In my mind I kind of laid out a long preview of the upcoming series. Fortunately for me, some other bloggers already beat me to it. As it is, it will be a much shorter preview while I lean on their work.
In Lee’s preview, he notes that the Yankees and Tigers are mirrors of each other in a way. The Tigers are first in run prevention and 5th in run production, while the Yankees are 1st in run production and 5th in run prevention.
The Yankees outscored their opponents by 163 runs while the Tigers had a positive margin of 144 runs.
The Yankees sport a lineup of All Stars and future Hall of Famers. Their double play combination finished 2nd and 3rd in batting average, besting the effort of Whitaker and Trammell in 1983 when they finished 3rd and 4th. Position by position the Tigers don’t have a player on the field in which they have an advantage over the Yankees.
The Tigers offense is adequate though given the level at which their pitching has performed. However, as Kurt notes those pitchers haven’t been particularly effective this year against the Yankees with the exception of Wil Ledezma who won’t be in the rotation.
The Tigers rotation will be Nate Robertson, Justin Verlander, Kenny Rogers, and Jeremy Bonderman. Unlike many I don’t feel that the order of the rotation will be that significant. All 4 pitchers are above average, and all 4 have question marks. Kenny Rogers has pitched in 6 post seasons with an ERA at 8.85. Justin Verlander, Jeremy Bonderman, and Nate Robertson are all in unchartered territory in terms of experience and workload.
The Yankees will start with Chien Ming Wang followed by Mike Mussina. Both have had outings where they completely shut down the Tigers. After that though things could get a little easier, especially if Randy Johnson isn’t able to pitch. The Yankees will then be turning to Jaret Wright and Cory Lidle.
The Season Series
The Yankees lead the season series 5-2 over Detroit. Those games include taking 3 of 4 in Comerica and 2 of 3 in the Bronx Tiger fans can probably take solace in the fact that 5 of the 7 games were decided by 2 runs or less, or went to extra innings. They should probably be concerned in that their only 2 wins were late inning comebacks against non Mariano Rivera pitchers.
Over the 7 games the Tigers were outscored 38-23.
Game 1: May 29th – Yankees 4, Tigers 0
This was a matinee match-up of Jeremy Bonderman and Randy Johnson. Both pitchers were very good, but Randy Johnson was very better. The only offense the Tigers could muster was a Carlos Guillen double and Ivan Rodriguez single.
Game 2: May 30th – Yankees 11, Tigers 6
Roman Colon was making his first start in place of Mike Maroth. It didn’t go so well as he was lifted in the 3rd inning after giving up 5 runs. The Tigers chipped away at the lead, and in the process “Gum Time” was born. The Tigers tied the score in the 8th off of Kyle Farnsworth. Mariano Rivera pitched 3 scoreless innings and in the meantime things fell apart in Todd Jones second inning to the tune of 5 runs. The thing is, the Tigers had a chance to win it in the 8th with Craig Monroe on 3rd with 1 out. Strike outs by Curtis Granderson and Placido Polanco ended the rally. By the same token, the Yankees nearly pushed across a run in the 9th when Robinson Cano tried to score on a wild pitch but was tagged out by Rodney.
Game 3: May 31st – Yankees 6, Tigers 1
This game was delayed an hour due to rain. I remember because I was there. Mike Mussina was an Alex Rodriguez throwing error away from a shut out in this one. The Tigers managed only 7 baserunners yet hit into 3 double plays. Nate Robertson was nearly up to the task before allowing 2 runs in both the 8th and 9th innings and falling 1 out short of a complete game.
Game 4: June 1st – Tigers 7, Yankees 6
Once again the Tigers spotted the Yankees 5 runs. This time it was Justin Verlander and a bleeding cut on his hand. Verlander made it through 5 innings though as his teammates chipped away at the lead. The Tigers scored 2 runs in the 9th when a Marcus Thames walk was followed by 3 singles by Pudge Rodriguez, Magglio Ordonez, and Carlos Guillen. The damage came off of Kyle Farnsworth because Mariano Rivera wasn’t available after hurting his back when he went to tie his shoes.
Game 5: August 30th – Yankees 2, Tigers 0
It was a typical Nate Robertson start where he allows some baserunners, but only a couple actually score. Meanwhile, Chien Ming Wang pitched 7 2/3 innings on only 3 hits and 2 walks. Scott Proctor and Mariano Rivera cleaned up the last inning and a third. The Yankees easily took the front end of the doubleheader.
Game 6: August 30th – Tigers 5, Yankees 3
The Tigers actually took a lead in this game with a run in the 2nd and a run in the 4th. Things were looking great for Wil Ledezma until a Sal Fasano HBP and a Melky Cabrera double put runners on 2nd and 3rd. Fernando Rodney relieved and allowed a double to Derek Jeter who would later come around to score. The Tigers were stymied on scoring chances in the 7th and 8th innings. With Rivera unavailable after pitching in the first game of the double header, Brandon Inge and Curtis Granderson drew walks to set-up a 3 run homer by Monroe in the 9th inning.
Game 7: August 31st – Yankees 6, Tigers 4
It was Jeremy Bonderman against Randy Johnson and once again Johnson out pitched Bonderman. Jeremy was knocked around by Alex Rodriguez while Randy Johnson carved up the Tigers and allowed only 4 hits. Marcus Thames 2nd homer with a man on in the 9th made things more interesting. But after Ordonez greeted Mariano Rivera with a double, the Tigers were retired in order.
What The Experts Are Saying
It’s pretty much unanimous that the Yankees are going to win, it’s just a matter of how quickly. Deadspin has the round-up with the consensus being a 4 game series.
Baseball Prospectus has a very well researched preview in which they take the Yankees in 4, but acknowledge that the Tigers really do have a chance.
What do I think
As I compiled this I have a hard time picking the Tigers in this series. They are out manned in the starting lineup. Their rock solid rotation seems to be crumbling. Their bench is contructed of a back-up catcher and 4 pinch-runner/defensive replacements. They are relying on many players who are inexperienced in this sort of thing against a storied franchise. And then there was that pesky 5 game losing streak at the end of the season. (Fortunately, that last one has been shown to not have a significant impact on postseason success)
At the same time, the mere fact that the Tigers are still playing means they have a shot. If the Tigers can find a way to take one of the first 2 games I actually believe the Tigers will win this series. This is fully a homer pick and not based on anything resembling solid logic. I’m confident that Kenny Rogers and Jeremy Bonderman can pick up wins against the Yankees 3rd and 4th options. Of course I was confident that the Tigers could beat the Royals and that didn’t mean a whole lot, but right now I’m looking for reasonable doubt.
This Tiger team has defied expectations all season. First of all they weren’t supposed to be good in the first place. They were supposed to fold in June after that tough stretch. They were supposed to maintain a 10 game year. They were supposed to beat the Royals. Whatever they are supposed to do, they seem to do the opposite. Right now the consensus is they should go quietly to the Yankees, let’s hope they can prove everyone wrong again.