Tuesday, October 23, 2012

2012 World Series Prediction: But So Is Momentum


I was real lucky – and, OK, fortunate – that I predicted before the playoffs began that the San Francisco Giants would win it all.  Might as well stick to that prediction.

The Giants are 6-0 in elimination games this postseason, but look a little closer and you’ll see a fuller picture.  They have been behind only one of those games, against the Cincinnati Reds in Game 3 of their National League Division Series, and they answered a run scored by the Red Legs in the first inning with a run of their own in the third.  In other words, while they have shown fortitude in coming back in a series (2-0 to Cincy, 3-1 to St. Louis in the National League Championship Series), they have really yet to rally in a game.

Yeah, regression to the mean is important.  But so is momentum.

On the other side, the Detroit Tigers will have had five days to rest their starting lineup and set up their pitching rotation by the time the Barry Zito kicks off the World Series in San Fran Wednesday night.  But making quick work in your Championship Series, like the Tigers did in sweeping the New York Yankees, is not a good thing, as recent history indicates.  Of the 19 teams that have swept Championship Series since their inception in 1969, only five of them have gone on to win the Fall Classic.  It looks like that a long layoff means a club gets rusty, not rested.

Yeah, rest is important.  But so is momentum.

Under the backdrop of these contradictory stats I cherry-picked, this is what will happen:

Justin Verlander will dominate.  He pitched 23 consecutive scoreless innings this postseason.  If he hasn’t established himself as the best pitcher in baseball, he will after this World Series.  Jim Leyland is sticking to his rotation, but he will win the two games he starts, Games 1 and 5.

There always is a surprise player who comes up big for the winning team.  At the very least, the other two legs of the Tigers triumvirate, Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder, will continue to produce.  Delmon Young, however, will not.  Just a hunch coming from a Twins fan who saw him come up short when the team needed him.  Yeah, he was the ALCS Most Valuable Player.  But when was the last time the same guy was named Championship and World Series MVP?

As I alluded to above, the key for the Giants appears to be keeping games close.  Not to say they aren’t due for a big rally this series.  But if Cabrera and Fielder get Detroit off to a fast start, I’m betting the Giants aren’t coming back.

But if San Francisco does keep a game close, and the hitting lineup is patient enough to chug through a Detroit starting pitching lineup (a big if right now), they will get to the Tigers bullpen, and fortune tips in the Giants’ favor.  Phil Coke has been a capable replacement for Jose Valverde as their closer, but it’s not going to be enough against a Giants team that can hit.  The Giants will break a tie late in a game against Detroit’s relievers and win – oh, I’ll say Game 4, a game Verlander wanted to start.

There is one other major advantage San Francisco has – more like a liability on the Tigers: Defense.  There will be a situation where either a player in the bottom third of the lineup hits a chopper, or Giants Manager Bruce Bochy will call for a bunt, to either corner infielder – who just happen to be the two best offensive players on the Tigers, Cabrera and Fielder.  And as great as they are with the bat, they will also show how deficient they are with the glove.  That will cost the Tigers several runs in this series, and I predict that it will also cost the Tigers another close game – oh, I’ll just say Game 6.

In the end, this has the makings of a true Fall Classic.  Let’s say that this goes the distance.  Game 7 is low-scoring and will go into extra innings.  Verlander is called upon to pitch on three days’ rest in, say, the 14th inning.  Angel Pagan hits a squibber to third that handcuffs Cabrera and squirts into left field.  Buster Posey ends the Tigers’ misery with a three-run homer off of Verlander, who manages to share the World Series MVP with Pagan.

My heart has no horse in this race.  I root against Detroit because they are in the American League Central with my Twins.  But I remain vehemently opposed to relocated teams, and I still feel for Manhattanites that had their hearts broken when the New York Giants moved west.  So I go to my head, and my head says that Detroit’s bullpen and defense will prevent Verlander from completing his trophy case with the Commissioner’s Trophy.  And the Giants will win their second trophy in three years.

Prediction: San Francisco in seven.

Posted by WilliamSou at 10:46 PM

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