4 Detroit Tigers Looking Like World Series Goats

Clarence Baldwin JrAnalyst IOctober 26, 2012

4 Detroit Tigers Looking Like World Series Goats

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    Despite a very good pitching performance by Doug Fister, the Detroit Tigers were defeated tonight 2-0 by the surging San Francisco Giants.

    The simple math does not do them many favors. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, 50 teams have taken a 2-0 lead in a best-of-seven World Series. Ultimately, 40 of them went on to win the title. The last team to erase a 2-0 deficit in the Fall Classic were the 1996 New York Yankees.

    That means, to bring home their first championship in 28 years, the Tigers have to overcome long odds and a white-hot opponent. Unfortunately, there are players who have not performed thus far and appear likely to wear goat horns if Detroit can't rally.

4. Gerald Laird and Alex Avila

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    Both catchers have had a start in the 2012 World Series. Both catchers looked abysmal in three at-bats in their game. Avila was behind the plate as Justin Verlander was rocked in Game 1. It is hard to lay much blame on the catchers for the pitching, but there was a sequence that stands out. 

    After Angel Pagan's fluke double in Game 1, Marco Scutaro came to the plate with two outs in the third inning with a 1-0 Giants lead. In an eight-pitch at-bat, it was evident that Scutaro couldn't do much with Verlander's inside fastball. But Avila called for a fastball away that Scutaro stroked to center for a base hit, which preceded Pablo Sandoval's second home run that put the game away.

    Little things make a big difference in the World Series. If you aren't going to hit, you have to keep your pitchers in the best spot to win. 

3. Drew Smyly

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    Smyly gets this distinction not because he allowed the second run in Game 2 but because he allowed it with relatively little resistance. Doug Fister had pitched his tail off, even overcoming a scary liner to the head off of Gregor Blanco's bat. Upon his exit, the score was still...well, there was no score.

    Enter Smyly.

    And after three batters, exit the tie and possibly the series. To make matters worse, he began the eighth inning by allowing two walks (albeit, one intentional) before exiting. When his inherited runner scored, the game was over.

    Smyly is the left-handed specialist. The Giants have a lineup littered with lefties. If he doesn't get those guys out (Brandon Belt, Brandon Crawford, Sandoval), his role is essentially useless.

    The Tigers needed to be almost perfect because they were stymied at the plate. It didn't happen, and now they have to buck history.

2. Avisail Garcia

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    The phenom has been a phe-not thus far. Avisail Garcia is dubbed by many as a Miguel Cabrera clone. Unfortunately for Detroit, he has played more like Karim Garcia thus far. 

    It is understandable that Garcia would get the nod over Andy Dirks just based on matchups; both Barry Zito and Madison Bumgarner are obviously left-handed. But if you are going to insert a righty in the lineup, he better hit.

    Dirks was a .320 hitter in 2012 and was solid, if not spectacular, in the postseason.

    By contrast, Garcia's most notable moment in these playoffs was his misplay of Coco Crisp's single in Game 4 of the ALDS that allowed the winning run to score without a throw. Likely, Garcia will be benched, as Ryan Vogelsong and Matt Cain, two righties, start the next two games. 

    If he is going to play again, that means Detroit will have to win with Garcia watching—not a good omen.

1. Prince Fielder

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    When you are hitting behind a Triple Crown winner, your job is to pick up what the other team does not allow that player to deliver. Miguel Cabrera has been pitched carefully, as expected. That means Prince Fielder has had chances to make the Giants pay, as expected.

    And, well, he hasn't. Fielder isn't the worst hitting position player for the Tigers (.250). He hasn't made any critical defensive mistakes or anything like that. But Detroit did not shell out $214 million for a player to have a pair of singles while hitting behind Cabrera in the World Series.

    This series is going to be an indictment of Fielder, fair or foul. So far, he looks guilty of not delivering in the big moment. He is 0-for-2 with runners in scoring position. His slugging percentage is the same as Omar Infante's. The simple truth is that he has not made the plays he is supposed to make.

    Oh yeah, I don't put the blame on Fielder for getting gunned down at home in the second inning. That is on third-base coach Gene Lamont. But that play is symbolic of Fielder's performance, not just in the World Series, but by and large in the postseason.

    He has not delivered, and without his bat, Cabrera will be a large bystander however long this series lasts. 

Final Analysis

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    The saving grace for Detroit and its rabid fans is coming home to Comerica Park. But don't get too comfortable yet; the Giants haven't even shot its biggest pitching guns, Vogelsong and Cain.

    In many ways, this is looking like a carbon copy of 2010, when the Giants made all the plays the Texas Rangers did not en route to a five-game series victory. The symmetry is almost frightening. A blowout loss followed by a tight, tense Game 2 win. That bodes well for the Tigers, as Texas won its only game in Game 3. 

    And it is true that Detroit is a different team at home. Undefeated thus far in the postseason at Comerica Park, the Tigers will need more than a loud crowd and different dimensions to make this a series.

    They're going to need players to step up. These players haven't delivered, and if they continue to shoot blanks, Detroit is going to watch a celebration—at its expense.