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.

Report: Teams reluctant to gamble on Cliff Lee

Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Cliff Lee throws during the first inning of a baseball game against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park Thursday, July 31, 2014, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
AP Photo/Alex Brandon
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In Saturday’s column for the Boston Globe, Nick Cafardo suggests that free agent Cliff Lee is seeking a guaranteed major league deal between $6 and $8 million plus incentives. That is turning some otherwise interested teams away, as the lefty is still recovering from a torn flexor tendon in his left elbow. Lee hasn’t pitched since July 31, 2014.

Last month, Lee’s agent Darek Braunecker said the pitcher would need “a perfect fit” to pitch in 2016. He also noted that Lee has begun a full offseason throwing program.

In his most recent season, Lee compiled a 3.65 ERA with 72 strikeouts and 12 walks in 81 1/3 innings for the Phillies. The Phillies had signed him to a five-year, $120 million contract in December 2010 but declined a club option for the 2016 season, instead buying him out for $12.5 million.

Orioles reconsidering signing Yovani Gallardo

Yovani Gallardo
AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez
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In an article for MASN on Friday, Steve Melewski noted that the Orioles were reluctant to forfeit their first round draft pick (14th overall) in order to sign free agent starter Yovani Gallardo. The club is now reconsidering its stance and rechecking the right-handers medicals, MASN’s Roch Kubatko reports.

Gallardo, who turns 30 on February 27, posted a 3.42 ERA with 121 strikeouts and 68 walks over 184 1/3 innings for the Rangers last season. The Rangers had acquired him in a trade with the Brewers, sending Luis Sardinas, Corey Knebel, and minor leaguer Marcos Diplan to Milwaukee.

Gallardo has posted an ERA below 4.00 in six of his last seven seasons. He remains unsigned into February, however, because his strikeout rate has rapidly decreased with each year since 2012. Per FanGraphs, that rate was 23.7 percent in 2012, then went to 18.6 percent, 17.9 percent, and 15.3 percent progressively. Some of that may have to do with diminishing fastball velocity, as Gallardo’s 90.4 MPH average marked a career low among his eight full seasons with at least 100 innings pitched.

The Orioles lost starter Wei-Yin Chen, who signed with the Marlins, and the back end of their rotation is highly speculative with Kevin Gausman, Mike Wright, Odrisamer Despaigne, and Tyler Wilson. Adding a veteran like Gallardo, even if he is apparently declining, may be stabilizing.

Freddy Garcia is calling it a career

Screenshot 2016-02-07 at 10.16.43 AM
Elsa/Getty Images North America
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MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez passes along word from the Dominican Republic that right-hander Freddy Garcia will hang up his cleats for good after Sunday’s Caribbean Series championship game.

Garcia will start that game for the Tigres de Aragua out of Venezuela. He’s taking on Mexico’s Venados de Mazatlan.

“Venezuelan fans are expecting something good from Freddy and so is everybody,” said Tigres de Aragua manager Eddie Perez, who also serves as the bullpen coach for the Atlanta Braves. “Knowing that it’s his last game is going to make it very special. We all hope he pitches a really good game so he can retire in a good way and bring the title for Venezuela. Everybody who is rooting for Venezuela expects him to do well.”

Garcia’s last major league game was in the 2013 postseason. The 39-year-0ld will finish with a 4.15 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, and 6.4 K/9 in 2,264 career regular-season innings. He had a 3.26 ERA in 11 playoff starts, winning a World Series title with the White Sox in 2005.

Video: 2016 will be a season to remember

Carlos+Correa+Houston+Astros+v+Arizona+Diamondbacks+Ctyu5RiU3SWl
Christian Petersen/Getty Images North America
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MLB.com put together this very cool video montage reviewing the 2015 season and setting us up for what should be a wild 2016. Young stars, veterans chasing milestones, unpredictable divisional races.

It’s so close to spring training. Let’s do this.