By Matt Snyder
After winning 95 games and taking home a division title for the first time since 1987, the Tigers get presented with the chance to take down the mighty Yankees, who had the best record in the American League. The Yankees, meanwhile, are in the playoffs yet again -- as they have been every year except 2008 since the '94 strike. But this isn't a mismatch. Far from it. It's a battle of two titans. I fully expect this to be the most exciting divisional series.
Detroit Tigers (host games 3, 4)
95-67, AL Central champions
Manager: Jim Leyland
Team batting statistics: .277 batting average (3rd in AL), .340 on-base percentage (3rd), .434 slugging percentage (4th)
Team pitching statistics: 4.04 ERA (7th), 1.32 WHIP (8th), 2.27 K/BB (6th)
Star player: SP Justin Verlander -- 24-5, 2.41 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, 250 K in 251 innings.
New York Yankees (host games 1, 2, 5)
97-65, AL East champions
Manager: Joe Girardi
Team batting statistics: .263 batting average (5th in AL), .343 on-base percentage (2nd), .444 slugging percentage (3rd)
Team pitching statistics: 3.58 ERA (8th), 1.32 WHIP (9th), 2.41 K/BB (4th)
Star player: CF Curtis Granderson -- .262/.364/.552, 41 HR, 119 RBI, 136 R, 26 2B, 10 3B, 25 SB
SCHEDULE (Click here to view the entire postseason schedule)
|Full Playoff Coverage|
Game 2: DET @ NYY, Oct. 1, 8:37 p.m. ET. Doug Fister (11-13, 2.83) vs. Ivan Nova (16-4, 3.70)
Game 3: NYY @ DET, Oct. 3, 8:37 p.m. ET. Max Scherzer (15-9, 4.43) vs. Freddy Garcia (12-8, 3.62)
Game 4: NYY @ DET, Oct. 4* Rick Porcello (14-9, 4.75) vs. Sabathia (19-8, 3.00)
Game 5: DET @ NYY, Oct. 6* Verlander (24-5, 2.40) vs. Nova (16-4, 3.70)
* If necessary | ** all pitching matchups projected
TEAM BREAKDOWN (Click player name for statistics)
Detroit: Alex Avila
New York: Russell Martin
Martin's been a very pleasant surprise for the Yankees this season, giving them 18 homers and a .732 OPS. The former All-Star had just been given up on by the Dodgers, so most of these numbers were gravy. Of course, Avila's been even better and just as surprising. He hit 19 homers with an .895 OPS and was incredibly durable. He may even garner some MVP votes (voters list 10 names, remember).
Detroit: Miguel Cabrera
New York: Mark Teixeira
The Yankees wouldn't lose a battle of first basemen very often, but they do here. Teixeira finished the season with 39 homers and 111 RBI, but he only hit .248. He is the superior defender here, but Cabrera is so much better offensively (.344/.448/.586 with 30 homers, 105 RBI and 48 doubles) that it more than makes up for it. This one is close, but it's not a question. It's elite versus very well above average.
Detroit: Ryan Raburn/Ramon Santiago
New York: Robinson Cano
The Tigers have used six different players at second base this season and the Yankees have arguably the best second baseman in baseball. This is a blowout.
Detroit: Jhonny Peralta
New York: Derek Jeter
Jeter is not bad, but he's 37 and his best days are far in the rearview mirror. His 3,000th hit was one of the best moments of the 2011 season and he very clearly has the far better career, but Peralta is the better player in the present tense. He hit .299 with 21 homers, 86 RBI, 68 runs and an .824 OPS. Jeter hit .297 with six homers, 61 RBI, 84 runs and a .743 OPS. Does Jeter's "Yankee mystique" and "clutchness" carry the day here? That remains to be seen, but for now we have to go with tangibles.
Detroit: Wilson Betemit
New York: Alex Rodriguez
Betemit's done an admirable job since being acquired by the Tigers, as he's hit .292/.346/.535. That's actually better than A-Rod's .276/.362/.461, but there's little question -- even among A-Rod's many haters -- who the better player is here. As long as he can stay healthy, which is a big question, Rodriguez gives the Yankees an advantage here.
Detroit: Delmon Young
New York: Brett Gardner
Young has provided decent power for the Tigers since coming over (eight homers and a .458 slugging percentage in 40 games) from the Twins, but he still makes a lot of outs (.298 OBP). While Gardner doesn't provide much power, he's one of the best defensive players in baseball in addition to being one of the biggest threats on the basepaths (49 stolen bases). And he gets on base at a .345 clip.
Detroit: Austin Jackson
New York: Curtis Granderson
Jackson is a better defensive player, but not by leaps and bounds. That phrase could be used to describe the difference in the two players offensively at this point, though. Granderson was one of the premier power hitters this season and his .916 OPS dwarfs Jackson's .690.
Detroit: Magglio Ordonez
New York: Nick Swisher
It was a big blow for the Tigers to lose Brennan Boesch for the season, as he could fit here or left field and give them an advantage. Then again, is Magglio "back?" He's hitting .419/.444/.558 in September and looks to have a spring in his step. Maybe it's his last big run (he's 37) as he seeks his first ring. Still, Swisher is still a great on-base guy (.374) with power (30 doubles, 23 homers).
New York: Jesus Montero/Andruw Jones/Jorge Posada
Detroit: Victor Martinez
Martinez hit .330 with an .850 slugging percentage and 103 RBI in 145 games. Even if Montero or Jones gets hot, this isn't even close (at least not yet, as we've only scratched the surface on Montero's immense potential).
Detroit: Justin Verlander, Doug Fister, Max Scherzer, Rick Porcello
New York: CC Sabathia, Ivan Nova, Freddy Garcia
Fister (8-1, 1.79 ERA since joining the team) puts the Tigers over the top here. Otherwise it would just be one ace on each team with a group of also-rans. You can give credit for Ivan Nova's 16-4 record if you want, but give most of that to his teammates. His ERA is worse than Garcia's. Nova and Garcia is a better duo than Scherzer and Porcello, but, again, Fister's in there. There are only a handful of pitchers I'd rather have in the postseason than Sabathia. Unfortunately for the Yankees, Verlander is one of them. But hey, at least we get treated to an amazing Game 1 matchup here, right? Everyone should tune in for that one.
Detroit closer: Jose Valverde
New York closer: Mariano Rivera
Al Alburquerque is one of the best relief pitchers in baseball, but David Robertson is better. Rivera is better than Valverde. The Yankees are a bit deeper, too, as they've gotten good work from Luis Ayala and Cory Wade -- and Rafael Soriano still has a huge amount of talent. He actually had eight straight scoreless outings before a bad one to close the year.
Total advantage: Yankees (6), Tigers (5)
PREDICTION (click here to see full postseason predictions)
|Evan Brunell: Tigers in 4
Gregg Doyel: Tigers in 5
Danny Knobler: Yankees in 5
Scott Miller: Tigers in 5
Trent Rosecrans: Tigers in 5
Matt Snyder: Tigers in 5
More Yankees-Tigers ALDS coverage
For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.