The Tigers are back in the World Series for the first time since 2006, and I am back writing on my blog for the first time in what seems like almost six years.
Over the past couple of weeks if there’s anything I’ve learned, it’s to always expect the unexpected.
When the Tigers’ closer Jose Valverde decided he didn’t feel like closing out games anymore, manager Jim Leyland turned to the maniacal but lovable, Phil Coke. Surprisingly, Coke was lights out and played a huge role in the Tigers’ sweep of the New York Yankees en route to the World Series.
For two weeks, I planned on writing a return post on my blog this past Monday. I even marked it down on my calendar to go along with all my exams, quizzes and projects.
At about 4:30 p.m. last Wednesday, I was home free after finishing a midterm and turning in my nine-page paper. By 5:30 p.m. I was getting ready for an intramural soccer game to forget about the stress of the past two weeks.
(Insert the unexpected suddenly happening)
At 6:15 p.m. I was frantically calling my parents trying to get in touch with someone to take me to urgent care.
Long story short, I messed up my leg (torn LCL, ACL and a tibial plateau fracture) and it set a few things back in my schedule. Between school and my internship at MLive.com covering high school football, I have been busy, but determined to find more time to write.
Now that I’m restricted to crutches for at least six weeks, I believe I should have plenty of time to share my thoughts – albeit sometimes delusional – with whoever may wander across my blog.
Tonight, the 2012 World Series begins between the Detroit Tigers and the San Francisco Giants. Undoubtedly you already knew that, but here are five keys to the World Series, as well as my prediction at the end.
(Spoiler Alert: I’m from Michigan…)
- Starting Pitching
Without a doubt, it would be hard for any of the teams to make the postseason to rival the Tigers’ quartet of Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Doug Fister and Annibal Sanchez, but the Giants’ starters aren’t too shabby themselves. Madison Bumgarner, Matt Cain, Ryan Vogelsong and Barry Zito all have the ability to turn in quality, if not outstanding performances. Evident by San Francisco’s comeback against St. Louis in which they held the Cardinals to one run in the final three games of the series, the Giants can pitch. Despite everything I just said, the Tigers’ rotation is set and the Giants’ are coming off a grueling and emotional series against the Cardinals. Also, the Tigers have Justin Verlander, and the Giants don’t. It’s as simple as that.
On one hand, you have the Giants, who can bring in numerous arms to match up with anyone, at any point, in any game. On the other hand, you have the Tigers, who don’t have a defined closer and have relief pitchers as consistent as Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson. Phil Coke has stepped up in Valverde’s absence, but how much longer until the Tigers’ bullpen blows a lead and their bats aren’t able to respond?
In the regular season, the Tigers were atrocious on defense, failing to field routine ground balls and turn ordinary double plays. In the postseason, shortstop Jhonny Peralta has stepped up huge, and the beasts at the corners – Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder – haven’t been tested. On the contrary, the Giants seem to do the little things on defense right, even replacing their divots in the outfield grass when they make a sliding catch. Expect the Giants to try to manufacture runs with small ball, and how the Tigers’ defense responds will play a huge part in the outcome of the World Series.
- Hot Hitters
Who would’ve thought that Marco Scutaro and Delmon Young would play huge roles in taking their respective team to the World Series? When Buster Posey went into a slump, the Giants were in desperate need for someone to step up and Scutaro came through earning him MVP honors of the NLCS. In the entire ALCS, Young returned to last year’s postseason form, driving in as many runs as the entire Yankees team (6). The Tigers are at their best when the hitters after Cabrera and Fielder are contributing and knocking in runs.
- Big Bats
While in San Francisco, the Tigers will be without a DH, forcing Delmon Young to play in the outfield. While that is a scary thought, the scarier thought for Giants fans is who will be their DH when they head to Detroit. During the regular season, the Giants finished last in the league in home runs. The idea that Aubrey Huff – yes, that Aubrey Huff – may be the Giants DH is a big advantage for the Tigers. Add in Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder and Austin Jackson, and the Tigers’ big bats are definitely the more frightening of the two.
The winner of the 2012 World Series is…
the Detroit Tigers. Maybe I’m a homer, but there’s something special about the way this team has played to close out the regular season and in the postseason.
I’ll admit, just before the All Star break I predicted the Tigers would miss the playoffs. The everyday lineups were puzzling. The offense, especially on the road, was abysmal. The starting pitching was erratic. The bullpen was gut wrenching and nothing seemed to be clicking at the same time.
Then, someone flipped a switch and the team started playing to the ability that everyone thought they would when they were a preseason World Series favorite. In 2006, the Tigers were outplayed by the Cardinals in the World Series, but I think a lot was learned from that experience. The way this team has come together gives you a special feeling that this is their year…
Oh, and the Tigers have the best pitcher in baseball pitching arguably the best he has at any point in his career. And they have the best overall hitter in baseball coming off a Triple Crown season. And, let’s not forget about the Prince Fielder, the big teddy bear who was brought in specifically to get the Tigers over the hump.
The Tigers trip to the World Series in 2006 may have felt right, but 2012 feels perfect. I’ll take the Tigers in five games, with Verlander closing it out with another must-see performance on his way to earning MVP honors.