2012 ALCS: Complete Breakdown of Detroit Tigers vs. New York Yankees
After perhaps the most exciting set of divisional series' in MLB history, the ALCS has now been decided.
Justin Verlander shut down the Oakland Athletics in Game 5 to bring in the Detroit Tigers, and CC Sabathia did the same against the Baltimore Orioles for the New York Yankees.
Now, we have two teams that came very close to elimination yet are facing off in the ALCS. Both teams have a legitimate ace, a potent lineup and, on paper, the two are quite evenly matched.
Looking more closely at the lineups, which team has the advantage? Who has the better rotation, bullpen, infield and manager?
Read on for further analysis.
The starting rotation for each team can be broken down into two parts: aces and depth.
Justin Verlander and CC Sabathia could very well be the two best pitchers in the American League, and having those two face off is a dream matchup.
As a result, any advantage has to come in the depth. Hiroki Kuroda and Andy Pettitte have proved that they can hold their own, and Phil Hughes as a No. 4 guy is quite good.
In Detroit, having Doug Fister, Anibal Sanchez and Max Scherzer provide very similar numbers to what the Yankees' depth can pull off. With the exception of the Yankees' rotation's age, you really cannot get two more evenly matched rotations than these.
The starting rotations may be a push, but does one bullpen hold an advantage over the other? I'd say just from watching the two perform in the ALDS, one has a clear advantage.
Even without Mariano Rivera, the Yankees still have Rafael Soriano and David Robertson to close out games. The only weakness in the bullpen seems to be Joba Chamberlain, and since the bullpen has not been used all that often, that should be a minimal issue.
For whatever reason, Jose Valverde is a bad playoff closer. He has three losses to five saves with an ERA of 6.59 in his playoff career. The rest of the bullpen is solid, especially Octavio Dotel and Joaquin Benoit, but it doesn't matter if Valverde can't get it done.
Here's a spot where the Tigers have a clear advantage, at least to me. Neither catcher is bad defensively, and both had a solo shot in decent ALDS performances, so it comes down to the regular season.
Russell Martin is good for providing home runs when needed with 21 on the year, but he barely hit over .200. Alex Avila struggled compared to last year, but he provides a more well-rounded game than Martin does (more walks and doubles on the year).
The corner infield spots are where you expect a lot of power to come from, and that is certainly the case for Detroit. Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera are two of the most feared hitters in the league, especially Cabrera and his Triple Crown win.
While Mark Teixeira can hold his own and can contribute solidly, he isn't hitting for average like he used to. The much-maligned Alex Rodriguez is clearly not the player he once was.
For as much as Detroit's corner infielders get the job done, New York's middle infield has a big advantage. Robinson Cano had yet another fantastic season, and while he struggled in the ALDS, he usually performs well and can turn it around.
As for Derek Jeter, he may struggle with his fielding at times, but he is an all-time postseason great. Can the same be said of the Tigers?
Jhonny Peralta played decently in the ALDS, but he has fallen from last year's career season. Omar Infante has had a nice postseason too, but he's a far cry from Cano.
Both teams have different qualities in their outfield which work to their advantage, and both have outfielders you would expect.
The Yankees have Ichiro Suzuki, Curtis Granderson and Nick Swisher. Granderson and Swisher provide power, and Ichiro provides speed and fielding. None of them were good in the ALDS, though, so they will need to step it up.
Quintin Berry and Austin Jackson have both provided good speed and fielding, and Jackson in particular has had a great year. Brennan Boesch had been a weak link during the season, but replacing him with Andy Dirks turned out to be a nice move in the ALDS.
The Yankees have a slight advantage here with their power and speed combination, even if Ichiro is past his prime.
As we saw in Game 3 of the Yankees-Orioles series, sometimes the series can come down to the team's bench, especially if they have some solid experience there.
The Yankees have Raul Ibanez and his two ALDS home runs, and Eric Chavez can serve well if A-Rod struggles again. As for Detroit, Avisail Garcia has been solid as a fourth outfielder who was a September call-up, but its backups elsewhere leave much to be desired.
If a game were to come to a 15-inning war of attrition, the Yankees look that much better.
I was originally going to call this one a push, even though the two are quite different. Jim Leyland and Joe Girardi run their teams differently, but it's clear that they get results.
The one thing that pushes me toward Girardi here is his ability to know his players. Pinch-hitting Raul Ibanez for Alex Rodriguez in the playoffs sounds silly on the surface, even given A-Rod's struggles.
The result? Ibanez hit two pinch-hit home runs, giving the Yankees the win. You think Leyland would take Fielder out of the lineup even if he failed to get a hit in the ALCS? I'm not as convinced on that end.
Intangibles are something you cannot put a finger on even though they are there. It's how Baltimore was able to do so well all year, and simply having the momentum could mean a lot in the ALDS.
Both teams eventually trumped "Cinderella stories," advancing thanks to the Game 5 aces.
Despite all their differences, the Yankees and Tigers have the same intangibles. They have the motivation to win from the high payroll, they are trying to live up to expectations and they want to topple a major force now that they beat the promising upstart team.
In short, there's a reason these were two of the teams projected to be in the playoffs, possibly the ALCS.
This strikes me as a series where the team that wins Game 1 could win the series in four or five, unlike what we saw in the divisional series.
In my opinion, the 2-0 and 3-1 victories we saw in the ALDS won't happen here. There are too many capable bats on these teams for that to happen, especially on the days where Verlander and Sabathia will not be pitching.
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