Couch Side’s American League Championship preview/predictions


BY BRANDON J. SMITH, Couchsideshow.com blogger

Couch Side blogger Brandon J. Smith think Detroit Tiger center virelder Austin Jackson could be a ket player in the American League Championship Series. Photo by: Steve Burt / Flickr

Is it possible for the LCS to top what transpired in the LDS? I inaccurately predicted 2 of the 4 division series, and I would have gotten them all right if not for those deadly due of Raul Ibanez and Pete Kozma. What will the next round offer? Let’s list off what it’s going up against in terms of drama and intrigue:

• Four game 5s
• Three walk off victories
• Extra inning upsets
• Raul Ibanez
• Justin Verlander and CC Sabathia dominance
• Alex Rodriguez drama
• Tim Lincecum Bullpen hero
• Jose Valverde meltdown

I dare the Tigers/Yankees and Giants/Cardinals series to match what was an incredible week of baseball, now onto the next round of wholly inaccurate predictions. ALCS: Tigers v. Yankees- Detroit could be at a slight disadvantage because of the forced travel in the wee hours of Friday night following the Yankee victory.

Kudos to MLB for being constrained by the television contracts and not guaranteeing an off day, unlike the NLCS. The game 1 matchup is Doug Fister v. Andy Pettitte, and it should be a good one.
One thing about Pettitte I find interesting is that Yankee fans love to tout his postseason success, as if he transforms into Cy Young during October. What I find more interesting is that his playoff ERA (3.83) is nearly identical to his career ERA (3.86), so it would be accurate to say he remains a consistently good Andy Pettitte regardless of the situation. He has almost a reverse platoon split against left handed hitters, which is peculiar considering righties should have an advantage right?

Wrong, we saw this in his start against Baltimore, Chris Davis stayed back on the cutter and had two clean singles to left. Pettitte has allowed a .383 slugging percentage to lefties in his career (.400 to righties in about 8,000 more plate appearances) so if I were the Tigers; I’d count on Prince Fielder to have a better game than Miguel Cabrera.

The Yankees face Doug Fister, and the batters are chomping at the bit to atone for their exaggerated 0.25 batting average against the Orioles in the last series. A-Rod was benched and pinch hit for due to his struggles, but Robinson Cano, Nick Swisher, and Curtis Granderson have been nearly as ineffective.

The media will continue to focus on Rodriguez, because he is their whipping boy, and it might behoove his teammates to perform a bit better and get the heat off his back. If Fister if off his rocker, his sinker won’t have any depth, and the Yankees could tee off, but they shouldn’t expect many free passes as Fister seldom issues a walk. The Tigers unimpressive infield defense of Cabrera (3B), Peralta (SS), and Fielder (1B) might be ripe for some Jeter or Ichiro bunt action, especially if Fister starts off pumping strikes. The remainder of the series will likely see Anibal Sanchez and Hiroki Kuroda in game 2, and a potentially great short rest CC v. full rest Verlander in Detroit. Biggest problem with Detroit’s offense is that they’re top heavy 1-4, but really mediocre 5-9.

Getting past Fielder almost guarantees an out with Delmon Young’s patented .296 OBP approach. The Yankee lineup is a stockpiled with power and skill, and it puts a greater emphasis on Max Scherzer in a possible game 4 if Verlander doesn’t get it done in game 3. New York’s offense can wear down a starter, and the Tigers bullpen is not on the level of Baltimore. Jose Valverde in the 9th is always an adventure, and Jim Leyland is very stingy about switching up bullpen roles and exposing platoon advantages.

I’m giving the edge to New York with the offensive depth and bullpen action. Now to evaluate the managers, and let me start off by saying that Joe Girardi Is borderline brain-dead when it comes to taking advantage of late game situations. Pinch hitting for A-Rod in game 3 was one of the luckiest bad decisions ever, and the following night in game 4, didn’t use the same tactic in the 8th inning against submariner Darren O’Day. Then in game 5, he let Ibanez hit against the lefty Patton, and not use A-Rod despite saying before the game he could come in during a big situation against a lefty.

I understand he’s grieving over the loss of his father, but it’s stunning to see him not take advantage of very obvious situations in critical moments. I don’t want to be cruel to Girardi, but with all the talent on the Yankee roster, it should be utilized better. Jim Leyland by default is the better tactical manager in this series, but he’s not without his massive faults. He’ll keep running out Valverde until his fastball velocity all but disappears, and in that blown save in Oakland, Papa Grande had no life on the 90 mph heater and the A’s tattooed it every time. Leyland can only hope his starters deliver and prevents him from having to use his declining and much maligned closer.

Prediction: Tigers in 7

MVP: Austin Jackson

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