And Then There Were Two… And Two More

The ALCS kicks off today with the Detroit Tigers playing the host Texas Rangers in Arlington. Now take a minute to digest that.
Done digesting? If you haven’t figured out the painstakingly clear fact — there are no AL East teams even near the World Series.
You can make all the arguments you want that it would have been better to have two of the most historic teams in American Sports history (Boston and New York) in the ALCS with a World Series birth on the line. But let’s be honest here, Boston didn’t make the playoffs to begin with, and while New York lost Game 5 to the Tigers, it was pretty clear that they flopped like their Boston counterparts.
What’s more is that the Tigers and Rangers are not, that’s right ARE NOT, located on the east coast. No more of the east coast supremacy or anything like that. Also over in the senior circuit the two teams in the NLCS are the St. Louis Cardinals and Milwaukee Brewers. Yep that’s right, no east coast teams will take part in the World Series.
But back to Tigers-Rangers — both teams have offenses that could make the best pitchers go running home to mommy  and probably two of the best bullpens in the league, but I think this series comes down to starting pitching.
The obvious argument for Detroit is Justin Verlander and his ability to start possibly three games. But if you look beyond that you’ll realize that there’s more to Detroit World Series candidacy than just him. Just to be clear, in no way am I discrediting Verlander’s likely CY Young win and shot at the MVP, but it’s not a one-man show. Games two, three and four will feature Max Scherzer, Doug Fister and Rick Porcello. No miss-prints, Jimmy Leyland is sticking to his guns with his rotation. This means Verlander goes again in Game 5 and Fister toes the rubber in a potential Game 7.
With 2008 World Series participants Tampa and Philadelphia out of the playoff picture it’s clear that Detroit has the best rotation left standing in the playoffs. Yes, Texas is good with CJ Wilson and designed-for-postseason  pitcher Colby Lewis, and Milwaukee’s new additions of Zack Grienke and Shawn Marcum plus Yovanni Gallardo and Randy Wolf make them formidable, but I’ll take Motown’s four over anyone else’s rotation.
Now to the fireworks. Both the Rangers and Tigers are ranked in the top five in run scored, batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage. Both have added pieces in the last year that put their GMs up for executive of the year. Texas brought in Adrian Beltre and Mike Napoli to strengthen a lineup that already was a top-tier squad in the hitting department. Meanwhile in the offseason the Tigers added Victor Martinez, who led the league in batting average with runners in scoring position — something that is extremely important when hitting behind one Miguel Cabrera. The midseason additions of Delmon Young, Wilson Betemit, David Pauley and the aforementioned Fister have also boosted Detroit into the postseason.
This is no walk in the park by any means for either side. Both are evenly matched and honestly this thing could go either way. To give you an idea of how close it is here is a position-by-position breakdown on who has the advantages:
• Catcher- Push
• First Base- Detroit
• Second Base- Texas
• Shortstop-Detroit
• Third Base- Texas
• Left Field- Texas
• Center Field- Detroit
• Right Field- Texas
• Starting Pitching- Detroit
• Relief Pitching- Push
That’s four advantages each with two pushes. Talk about a nail-biter.
This series could end up as a seven-game thriller or could be a four-game offensive dominated sweep. I’m taking more of the former here, but not seven. I think the offenses will cancel each other out, and the pitching will decide this series. That’s why I’ll take the Tigers 4 games to 2.

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