ALDS Preview: Tigers vs. Yankees

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You can’t predict baseball, but you can at least lay out the parameters. So let’s take a look at what the Yankees and the Tigers have in store for us in the American League Division Series.

The Teams

Detroit Tigers (95-67) vs. New York Yankees (97-65)

The Matchups

Game 1 Friday in New York: Justin Verlander vs. CC Sabathia
Game 2 Saturday in New York: Doug Fister vs. Ivan Nova
Game 3 Monday in Detroit: Freddy Garcia vs. Max Scherzer
Game 4 (if necessary) Tuesday in Detroit: Undecided vs. Rick Porcello, maybe
Game 5 (if necessary) Next Thursday in New York: Undecided vs. Undecided

Analysis: I think this is all a bit fluid. I mean, is there any chance that we won’t see CC Sabathia and/or Justin Verlander back on short rest if their teams are in a 1-2 hole?  Heck, I’m hoping for it.

The Storylines

  • This is easily the series with the most sex appeal. The Bombers vs. The Verlanders. Never mind that (a) the Yankees are more than just firepower; and (b) the Tigers are more than Justin Verlander. But, yeah, this is the one we all want to see, right?;
  • Something else the Yankees have? Pitching. For all of the drama about the rotation, it was solid all year and the bullpen — especially the Rivera, Robertson, Soriano back end of it — is fantastic. The Yankees had the third best staff in the AL in terms of runs allowed. They’re not just going to bludgeon you to death;
  • Likewise, the Tigers aren’t just the Cy Young Award Winner, Presumptive. Indeed, they had the fourth best offense in the AL and only the eighth best pitching (though the pitching came on late). Miguel Cabrera is probably the best hitter in the AL. A fact that will make his presumed fourth or fifth place finish in the MVP voting look rather silly.
  • Doug Fister is a name Tigers fans and hardcore baseball fans know well based on his 8-1, 1.79 ERA since being traded from Seattle. I have this feeling a lot of casual Yankees fans are going to be saying “who is ‘dis guy we can’t hit?”
  • A study in contrasts in closers: Mariano Rivera has ice water in his veins. Jose Valverde has ants in his pants. But Valverde was fantastic this year, finishing 49 for 49 in save opportunities. I love the yin and the yang of this here.
  • The Tigers defense may be the difference-maker here. It’s not good apart from Austin Jackson in center. The Yankees, in contrast, are pretty fantastic with the leather at most positions. I have this feeling a game will be decided by a Tiger error or some nutso play by Robinson Cano or Brett Gardner.

Prediction

Every fiber of my being tells me to pick the Yankees because, heck, they’re the Yankees. I think they’re more talented, they’re certainly more experienced and that bit about defense really sticks out for me.

But I have something jumping around in my gut. Something gnawing at my consciousness. Something that makes me want to pick the Tigers on that whole “they’re DANGEROUS!” or that “they’re PEAKING AT THE RIGHT TIME!” or that “Verlander and Fister and pray for a twister” basis. It’s almost compelling me to pick them even though my usually analytical mind makes me want to ignore it.

Who cares? Let’s do it!

TIGERS WIN THE SERIES 3-2.

Video: Jake Arrieta hits a 465-foot home run off of Zack Greinke

Jamie Squire/Getty Images
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Jake Arrieta‘s bat is in midseason form already. The Cubs’ ace swatted a solo home run to center field off of Zack Greinke in Thursday afternoon’s Grapefruit League exhibition game, his first homer of the spring.

The blast went 465 feet, according to MLB.com’s Daren Willman.

Arrieta has hit two home runs in each of the past two seasons. Madison Bumgarner (eight) and Noah Syndergaard (four) are the only other pitchers to match or exceed his output in that department.

Greinke, meanwhile, is hoping to bounce back after a miserable 2016 season. He finished with an uncharacteristic 4.37 ERA in 26 starts in his first year with the Diamondbacks.

Luis Valbuena to miss four to six weeks with a strained right hamstring

Kent Horner/Getty Images
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Angels first baseman Luis Valbuena will miss the next four to six weeks with a strained right hamstring, Pedro Moura of the Los Angeles Times reports.

Valbuena, 31, signed a two-year, $15 million contract with the Angels in January and was on track to get the lion’s share of the playing time at first base. While he’s out, however, C.J. Cron will handle first base on a regular basis. When Valbeuna returns, the two will likely form a platoon.

Last year with the Astros, Valbuena hit a solid .260/.357/.459 with 13 home runs and 40 RBI in 342 plate appearances.