Wednesday, October 24, 2012

World Series Preview: Alburquerque-Zito

Tonight, the World Series begins in San Francisco as the Giants will face the American League Pennant winners Detroit Tigers. And I thought the best way to prepare for the start of this series to provide an A-Z guide to everything that we will expect to see.

Al Alburquerque: Mike Francesa's favorite Tiger has to begin this list. Alex Avila might have more impact, but I'm pretty sure that Alburquerque will pitch in a big spot at some point.

Brandon Belt: Hit a HR in Game 7 and will probably be counted on a lot more than most people realize since the Tigers are full of RHP's in both the rotation and the bullpen. Will need the lefty Belt to hit well.

Miguel Cabrera: The likely MVP (I say that Mike Trout should win, but I digress) will be appearing in his second Fall Classic. It's easy to say that the Tigers will go as he goes, at least at the plate.

Doug Fister: One of the major reasons the Tigers are in the World Series is because of their dominant starting pitching as a whole. Now, Fister battled in his last start against the Yankees and probably shouldn't give the Giants opportunities to score early on him again.

Errors: Back in 2006, the Tigers were undone by some horrific defensive play when they lost to the Cardinals. This can't happen again this time around; unfortunately with Delmon Young playing the outfield in San Francisco, an already weak defensive team becomes weaker.

Prince Fielder: Fielder hasn't been dominant thus far in the postseason and if the Giants pitch around Cabrera, Fielder is going to have to make them pay for such a strategy.

Avisail Garcia: When given a chance, the youngster has been impactful. Likely will play when Barry Zito pitches. Of course, I have him on this list to point out that his name is pronounced with four syllables. Four syllables for a seven letter name. Seems like too much.

Hunter Pence: He will likely remain as Buster Posey's protection and he needs to do a better job of that. Had a rough series against St. Louis and it doesn't get easier against the big 4 righties on Detroit. Hopefully, Game 7 is also a sign of better play from him like it might be for Belt.

Omar Infante: Important in his role as a table setter for Detroit since he came over from the Marlins back in July. Main reason is that him reaching base almost guarantees a pitcher will face both Cabrera and Fielder in a given inning. This will need to continue.

Austin Jackson: Also important as a table setter, but unlike Infante, Jackson is more of a given in terms of effective hitting, even though he can be a strikeout machine. We can see some long games should the Giants fail to get the first two hitters of the Tigers lineup out.

Kung Fu Panda: In 2010, Pablo Sandoval only had three AB's in their World Series win. This time around, he's much more important, as demonstrated in the NLCS. He has driven in 6 runs in the last 5 games of that series and it's safe to say that the Giants are where they are because of Sandoval's hitting.

Jim Leyland: This season saw Leyland make his seventh appearance in the playoffs, but only his third World Series appearance. Except for leaving in Jose Valverde in Game 1, allowing Raul Ibanez to homer off him, every move made by the skipper is paying off. That includes his recent addition to Coke; Phil Coke that is in closing situations. Now the Tigers were in the same situation back in 2006; sweep the ALCS and wait a week while the NLCS goes seven. Then, they lost in five games. Let's see if Leyland does anything different to avoid the same fate.

Madison Bumgarner: What, expecting Matt Cain here? Now that Bumgarner is starting Game 2, he needs to be mentioned first. Also, because the Giants might be in a must-win situation should Game 1 unfold like most people expect it to.

New Matchup: Can you believe that this is the first time that the Tigers and the Giants are World Series foes? Considering the fact that both these teams have played in a number of World Series, the fact their paths haven't crossed is pretty surprising. Closest we came to a Tigers-Giants World Series was in 1908, when Fred Merkle's boner kept the Giants out of the World Series. In their place, the Cubs. Need I go on?

Octavio Dotel: He's looking to win the World Series for his second straight year. This is now his 13th team that he's played for and probably will look to do the MLB tour before its all said and done. Though if he wins again, then you might have to start picking the next team he plays with as World Series favorites.

Buster Posey: The likely NL MVP hasn't hit well this postseason; yet that hasn't stopped the Giants for reaching the World Series. At some point, he will need to start hitting if they are to beat the Tigers (though with this team, who know if that will be true). Fun fact: this matchup might be the first to feature both league MVP's since 1988.

Quinton Berry: He's only here because his name begins with the letter Q. Still, he plays an important role in left field and on the base paths since the Tigers lack overall team speed.

Sergio Romo: After years of seeing Tony fail in the playoffs, it's nice to finally see a Romo who can handle clutch situations. I kid of course, but not about Romo's play as the Giants closer. He represents the Giants biggest advantage over the Tigers: bullpen. Detroit hopes to avoid the bullpen as much as possible, while the Giants will go to it quickly if need be (Guillermo Mota doesn't qualify for this topic, nor should he ever qualify for any topic).

Sanchez and Scherzer: The pitchers the Tigers will have when the arrive back in Detroit could be huge if their strong play of late carries over. This is where the Tigers might be in a disadvantage on the mound (facing Vogelsong and Cain, the Giants two best), and more than likely, a split will be needed. It's also imperative that both men go deep in their games, avoid extra outs by the bullpen.

Tim Lincecum: While the Tigers starters worry no one in Detroit, the Giants have some issues beyond Matt Cain and Ryan Vogelsong. The fact that Lincecum continues to pitch poorly in starts, while pitching well from the bullpen appears to be the most annoying. It appears though that Bruce Bochy will leave The Freak in the bullpen, unless another awful Bumgarner performance occurs.

Umpiring: Here are your umpires for the World Series. Yes, you see that right, Country Joe West will be prominently involved. Don't say I didn't warn you. Knowing baseball, Fieldin Culbreth or Dan Issaogna will make an awful call at some point.

Justin Verlander: The best pitcher in baseball is tasked with continuing his terrific postseason and takes away the home-field advantage from the Giants in Game 1. I say this because it becomes a must-win for Detroit to steal the first game in order to have any chance to win the series.

Xavier Nady: Just kidding, but I'll use my X for the X Factor of the series: Marco Scutaro. He was the story in the NLCS from get the hard slide by Matt Holliday, to his MVP performance after hitting .500. The Giants won back in 2010 because of the exploits of Cody Ross and Edgar Renteria out of nowhere and they are back in the Fall Classic because of Scutaro. It's hard to suggest they'd lose if he continues his hot play.

Delmon Young: From LCS MVP to another. Young was rightfully the winner after driving in runs during each game against the Yankees. Unlike Scutaro, Young had this long layoff which could be harmful to his hot streak. If Prince Fielder starts hitting more, Young can be an afterthought, but Young comes up with runners on and needing to save rallies from dying, he'll have to be up to the task.

Barry Zito: He likely will start against Verlander in both Games 1 and 5. He pitches anything like Game 5 against St. Louis, and it would be such a boon for the Giants. It would also make his 7 year, $126 million contract from 2007 worth every penny (okay, not really).

Prediction: Giants in 7, continuing the zombie act for one last series.

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