Saturday, October 13, 2012
2012 ALCS Preview - Tigers vs. Yankees
It took the Yankees and Tigers the full five games for both teams to advance past the ALDS, but here they are. The problem for both teams is that they had to use their aces in the fifth game, which means they can’t start the ALCS with Justin Verlander or CC Sabathia.
The Tigers as presently constituted are better than the 88 win team in the AL Central that they were this year, at least if you believe the projections. Here’s how their offense projects over a seven game series using Oliver from the Hardball Times.
The Tigers obviously have the two best hitters in this series in Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder. The rest of the lineup is not quite as impressive. They’ve been platooning Alex Avila and Gerald Laird at catcher and Avisail Garcia and Quintin Berry in he OF, so I’ve assumed they’ll continue doing that. Defense was an issue for them for most of the year, but adding Omar Infante and getting Brennan Boesch out of the lineup seems to have helped them there quite a bit, and with Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer striking out everyone it’s probably not going to be a big problem in three of the games at least.
If we give them 27 outs per game they project to score an estimated 36.6 runs over 7 games.
Here’s how their pitching looks.
The Tigers have Doug Fister, Anibal Sanchez, Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer lined up to pitch the first four games. In theory that would mean Fister, Sanchez and Verlande would pitch games 5-7, but since those games won’t be played it doesn’t matter. The rotation is strong, with only Anibal Sanchez projecting worse than any of the starters the Orioles threw at the Yankees and he’s only .03 runs per nine worse than Jason Hammel and Wei-Yin Chen’s projections. If the Yankees had trouble with Baltimore’s starters, they’re really going to have trouble with Detroit’s.
They’ve had some issues with their closer, who projects worse than Joaquin Benoit and Octavio Dotel so it’ll be interesting to see if Jim Leyland sticks with him if he struggles in his first appearance or two. Our old friend Phil Coke is their main lefty out of the pen, although Drew Smyly provides depth there as well. You can futz around with how I assigned the bullpen innings but if you don’t they project to allow 27 runs in this series.
36.6 runs scored and 25 runs allowed equals a team that would win about 63.8% of their games, or 103.3 over a 162 game season.
How does that compare to the Yankees? Let’s see. First, the position players.
I’m kind of hoping that Alex Rodriguez will be back in the lineup for good but I’ve given some of his PA to Eric Chavez in case. With Detroit’s rotation all right-handed, the Shockmaster™ should be mostly full-time. We may see Nun-E and Nixy a few times so I threw them a few PA as well. With these assumptions they’d project to score a bit less than one run more than the Tigers over seven games. Of course, they’ll have to hit a lot better than they hit in the ALDS to even sniff that number.
The pitching is a mess. By blowing Game 4, the Yankees lost the option to start CC in Game 1. The good news is they have Andy Pettitte fully rested to start Game 1. Unfortunately, they have no one else from the ALDS rotation who can start on full rest in Game 2. They could try Hiroki Kuroda on three days rest but he’s never started on three days rest and I don’t think they’ll go that route. My guess is they’ll use David Phelps with Derek Lowe caddying him in Game 2 and hope for the best, then bring back CC on three days rest to match up against Verlander in Game 3. That would set him up to pitch in the theoretical Game 7 that won’t happen since Detroit’s going to sweep but let’s let our imaginations run wild.
So my guess at the rotation is something like: Andy Pettitte, David Phelps, CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, Phil Hughes, Andy Pettitte, CC Sabathia.
The order could change. Pettitte would have four days rest before Game 5 so he could start that one. I’m more concerned about how the innings get allocated than the order for this so let’s press on.
Because of the mess that is the rotation I gave Derek Lowe more innings than I’d typically give a long reliever and the worst projected pitcher on the staff. It shouldn’t make a huge difference on the bottom line though.
Based on this playing time the Yankees figure to allow around 28 runs, which makes them a roughly 62.7%/101.6 win team.
Detroit has a slight edge at .638 vs. .621. Having home field advantage gives the Yankees about a .006 boost, so you’ve got something like a .633 team playing a .624 team. Given that, here’s what my playoff simulator says for this series.
The Tigers are slight favorites, but it’s basically a tossup. It’d be nice for the Yankees to avenge the last two times Detroit knocked them out of the playoffs, but I’m not betting on that happening.
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