The greatest week and a half long event in sports across the world that happens every single year as the leaves fall effortlessly through the autumn wind. The perfect culmination of America’s tradition laden past-time, boiled and mixed in a melting pot with a group of some of the best athletes in the entire world all fighting and scratching for one goal. A giant trophy, a bunch of rings and having their names etched in the history books for the rest of time. This is the World Series.
In 2011 the baseball world was treated to arguably the most entertaining 2 months in the history of the game. The two biggest playoff berth comebacks each concluding within just hours of each other. Was it the greatest comebacks, or most epic collapses? Either way, I cannot remember in the 24 years of my existence and more intriguing month of sports. Watching the train-wreck that was the Boston Red Sox, and Joe Maddon doing it, yet again in Tampa. Tony LaRussa, in what would ultimately be his last hoorah, propelling his St. Louis Cardinals to an 18-8 record, overthrowing the Atlanta Braves and getting into the Playoffs. After the fireworks ended for Tampa in the ALDS, the magic continued in the city with the arch and the St. Louis Cardinals won its 11th World Series Championship, but not before some unlikely heros emerged. The Texas Rangers, again made in unlikely run in the playoffs behind power bats and elusive, yet solid pitching. They came up just short after David Freese came out of the woodwork with one of the most impressive playoff performances ever, and Chris Carpenter slammed the door repeatedly en route to the championship. Tony LaRussa retired in incredible fashion.
As a baseball fan I recall sitting there a few short weeks after the World Series and thinking that I had just been treated to arguably the greatest 2 months of sports in my lifetime. I remember sitting on my couch until the wee hours of the night watching the Wildcard races and calling my dad to leave him a voicemail because I had just witnessed history and I wanted him to share that with me. It’s a game of fathers and sons. As much of a homer Joe Buck is, when he announced those fateful words in the playoffs, “We’ll see you tomorrow night” it echoed throughout my Iowa City apartment, resonating those same principles. Picked up the phone again. It was on a weekday and late. I didn’t care to bother my dad, yet again. It’s unprecedented in sports. It’s pure magic. It’s the World Series.
The St. Louis Cardinals and New York Yankees made their exits in the Championship Series and we are left with just 2. The San Francisco Giants and the Detroit Tigers. One of which will be the 2012 World Champions. Will the Giants make it 2 ship in 3 years, or will Jim Leyland bring back some of the 1997 Florida Marlins magic and get his second ring, the Tigers first since Ronald Reagan was in office. The World Series get’s started tonight and you should be excited. You feel it? It’s building.
Game 1: Justin Verlander. Remember him? Yeah, that guy that won the American League Cy Young AND MVP in 2011 after accomplishing the pitching Triple Crown for the 38th time in history. He tosses tonight for the Tigers off of what has been pure dominance these playoffs, with a 3-0 record, .74 ERA, and more sit-downs on strikes than innings pitched. Dominance. On the other side of the ball for the Giants, the 2002 Cy Young winner, 34 old veteran, Barry Zito. Zito sparkled in his last outing against the Cardinals, getting a win on 7 3/2 innings without giving up a single run and striking out 6. It may seem as lopsided as David vs. Goliath in game 1, but McCovey cove and the rest of the fixings at AT&T Park have been very good to the Giants. They did happen to win 2 in a row there in dominant fashion to wrap the NLCS against the Cardinals. Marco Scutaro had a coming out party and the bats got it going against a talented Cardinals pitching staff? Will they be able to get it going against Verlander? There is a very small sample size to go on, but Marco Scutaro has a .217 Batting Average against the fire-baller and he has been the work horse for the Giants. Youngster and NL MVP Buster Posey has never faced him, with the guy with the most experience being Melky Cabrera. Yeah, that Melk man that will be watching from the pine for the Series. The edge is clearly with Detroit in this game and probably the series with the big boppers on paper, but in reality, Zito has faired well against those guys. Cabrera, Fielder, Infante, and Peralta all have sub .250 Batting Averages against Zito. The biggest exception to the rule is Delmon Young, who has faced Zito 3 times in his career, with 2 hits, 1 being an RBI double. Who has the edge?
Pitching: Detroit Tigers
Hitting: Detroit Tigers
Other Factors: The Giants are 3-3 at home in this postseason, but the last 2 contests were victories in convincing fashion over 2 great Cardinals hurlers in Carpenter and Lohse. The Tigers are 3-2 in the playoffs on the road, but were a sub .500 team on the road in the regular season. All bets are off on this game because it is the World Series, but the Tigers get an edge due to Verlander.
Game 1 Winner Pick: Detroit Tigers 5-2
Game 2: Everything shakes out in favor of the Tigers as far as pitching match-ups goes for the first two games because the Giants had to play 7 in order to get here, throwing ace, Matt Cain on Sunday night in the win. Game 2 will slate Madison Bumgarner who has had a very tough go of it thus far in the postseason, only throwing a combined 8 innings in 2 starts, while giving up 10 runs, all of them earned. The big stat line here is that Bumgarner has given up 3 long balls in those 2 starts. The Tigers like to hit those, and often with huge bats in the middle of the line-up. Every batter has an extremely small sample size, but they have seen Bumgarned well, with Prince Fielder leading the charge. Only 7 at-bats against Bumgarner with 2 walks, he has reached 3 times on hits and has driven runs in as well. Doug Fister on the slate for the Tigers is interesting because he has faced two of the Giants players in his 3 year career, one of those being the Melk Man, who won’t play. The other is Marco Scutaro, who is batting under .100 in 11 tries against Fister. Much like Bumgarner, Fister has only started 2 games in the 2012 postseason, but unlike Bumgarner, Fister has impressed. No wins to his name, but with only 2 earned runs on 13 1/3 innings pitched, with 13 strikeouts he should give them a solid start. The Giants are a very good home team, but not elite by any means. One of the best on the road so if they do go down 2-0, which could happen in this match-up they aren’t out, but it would be dire. It’s extremely difficult to get a solid read on this game because neither pitcher has a decisive advantage over the others line-up and the home-field advantage should favor the Giants, but at this point in time, the National League teams have been pitiful at home in the postseason.
Pitching: Detroit Tigers
<strong<Batting: Detroit Tigers
Other Factors: The other factor I think could be a huge deciding measure in this contest is the bullpen. Sitting here looking at the Tigers Bullpen and the fact that it comes down to Phil Coke slamming the door because Valverde is a head-case, bothers me. Casilla, Romo, Lopez, and Affeldt have all been lights out over the past few weeks when it counts and that could continue. The only issue I take with that, is none of the line-ups they have faced are going to showcase the kind of hitting and production that Jackson, Berry, Cabrera, Fielder, and Delmon Young give you late in the game.
Game 2 Winner Pick: Detroit Tigers 7-4
I have the Tigers going up 2-0 in the series headed back to Detroit on Saturday. I will be picking games 3,4,5(If Needed) coming on Friday after this thing gets underway. Take a deep breath. Grab a cold one and get ready for some incredible baseball. Enjoy.