Tigers Need to Capitalize on Pitching Advantage in First Three Games

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The starting pitching matchups haven’t officially been announced for the entire series, but I think we can piece things together. Detroit has announced their first three starters, Justin Verlander, Doug Fister, and Max Scherzer will handle those duties, but apparently the fourth starter is still up in the air. The obviously correct choice is Rick Porcello, but part of me is scared that Jim Leyland will pull the “experience” card and go with Brad Penny despite his horrible end to the season (6.75 September ERA). I’m going to proceed with the assumption of Porcello until the unthinkable happens. Either way, Leyland has said he’s sticking with the four man rotation and that he will not pitch Verlander in game four on short rest.

The issue is a bit different with the Yankees. C.C. Sabathia and Ivan Nova are set to pitch games one and two, and apparently they’ve settled on Freddy Garcia for game three. They’ll come back with Sabathia (on short rest) and Nova (on normal rest) for games four and five (if necessary).

This would make the following pitching matchups:

DetroitERAFIPxFIPNew YorkERAFIPxFIP
Game 1Verlander2.402.993.12Sabathia3.002.883.02
Game 2Fister2.833.023.61Nova3.704.014.16
Game 3Scherzer4.434.143.70Garcia3.624.124.36
Game 4Porcello4.754.064.02Sabathia3.002.883.02
Game 5Verlander2.402.993.12Nova3.704.014.16

You could consider Sabathia and Verlander to be even in game one, but you have to really like the Tigers chances in games two, three, and five. The only game in which we would give a strong advantage to the Yankees’ starter is game four (Porcello versus Sabathia).

The Tigers really need to find a way to win at least two of the first three games. Obviously you never want to trail in a playoff series, but you might be able to stomach it if the next pitching matchup was in your favor. In this case, it’s not. You’d really hate to see the team with their back against the wall entering the Porcello-Sabathia matchup. Sure, they could win it, but you’d never want to have to count on it.

So much can happen in baseball in a short series, so there’s really no use in predicting the way things will go down, but I like the position the Tigers are in pitching-wise. You’d expect the Tigers to win a Fister-Nova matchup in game two, and the Verlander-Nova matchup in game five. The Yankees have the edge in the game four Porcello-Sabathia contest, and games one (Verlander-Sabathia) and three (Scherzer-Garcia) are probably toss-ups.

The toss-up games will be huge. The way the final pitching matchups shape up, it’s hard to see the team with the 2-1 advantage after tree games not winning the series.

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