TIM: John, the readers of NPI are in luck. San Francisco’s dramatic comeback — although Jayson Stark, let’s cool it on the overzealous use of the adjective “impossible” — means the Cardinals aren’t in the World Series, which means my personal boycott of previewing Cardinals postseason series doesn’t affect this Fall Classic.
I guess we should start by talking about the team that’s played in the last several weeks in the Giants. What do you think about this team, especially with the 2010 Giants in the back of your mind? I mean, Barry Zito in Game 1? LOL, right?
JOHN: Totes LOL. When Zito was shutting down the Cardinals lineup in Game 5, my brother and I got into a discussion about his absurd contract. We both seemed to entertain the idea that San Francisco has salvaged some value out of him. After all, he won 15 games this year and came up huge in the NLCS. But, really, when you look at his stats, he’s still a pretty lousy starting pitcher and has been throughout his time with the Giants.
I suppose, though, that pitching him in Game 1 at least works with the logic you brought a few years ago in a postseason preview: If you’re going up against someone like Justin Verlander, you might as well use someone like Zito. If he’s terrible, then you just shrug it off and say you probably weren’t going to beat Verlander no matter what. But if Zito has another performance like he did in St. Louis, then maybe SF can steal Game 1 and still have Baumgarner, Vogelsong, and Cain lined up for the rest of the series.
I know that’s not the Giants’ actual reasoning (and I also realize it doesn’t answer your question– what is this a Presidential debate? Am I right?), but should a San Francisco fan take comfort in that anyway?
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Detroit Tigers (88-74) at Oakland Athletics (94-68)
Two division winners that actually trailed their divisions for most of the year face off in this series, though each team took a different path to its comeback. The Tigers were expected to win the AL Central, but underperformed all year and then snuck in when the White Sox lost 11 of their last 15 games. The A’s, on the other hand, surprised people be staying competitive all year, and ultimately finished ahead of both the Angels and the Rangers in what was probably the league’s toughest division.
Obviously, Detroit has Miguel Cabrera, the first Triple Crown winner in 45 years and one of two serious MVP candidates in the AL this year.* Behind him, the Tigers have now added Prince Fielder, who justified his $214 million contract (as much as such a thing can be justified): Fielder’s numbers were great this season, if slightly less extraordinary than Cabrera’s. After those two, though, there is a considerable drop-off. It is what Jonah Keri likes to call a “Stars and Scrubs” lineup—the team was only sixth in runs scored despite having two of the best three hitters in the league (by OPS+). Jhonny Peralta returned to his subpar form, Delmon Young couldn’t maintain his production for a full year, Alex Avila took a big step back, etc. Austin Jackson had a breakout year and Andy Dirks shouldn’t be overlooked, but stopping this lineup is really about stopping Cabrera/Fielder. 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 »