After all is said and done with the regular season, the Yankees have drawn the Detroit Tigers as their first round opponent in the ALDS, a team that everyone feared in the first round thanks to their ace Justin Verlander. There is more to the Tigers than just one pitcher though so I thought I’d take a quick look at the team that knocked the Yankees out of the 2006 ALDS.
BEST IN THE AL: If Verlander doesn’t win the American League Cy Young award this year he is going to come extremely close. He finished his season with an AL best 24-5 record and an impressive 2.40 ERA, good enough for a 170 ERA+. He struck out an even 9.0 batters per nine and had a 2.0 BB/9 ratio. He throws strikes. He also keeps people off base with a 0.92 WHIP this season.
With Verlander expected to go in games no. 1 and 5, the Yankees can avoid seeing him twice by wrapping up the series early.
WHAT DUI?: Many thought that Miguel Cabrera might experience a bit of an offensive dropoff this year after he started the season disgraced from a DUI. Instead he went about his business as usual leading the league in batting average (.344) and OBP (.448) and had an extremely impressive 1.033 OPS. The man is a beast and a player the Yankees should be extremely careful with.
COMING IN RED HOT: The were actually in a pennant race at one point, but thanks to a 20-6 finish they ran away with the AL Central division. Most of that was thanks to an offense that had a .880 OPS over the final 30 days of the season. That’s nearly the equivalent of having Robinson Cano up to bat every single time up.
It wasn’t just their offense that allowed them to finish red hot, their pitching staff was 2nd in the AL with a 3.42 ERA over the final 30 days (only Texas was better). Doug Fister led the way with a 0.65 ERA over his final six appearances. Again Verlander comes into play as he had a 2.55 ERA down the stretch.
LOCK-DOWN PEN: Yankees fans probably assume that they have the best bullpen thanks to Mariano Rivera, David Robertson, and Rafael Soriano, but the Tigers have their own version of that with Jose Valverde, who didn’t blow a save all season, Al Alburquerque, who had a better K/9 than D-Rob, and Joaquin Benoit, who finished the season strong after a rough start.
The Tigers are going to be able to matchup with the Yankees just fine in the late innings.
DEADLINE DEALING: The Tigers were among the biggest trade deadline winners this season thanks to Doug Fister. Not just because Fister went 8-1 with a 1.79 ERA in 11 games for the Tigers, but because he helped them shore up their biggest trouble spot, their rotation. Some critics point to his generally weak opponents as a reason for his sucess, but a very impressive 0.6 BB/9 ratio helped him stay out of trouble by keeping extra runners off the bases, the Yankees shouldn’t look for any free passes from this guy.
GAME 3: This may be the difference in the series. Both starters matchup fairly well for each team in the first two games, but the Yankees could make a difference in game three if Freddy Garcia continues his good season. That’s because Detroits options to start the third game include Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello. Neither are bad pitchers, but with a 4.43 ERA and a 4.75 ERA respectively this will be the Yankees’ offenses opportunity to come through.
OVERALL: The Tigers finished 4th in total runs among AL teams this year (787), seventh in starters ERA (4.10), and 11th in reliever ERA (3.93). However, this is not the same Tigers team as they were early in the year. They made improvements and have gotten more consistent play from their veterans as of late. Considering Verlander can start up to twice in this series, the Yankees are going to have no walk in the park.