The World Series is upon us, and game one is tonight at 8:00 PM. Justin Verlander starts for the Tigers against Barry Zito for the Giants. Taking a look at the full schedule of games…
Game One: Wednesday, 10/24 in San Francisco. Justin Verlander vs Barry Zito
Game Two: Thursday, 10/25 in San Francisco. Doug Fister vs Madison Bumgarner
Game Three: Saturday, 10/27 in Detroit. Anibal Sanchez vs Ryan Vogelsong
Game Four: Sunday, 10/28 in Detroit. Max Scherzer vs Matt Cain
Game Five: Monday, 10/29 in Detroit. TBA
Game Six: Wednesday, 10/31 in San Francisco. TBA
Game Seven: Thursday, 11/1 in San Francisco. TBA
The Tigers starting rotation has a huge advantage over the Giants rotation. With Matt Cain not starting until game four, the advantage towards the Tigers is even more pronounced. The Verlander-Zito matchup in games one and potentially five are highly in favor of Detroit. Verlander has essentially been untouchable in these playoffs so far, while Zito is one for two in good starts, with the good start coming on eight days rest. All of Detroit's starters will have extra rest in this series after they swept the Yankees in the ALCS, which might actually become a problem. After the egg that Madison Bumgarner has laid in the playoffs thusfar, game three between Sanchez and Vogelsong could be a must-win for the Giants this weekend.
Both teams have solid bullpens, but the Giants bullpen gets an extra boost with the addition of Tim Lincecum as a potentially dominant two or three inning reliever. If Bumgarner or Zito get blown out early, Lincecum can come in and absolutely shut down the Tigers like he did with the Reds in the NLDS. The fifth starter turned long reliever for the Tigers is Rick Porcello, who hasn't been used much in these playoffs and wouldn't be anywhere near as dominant of a reliever as Lincecum. On a pure matchup basis, the Giants have the ability to mix and match a lot better than the Tigers with three left-handed relievers in Jeremy Affeldt, Jose Mijares, and Javier Lopez. The Tigers have just two lefties in Drew Smyly and fill-in closer Phil Coke. Both teams are quite diverse with their lineups, being able to throw out an even mix of lefties and righties on a given day to potentially smite any matchups.
Offensively, the Tigers have the bigger power threats than the Giants in Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder. Cabrera is the best overall hitter in the series, but I think that Buster Posey is a better all-around hitter than Fielder. The rest of the regulars seem to also fall in favor of the Tigers, with Austin Jackson as the best outfielder (both offensively and defensively) between either team. Marco Scutaro is coming into the series on a tear after a 14 hit NLCS, but if Pablo Sandoval, Hunter Pence, and Posey aren't hitting behind him, those singles and doubles aren't going to do a ton of good for the Giants offense. By the same token, the Tigers can't rely all on Cabrera and Fielder to create offense for the team, and they didn't need to in the ALCS when Delmon Young stepped up and was a catalyst for their offense.
Picking a winner is tough. Both teams are quite good, and I think both can easily win the series. But for me, it comes down to this: the best players on the field are all Tigers. Justin Verlander can spin gems quite easily in games one and five, and the Giants would be in dire straits. But the series is seven games, and the Giants still can win the series if Verlander is his usual dominant self. The Giants need more things to go right to win the series than the Tigers do, and if they're able to keep the games close through six or seven innings, they can let the bullpen take over and try to sneak a run across. But if the Tigers starting pitchers come out on fire and simply shut down the San Francisco offense, just a couple of mistakes by Giants pitching can end the game.