Couch Side’s official 2012 World Series Preview
Defense wins championships, still.
The first thing that came to mind when assessing these teams was not the stellar starting pitching on either sides, or the high end offensive quality, but the defense.
If you watched the NLCS, you could tell which team was more fundamentally sound, or at the very least executed better with the glove. The Cardinals repeatedly shot themselves in the foot in games 6 and 7, while the play of the Giants only seemed to get better with each opportunity. Angel Pagan and Gregor Blanco are fantastic outfielders who have shown off great range; Brandon Crawford is one of the best defensive shortstops in the league (lead the NL in range factor), Marco Scutaro has shown off some nifty glove work, and Pablo Sandoval is not a complete liability at third. Contrast this with the Tigers defense and we get an entirely different story.
Austin Jackson aside, the Tigers defense is and has been sorely lacking all season. Miguel Cabrera is not an adequate third basemen, he’s actually better at first, but Prince Fielder is over there and he should be a DH. However, the Tigers have to play games in the NL Park where there are no designated hitters, which means the god emperor of outfield suck Delmon Young has to play Left, which he hasn’t done in a while. Remember Vladimir Guerrero in the 2010 World Series? We could see gaffes of epic proportions.
The ALCS MVP had a few good games against the Yankees, but the former #1 draft pick has no skills other than popping a few home runs, and maybe a few cheeseburgers. He’s a big guy, and I don’t see the move to the outfield as a positive. But of course, Jim Leyland has to play him because it’s what he’s doing throughout the season, but I can’t help but wonder if old Jim will replace him for an Andy Dirks or Don Kelly late in games against a Santiago Cassia or Sergio Romo.
Defense Edge: Giants
• Verlander back on the big stage: The Tigers pitching staff has proven that they can negate these obvious flaws. Verlander, Scherzer, and Fister can limit balls put in play but getting strikeouts and inducing weak contact. They’ve done it against Oakland and against the Yankees despite New York sending up cardboard cutouts to the plate. Barry Zito and Madison Bumgarner are pitching games 1 and 2, and both of whom have produced one good start between them this postseason, and even that was a fluke. Zito’s 85 mph beach ball and Bumgarner’s fatigue and lowered arm slot could prove disastrous against the slugging happy Tigers lineup. Cain and Vogelsong are starting games 3 and 4 in Detroit, and their fly ball rates could be a blessing or a curse, but they’re above and beyond what the lefties have provided thus far. We have this fun little thing of the two best Tiger pitchers against the least effective Giants starters, then you flip that around for the next set of games in Detroit. The high probability for strikeouts is what I think will save the Tigers in this series, because you can get the Giants out, the Cardinals bullpen proved that, but not their starters.
Starting pitching edge: Tigers
• Big beard out of the bullpen: Their bullpen is still a problem with Detroit, obviously. Leyland doesn’t really trust anyone. The last time Benoit pitched he gave up missiles; Valverde hasn’t seen action since his epic game 1 meltdown. It’s been the Phil Coke experience, and I don’t think that safe strategy can work in this series. Giants, unlike the Yankees, have proven to make more consistent contact, and can even drop down a bunt, which they should against a Cabrera or Fielder. San Francisco’s strength is their pen which features a solid Jeremy Affeldt, and Romo in the back end. Bruce Bochy will deploy them often, he even pitched Romo in that 9-0 game 7, so of course he will use him to no end. Also, Tim Lincecum could work the middle of games or even make some late-inning appearances and if can pitch to his potential, he’ll give San Francisco another weapon to an already dangerous arsenal.
Bullpen edge: Giants
• Triple threat: As I touched on several paragraphs ago, the Giants offense is not bad, but it’s not invincible. Pagan and Scutaro can get on base, and Pablo and Posey can get them in, but that doesn’t happen all the time. Hunter Pence will probably see a million sliders away that he’ll chase at, and Brandon Belt can sometimes do things too!
Detroit has a top heavy lineup, Austin Jackson, Cabrera and Fielder are 3 of the best 10 players in the AL, but Jhonny Peralta, Avisail Garcia, Young, and Alex Avila doesn’t really get me going. However, the high chance for extreme power makes the Tigers more formidable.
Offensive edge: Tigers
• The last word: On the surface, the Tigers have the bigger advantages because of their star players, but when considering the factors that are not sexy or headline worthy, the Giants catch the ball better, have better athletes and deploy a better bullpen.
World series Prediction: Giants in 7
World Series MVP Prediction: Brandon Crawford