Friday, October 11, 2013

The Other Half of the Deal

I sort of backdoored my way into an NLCS prediction yesterday, although while I said I pick the Dodgers to beat the Cardinals, I didn't say how many games. It's too close to call I suppose. And since I made an impromptu prediction I suppose I have to follow that up by saying a few words about the impending ALCS between the Detroit Tigers and the Boston Red Sox, a pair of old school teams built around the power of the big names.

Many Baseball fans tend to dislike the Red Sox, particularly after they won World Series Championships in 2004. It's perfectly reasonable; winning two titles after 86 years of not winning much of anything (and losing in spectacular ways), many frontrunning fans came out of the woodwork and Red Sox Nation sort of exploded into this big, really annoying "thing," sort of like the "thing" that makes me hate teams like the Green Bay Doublechecks, the 0-6 Dancing Victor Cruzs and another team that plays in the northern reaches of New York City, where the fans think their shit don't stink and it's somehow their God-Given right to win every time. That being said, because I'm not living in Boston rooting for another team, and because what the Red Sox did to that New York team in 2004 is, perhaps, one of the greatest things I've ever witnessed in Baseball, I will always have a soft spot for the Red Sox. The Tigers and the Mets have no particular rivalry although had things broken one way or another 7 years ago, maybe that would be different. But their paths never crossed in anything beyond some interleague games here and there and so my feelings towards them are somewhat indifferent, although I like their roster very much.

The Tigers coasted through the season behind the exploits of Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder, and rode outstanding starting pitching to their 3rd straight Division title. Their offense was good enough to cover up a really suspect bullpen although they kind of tailed off towards the end of the season when Cabrera got hurt. Then, they barely survived the ALDS against Oakland. After Jim Leyland stupidly left Anibal Sanchez out to drown in Game 3, the Tigers appeared headed for a colossal upset. But the series turned on Victor Martinez' Maier-like Home Run late in Game 4, and last night back in Oakland, they laid down the hammer in the name of Justin Verlander to stop the A's in their tracks. The Red Sox kind of bulldozed their way through the AL East and through their Division Series with the Rays. They have the pop in their lineup behind David Ortiz and Mike Napoli, but their greater strength is the fact that the majority of their lineup just grinds pitchers up. Ellsbury, my man Victorino and Dustin Pedroia at the top of the lineup are 3 guys who waste pitches like they mean it and ensure that by the 5th inning of every game a) the Starting Pitcher is totally taxed and b) the game is no less than 2 hours long. This creates problems for Detroit, whose bullpen is not as bad as the 2008 Mets, but perhaps a tick below the 2013 Mets, if that's a good reference point.

I was somewhat torn on who to pick in this series, if only because Detroit can fall back on the "good pitching beats good hitting" adage, and they certainly boast the better starters. Also, the Tigers have more to prove, because they made it through to the World Series last year only to get swept and embarrassed by the Giants. Everything from here on out is Gravy for the Red Sox. They didn't have a Postseason to get embarrassed in last year because they were an embarrassment from Day 1, right on the heels of a catastrophic collapse in 2011. But John Farrell and a few new faces (like my man Victorino) changed the culture and made the Sox winners again. They may not have the pure firepower that the Tigers have, but they're a more complete team, and sometimes the whole can be greater than the sum of the parts. I say Sox in 7.

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