Perhaps lost in the malstrom of Wednesday night’s epic finishes and equally epic collapses on THE GREATEST NIGHT IN MLB REGULAR SEASON HISTORY is the fact that Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera won the American League batting title with a .344 average.
He joins pitching Triple Crown winner Justin Verlander (24 Ws, 2.40 ERA, 250 Ks—oh yeah, and he had the top WHIP of 0.92 for good measure) and Saves leader Jose Valverde (49 of 49) on one of the greatest Tigers rosters in the history of the illustrious franchise.
Winning 95 games for the 10th time in their 110 seasons, Detroit has fared quite nicely against each of the remaining AL teams. Of those 95 wins, 14% came against New York (4-3), Texas (4-2) and Tampa (5-1). They also come into the playoffs as the hottest team in the Majors, going 30-9 down the stretch.
But this is only the beginning. Regular season accomplishments and accolades are meaningless if you don’t get it done on the big stage in the playoffs and it doesn’t get any bigger than Game 1 tonight in the Bronx.
Many have lamented the Tigers’ loss of home field advantage to Texas by one game, forcing them face the hallowed Yankees in the frist round. But this actually works to the Tigers’ advantage as they will only have to beat them three times in the shortened Division series instead of four in the ALCS. They’re going to have to face them at some point so why not make it easier on themselve? We only have to look back to 2006 to see it can work as the Tigers dismantled another 97-win Yankees club, three games to one.
As we all know, pitching wins championships and tonight’s heavyweight battle between Verlander and CC Sabathia should prove to be one for the ages. I could analyze the stats forever but the simple fact is JV-MVP is just better than CC and should prevail. However, even if the 2011 Cy Young winner falters or Tigers bats go quiet versus Carsten Charles, Detroit’s superior pitching depth will prove to be too much for the Yankees to handle.
Game 2 will feature September’s AL Pitcher of the Month Doug Fister versus an impressive, yet inexperienced 24-year-old Ivan Nova. The matchup favors Detroit once again with Fister sporting a 2.83 ERA and 1.06 WHIP vs. Nova’s 3.70/1.33. No contest.
Monday’s Game 3 is where things get really interesting when the Tigers return home sending the mysterious heterochromiac Max Scherzer to the mound against Sweaty Freddy Garcia. We’re never sure if we’ll get Good Max when he’s using his blue eye or Bad Max when his brown eye takes over, but he always has the potential to dominate. Garcia had been known as s Tigers killer throughout his career, but that reputation hasn’t held true lately as he’s 0-3 vs. Detroit since last September.
But the real key to Game 3, and possibly the whole series will actually be the off day, Sunday. As long as Tigers’ brass can keep Garcia’s sweaty mits off his Venezuelan buddy Miguel Cabrera and out of any of the saloons the two used to haunt, the Tigers should be just fine.
If the Tigers need a fourth game, manager Jim Leyland has already announced he won’t send Verlander out on three days’ rest so it’ll be Rick Porcello vs. C.C. Sabathia. I don’t like that matchup at all so let’s just hope it doesn’t come to that. But it it does, the Tigers have the ultimate ace in the hole with Verlander waiting in the wings on his normal five days’ rest to face a completely overmatched Ivan Nova on short rest. In the immortal words of the tiger-blooded Charlie Sheen: “WINNING!”
Final verdict: The Tigers’ superior pitching depth will prevail. I’ll be conservative and take the Tigers in 5.