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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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 »
“What? Iceland? Who goes to Iceland?” —Emily
“I’m scared to die.” —Camila
First off, my most sincere apologies for the delay on this week’s rankings. I was unavoidably detained. Luckily, I will be able to provide a prompt recap of this week’s finale.
Last week’s episode, on the other hand, seemed like a lot of filler. With two teams needlessly sent home at the beginning of the season, MTV had to do some reshuffling to reach the usual ten episodes for a season of The Challenge. As a result, the episode killed a lot of time focusing on Mark’s choice of headgear and Robin’s latest crisis of confidence before getting to the task at hand: The final Dome. Continue reading »
It’s the return of the Double Bonus Podcast! The NCAA Tournament has brought Tim and John S out of their unintentional retirement. Today they break down all four regions, pick all 32 games in the First Round (We don’t buy into the new terminology here at NPI), and make their Final Four predictions. Neither technical glitches nor an utter lack of awareness of what happened in college basketball this season slowed them down! It’s a podcast so long it had be split in two: Listen here for Part One, and here for Part Two, the grand finale!
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 »