In the most intriguing Divisional Round matchup, the New York Yankees have a clear advantage over the Detroit Tigers. The Yankees are favored in the series after being the best team in the American League over the course of the season.
The Yankees' superiority will show in this series, as they will dispose of the Tigers. The Tigers come in with the third best record in the American League and had the fortune of drawing the Yankees for the playoffs. Although Justin Verlander has had the season of a generation, the Tigers will still come up short.
So here are ten reasons the Yankees will beat the Tigers in this series.
NOTE 1: The slides are in no particular order
NOTE 2: I am a Mets fan so don't claim bias on either side
The Yankees have made the playoffs every year since 1995, except for 2008. During this time, their core has remained basically the same. The Yankees play all year to win in October. They expect to win the World Series in order to meet the fans' expectations.
The Tigers made the World Series in 2006, in part by defeating the Yankees in the Division Series. The Tigers have not been to the playoffs since. In 2009 they blew a six-game lead against the Twins and lost a one-game playoff.
The Yankees clearly have an edge in experience with their recent success. The Tigers will be in a new position, and will have to overcome adversity to win this series.
The Tigers and Yankees ended the season with the same road record, but the Yankees finished two games better at home. The Yankees have home-field advantage in this series, and this will be important to them, especially in Game 1 and Game 5.
Justin Verlander is the best pitcher in baseball. However that does not mean he is unbeatable. The Yankees will counter Verlander with C.C. Sabathia, who struggled late this season but will certainly turn it on in October (especially with an opt-out clause in his contract at the end of this season).
The Tigers are relying on winning both of Verlander's starts in this round to have a chance of beating the Yankees. If the Yankees can steal one of the games that Verlander starts, they will certainly win the series.
With C.C. Sabathia on the mound, the Yankees have a chance to beat Verlander.
Not only did the Yankees have the best record in the American League, but they did it in the toughest division in the American League. The Yankees played in a division with three teams (including the Yankees) who were over .500, and the Blue Jays finished at .500 exactly.
The Tigers played in a division where all four other teams finished below .500. Since baseball relies on an unbalanced schedule, the Tigers got to beat up on their division to inflate their record, while the Yankees played a tougher schedule and still finished with a better record.
This may seem like a minor detail, but it shows that the Yankees are better than the Tigers by a wider margin than the standings suggest.
Ivan Nova has become the No. 2 pitcher for the Yankees after his strong second half. Nova has an explosive fastball that he has used this season to blow past hitters. With Nova, the Yankees have a bona-fide one-two punch at the top of the rotation.
One concern is Nova's status as a rookie. The nerves of the playoffs could overcome him and cause him to have a bad outing. This could happen, but I don't trust Doug Fister (although he's been a terrific pick-up) any more than Nova.
Mariano Rivera is the greatest closer of all time. Jose Valverde puts a lot of people on base and gives fans a heart attack every time he pitches. Hey Mr. Valverde, you can't put men on base when you play the Yankees. They will hurt you.
The Yankees bullpen has turned into a strength of the team, with David Robertson and Rafael Soriano finally finding their groove as the bridge to Rivera.
The Yankees shorten the game with their bullpen, making it harder for the Tigers to win these close games.
The Yankees are superior to the Tigers in most team offensive categories. The Bombers scored more runs, had a higher on-base percentage, slugging percentage and a lot more home runs. The Yankees' lineup is scary, and can score in more ways than one. They don't just rely on the home run, but can manufacture runs, as they were among the league leaders in stolen bases.
The Tigers have a very good lineup as well. Miguel Cabrera won the AL batting title with a .344 average, and has led the Tigers offensively. Alex Avila, Delmon Young (good pick-up) and Jhonny Peralta have led the offense, and will need to have a big series for the Tigers to keep up with the Yankees.
In addition to having power, the Yankees ranked third in the American League in stolen bases. Brett Gardner leads the way with his speed, along with Curtis Granderson. Stolen bases can change the course of a game and make something out of nothing, which is huge in the playoffs.
The Tigers, on the other hand, were dead last in the MLB in stolen bases (the Bombers had 147 steals compared to 49 for the Tigers). If the Tigers are going to rely on power for their offensive production, the Yankees have an edge.
Side note: How have no other Yankees fans come up with an idea for "Brett's Gardners?" A few buddies and I dressed up as farmers in left field of Yankee Stadium and held up a sign for Brett's Gardners, and nobody else has continued it. Bad job by Yankee fans.
Do I have to say more, or does the picture say it all? Derek Jeter does not let his teammates slack off, and he leads by example. This has been shown numerous times in the playoffs where Jeter has been clutch. Don't argue with me that it doesn't matter, because it does.
Here's a fun stat: The Tigers have not been to Yankee Stadium since April 3rd (the third game of the season), and have not seen the Yankees since May 5th. The Yankees and Tigers are both different teams from the ones that faced each other on May 5th.
With this lack of familiarity, the edge has to go to the better overall team, which is the Yankees. Although the Tigers won the season series 4-3, the time in between then and now is so great that those games could be thrown in the garbage because they don't matter.
If the teams played recently, I'd put a lot more stock into those outcomes than the ones in early April and May.
The Yankees come into this series finished the season strong despite losing two of three to the Rays to end the season. Now as they prepare for the Tigers, the Yankees have to think that they will dispose of the Tigers quickly.
The Yankees are overall a better team and should win this series. The Tigers cannot be taken lightly though, as Justin Verlander can put Detroit in the driver's seat with a dominant Game 1. The Tigers will be a tough team to defeat, especially in a short series, but the Yankees will do it based on their skill.
This won't be a short series, but the Yankees will win.
PREDICTION- YANKEES IN 5
Thanks for the read, and feel free to comment.
Keep the military in your thoughts and prayers.
Follow me on the twitter- @RobertDemmett