Justin Verlander

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.

Sonny Gray was denied insurance coverage for the World Baseball Classic

MESA, AZ - FEBRUARY 22:  Pitcher Sonny Gray #54 of the Oakland Athletics poses for a portrait during photo day at HoHoKam Stadium on February 22, 2017 in Mesa, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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The San Francisco Chronicle’s Susan Slusser reports that Athletics’ right-hander Sonny Gray will not pitch in the World Baseball Classic after failing to meet the necessary criteria for insurance coverage. He missed 70 days on the disabled list with forearm tightness and a back strain in 2016.

According to Oakland GM David Forst, Major League Baseball tried to persuade the insurance carrier to waive the requirements for Gray to pitch for Team USA, but the request was ultimately refused. Without coverage, Gray will be unable to participate in the competition, though Forst adds that the 27-year-old is still in perfect health as Opening Day approaches and should benefit from a slower spring training schedule without the added commitment on his plate.

Injuries complicated a down year for Gray, who pitched to a career-worst 5.69 ERA, 3.2 BB/9 and 7.2 SO/9 rate through 117 innings in 2016. His 1.4 HR/9 and 17.8% HR/FB rates suggested that he felt the effects of the home run spike more than most, capping a disappointing follow-up to his All-Star campaign during 2015.

While Gray works up to a healthy and productive start to the 2017 season, the Athletics will still see two players on WBC rosters next month: right-handed reliever Santiago Casilla, who is scheduled to pitch for the Dominican Republic, and fellow righty John Axford, for Team Canada.

Report: Josh Hamilton likely to undergo another knee surgery

ANAHEIM, CA - JULY 24:  Josh Hamilton #32 of the Texas Rangers in the dugout before a game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on July 24, 2015 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Jonathan Moore/Getty Images)
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Rangers’ outfielder Josh Hamilton is scheduled for another knee exam on Monday, according to Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Hamilton left camp last week after feeling some pain in his left knee and received a PRP injection to alleviate the symptoms. Wilson notes that both Dr. Walt Lowe and Rangers’ assistant general manager Mike Daly noticed little improvement in the days following the injection.

More drastic measures could be necessary if the 35-year-old intends to return to the field this year. MLB.com’s TR Sullivan adds that the Rangers are considering arthroscopic surgery for Hamilton, which would set him back at least 4-6 weeks and eliminate any real chance of his making the Opening Day roster in April. Until they see the results of the surgery, however, the Rangers won’t rule out Hamilton’s potential return to the big leagues in 2017.

Hamilton is looking at his third major procedure since the end of the 2015 season. He missed all of the Rangers’ 2016 campaign after undergoing reconstructive knee surgery last spring and has not seen a full workload in the majors since his 2013 run with the Angels. Should he make a full recovery this season, he figures to see some time at first base/DH or the corner outfield.