Wednesday, October 24, 2012

World Series Preview

The San Francisco Giants completed their stunning comeback on Monday night by blowing out the St. Louis Cardinals, 9-1, in Game 7 of the NLCS. The Giants looked done when they dropped three of the first four games to the defending World Series champs, but with their backs to the wall they rallied. San Francisco held the Cardinals offense, the same lineup that scored the second most runs in the Senior Circuit and featured Matt Holliday, Yadier Molina, Carlos Beltran, Allen Craig, and David Freese, to only one run over the final three games.  Meanwhile, the Giants offense scored 20 times in the same span to eliminate the Redbirds and secure their second National League pennant in three years. They will face the Detroit Tigers, who swept the Yankees in the ALCS last week by silencing New York's expensive bats.

Both teams have great pitching, good hitting and excellent managers at the helm, so it should be a great series. Here is why I think the San Francisco Giants will win in 6:

1. The Giants have home field advantage

Thanks to the National League's Melky Cabrera-driven 8-0 All-Star Game victory, the Giants enjoy home field advantage in the Fall Classic.  This edge could prove to be decisive because Giants pitchers thrived at AT&T Park, where they compiled a 3.09 ERA, 1.20 WHIP and limited opponents to a .649 OPS. That doesn't bode well for Detroit, whose lineup and pitching were significantly worse on the road this year. Away from Comerica Park, the Tigers offense scored 60 fewer runs, slugged 21 fewer home runs and posted an OPS that was 71 points lower compared to their home totals. Furthermore, AT&T Park is a hitter's nightmare that figures to give Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder and co. fits. But the hitters weren't the only ones who struggled; Detroit's team ERA jumped by more than half a run and their opponents' OPS climbed 51 points. It's no wonder, then, that Detroit has played sub-.500 ball on the road this year. Playoffs included, they're an uninspiring 40-45 away from home. The Giants are 52-36 at home.

2. The postseason is all about pitching, and the Giants have more of it
San Francisco fielded one one of the best pitching staffs in baseball this year, and it's not hard to see why. Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, and Ryan Vogelsong were outstanding while Barry Zito and Tim Lincecum rounded out the rotation. The bullpen, sans Brian Wilson, has been nothing short of phenomenal. The Tigers have the best pitcher on the planet in Justin Verlander, but even he has not been immune to postseason struggles. Coming into the playoffs, the 2011 AL Cy Young winner/MVP had a 5.57 ERA spanning eight playoff starts. He's been untouchable thus far, but who's to say he won't get lit up a la CC Sabathia? Max Scherzer has been just as good, but he's notoriously inconsistent and could be due for a licking as well. Anibal Sanchez and Doug Fister are above average starters, but neither one possesses dominant stuff. Plus the bullpen, Jose Valverde in particular, has been shaky.

3. The Giants have enough offense to support their pitchers
In 2010, the Giants caught lightning in a bottle when the likes of Cody Ross, Edgar Renteria, and Andres Torres elevated their games in October and sparked San Francisco to the championship. This time around, San Fran's offensive attack is led by more talented and established hitters. Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval and Hunter Pence form an intimidating heart of the order. With Angel Pagan and NLCS MVP Marco Scutaro setting the table for them, they should have opportunities to drive in runs and do some damage.

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