of some pretty rough spots, both in Game 2 and in Game 5. His stuff is nasty and he came up with big strikeouts when he had to have them. Valverde was shaky in his first two outings, but was anything but that in Game 5, with a one-run lead and the season on the line.

Justin Verlander struck out 11 batters and was masterful at times in his lone real start of the series: Game 3. He also gave up six hits, three walks and four earned runs. He did gather the victory, as he outpitched Yankees ace CC Sabathia. And we have to point out the Yankees do have a pretty damn good offense, too. It's just that this was a "C" effort for Verlander considering his body of work. You don't expect him to go out and give up four runs in a must-win game. He wasn't at his best, he was just good enough. That's a C-effort in my book. Probably in his, too. I also fully expect an A-effort in Game 1 against the Rangers.

We're going with Mother Nature/Major League Baseball here. Game 1 was ruined by rain. We have absolutely no way of knowing how the series would have gone -- and, remember, I predicted the Tigers in five anyway, so this is no excuse for the Yankees' loss -- but we were deprived of the real series. If MLB moved the start time earlier or didn't start Game 1 at all last Friday, we'd have seen both Verlander and Yankees ace CC Sabathia make two full starts in the series. Instead, each was wasted in a rain-suspended Game 1 and could only turn around to make one more start. On the other hand, the weather reports aren't always predictable, so this was a tough call. Bottom line, we got screwed a bit, and there's nowhere else to place the blame than with whoever you believe controls the weather in New York City.

Yankees 4-5-6 hitters. Alex Rodriguez is a big scapegoat for many. He has been for years. In Game 5, he struck out with the bases loaded in the seventh inning and then ended the series with a strikeout in the ninth. The boos showered down upon him several times at home. Nick Swisher also struck out with the bases loaded in Game 5, and his was to end the inning. Combined, A-Rod, Mark Teixeira and Swisher went 9-for-55 (.164) with five RBI in the entire series. A-Rod was the worst, going 2-for-18 (.111), but all three of these guys were bad. If you want to know how bad, here's another illustration: The only two runs Robinson Cano scored all series were on his own home runs. He was left on base seven times.

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