Detroit Tigers (88-74) at New York Yankees (95-67)
How the-opposite-of-fitting that in a year dominated by Cinderella stories—Chicago leading the AL Central for most the year; Oakland’s improbable comeback in the West; Baltimore’s first playoff appearance since before Monica Lewinsky was famous—it’s the Yankees and Tigers left in the ALCS. Both teams were expected to repeat as division winners, and both actually had somewhat disappointing regular seasons: Detroit trailed the White Sox for most of the year, and New York didn’t clinch until the last day of the season. The ALCS is also nothing new to either team, with both teams having taken turns losing to Texas the last two years. And if it weren’t for last night’s game in Washington, we’d be talking about the Tigers and Yankees as the biggest dream-killers of all: Justin Verlander stopped what looked like yet another improbable Oakland comeback in its tracks, and New York topped Baltimore with repeated late-inning heroics. In the regular season matchups between these two teams, the Yankees took six of ten from Detroit.
Detroit didn’t hit much in its series against Oakland: The Tigers scored only 17 runs in five games, and six of those runs came on non-RBI plays. Nobody on the team had an especially good series offensively—Omar Infante was the only regular to hit over .300, and he had only one extra-base hit. A lot of the problem can likely be attributed to great pitching by the A’s, but Detroit needs to get more production out of its big hitters, Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder. Though Fielder did homer in Game 4, neither of those guys did enough to carry the offense, which is the only way the Tigers offense can get carried. Perhaps most troubling: Cabrera and Fielder only walked once apiece in five games. Again, this is likely the result of facing a staff with great control—Oakland pitching walked only seven batters in the series—but Cabrera and Fielder need to at least get on base if they’re not driving in runs.
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Let me set the scene for you: The Tigers and Rangers play a tight afternoon Game 2 that many do not see the end of, because they have turned instead to a mundane Monday Night Football contest between the Lions and the Bears. Oh my.
Let me reset the scene for you: The Tigers and Rangers play a tight afternoon Game 2 that stays in the afternoon, with nobody turning the channel. They achieve this with one simple alteration of baseball rules: A batter is only permitted one two-strike foul ball before he is called out.
As always, please, control your incredulity. Baseball, as a game, has gotten demonstrably slower over the years — not just because more batters are getting on base, but also because they’re taking longer to do so. Major leaguers averaged 3.81 pitches per plate appearance this season, just down from record numbers in recent years. Contrast that with 1988, the first year that Baseball-Reference tracked the stat, when plate appearances lasted a mere 3.59 pitches.* Continue reading »
MLB’s new one off-day policy meant that John S and Tim didn’t have time to preview the Division Series this year. But now they’re back to discuss the American League Championship Series. Together, they preview the Tigers-Rangers matchup and make their predictions…
JOHN S: Alright, so I think I’m finally over the Yankees loss enough to talk about this potential LCS. First off, let’s talk about Verlander. All throughout the season, we’ve heard how Justin Verlander is the key to how far the Tigers can go. His entire MVP case seemed built around the idea that the rest of his squadron was a bunch of glorified Little Leaguers. Hopefully, though, the ALDS proved that the Tigers are actually quite good, even apart from their dominant ace. And yet there are still a few Around The Horn talking heads who insist that the Tigers only chance against Texas is if Verlander starts Games 1, 4 and 7 (which Jim Leyland won’t do). This idea seems insane to me. So just how important do you think Verlander is to the Tigers, on a scale of “C.J. Wilson to the Rangers” to “Jake Peavy to the ’05 Padres”?
TIM: Don Kelly? Ramon Santiago? Tell me these plucky kids aren’t Little Leaguers! Continue reading »
New York Yankees (95-67) at Texas Rangers (90-72)
Fresh off the franchise’s first playoff series win, the Rangers take on the Yankees, who once again swept the Twins in the first round. Oddly, the Yankees’ sweep of the Twins may have been a closer—or at least more exciting—series than the Rangers-Rays five-gamer. The Yankees came from behind in each of the first two games (with Mariano Rivera of course saving both) before finishing the Twins off at home. The Rangers and Rays, meanwhile, played only one close game in five—a Game 3 win for the Rays. Two great starts from Cliff Lee and another from C.J. Wilson (combined for 2 ER in 22.1 IP) were enough to put the Rangers in their first ever ALCS. Continue reading »