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ALCS 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 Tigers and Yankees have in store for us in the American League Championship Series.

The Teams

Detroit Tigers vs. New York Yankees

The Matchups

Game 1 Saturday in New York: Doug Fister vs. Andy Pettitte
Game 2 Sunday in New York: Anibal Sanchez vs. Hiroki Kuroda
Game 3 Tuesday in Detroit: Phil Hughes vs. Justin Verlander
Game 4 Wednesday in Detroit: CC Sabathia vs. Max Scherzer
Game 5 (if necessary) Thursday in Detroit
Game 6 (if necessary) next Saturday in New York
Game 7 (if necessary) next Sunday in New York

Analysis: The Tigers already have their rotation mapped out for the entire series, but there’s still quite a bit of uncertainty for the Yankees. Will Hiroki Kuroda go on short rest in Game 2 or will we see David Phelps? If it’s Phelps, you have to like the Tigers’ chances of leaving New York with at least one win.

Saturday update: Kuroda was named the starter for Game 2, Hughes for Game 3 and Sabathia for Game 4.

Because he was needed in Game 5 of the ALDS yesterday, CC Sabathia would have to go on short rest in Game 3 in order to match up against Justin Verlander. This would set them up to duel again in a potential Game 7. That would be pretty fun. It’s interesting that the Tigers are prepared to give two starts to Anibal Sanchez in the series as opposed to one for Max Scherzer. Sanchez has been solid for nearly two months now, so that’s no slight on him, but perhaps Jim Leyland decided to give Scherzer’s shoulder some extra recovery time.

The Storylines

  • The Yankees took the season series 6-4 while outscoring the Tigers 58-48.
  • The Yankees won’t have C.C. Sabathia in Game 1, but Andy Pettitte is a pretty good alternative. After all, the 40-year-old left-hander has started more postseason games than anyone. He allowed three runs over seven innings in a loss to the Orioles in Game 2 of the ALDS on Monday.
  • What will almost certainly command the most attention is the continuing saga of Alex Rodriguez. How much will he play? Joe Girardi opted to use Eric Chavez against Jason Hammel yesterday because of his numbers against right-handed pitching. Meanwhile, the Tigers’ projected rotation is full of right-handed starters. My guess is that A-Rod will start Game 1 tonight, but he could continue to sit in certain matchups.
  • Justin Verlander had a 5.57 ERA in eight career postseason starts before dominating the Athletics to the tune of a 0.56 ERA and 22 strikeouts over 16 innings during the ALDS. Is this finally his time to shine on the big stage?
  • If the Yankees get two starts out of CC Sabathia during this series, one of them will have to be on short rest. They can either use him on regular rest in Game 4, setting him up for a start on three days’ rest in a potential Game 7 or have him go on short rest in Game 3 and regular rest in a potential Game 7.
  • Will the Yankees offense show up? They managed to outlast the Orioles in the ALDS despite hitting just .211 as a team while scoring 16 runs in five games. Derek Jeter had more hits (eight) than Alex Rodriguez, Nick Swisher and Robinson Cano combined (six). It’s unrealistic to think that everyone will get hot at the same time, but this lineup is too talented to be this bad. Right?
  • Likewise, the Tigers held off the surprising Athletics in the ALDS without a ton of help from their big bats. Austin Jackson was 5-for-20 (.250) with seven strikeouts while Miguel Cabrera went 5-for-20 (.250) with two doubles and an RBI and Prince Fielder went 4-for-21 (.190) with one home run and two RBI. Their lineup isn’t nearly as deep or scary as the Yankees, so they need contributions from this important trio in order to advance.
  • Jose Valverde and Joaquin Benoit combined to give up five runs over 4 2/3 innings against the Athletics. Meanwhile, the Yankees bullpen held the Orioles to just one run over 11 1/3 innings for the entire series. The Tigers’ bullpen was a concern even before the ALDS, so you have to give the Yankees the edge in the late innings.

Prediction

You have to like that the Yankees have the home-field advantage, especially considering the Tigers were not a very good road team during the regular season, but I’m just not a fan of how New York’s rotation lines up for this series. Meanwhile, the Tigers will be well-rested. They are also the younger team and seemingly healthier, too. Jose Valverde might make this pick look silly if he proves to be an adventure in the late innings, but I think they will take it.

TIGERS WIN THE SERIES 4-3

Jose Bautista: “I haven’t had to” pay for a meal in Toronto since famous bat flip

Toronto Blue Jays Jose Bautista flips his bat after hitting a three-run home run against the Texas Rangers during the seventh inning in Game 5 of baseball's American League Division Series, Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2015 in Toronto. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT
Chris Young/The Canadian Press via AP
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Arguably the most memorable moment of the 2015 season came in the seventh inning of Game 5 of the ALDS between the Blue Jays and Rangers. The game was tied 3-3, but the Jays were threatening with runners on the corners and two outs. Jose Bautista launched a 1-1 Sam Dyson fastball for a no-doubt tie-breaking three-run home run that would send the Jays into the ALCS to face the eventual world champion Royals.

Bautista didn’t immediately run to first base after hitting the home run. He admired it, looked at Dyson, and then flipped his bat triumphantly. As far as bat flips go, it was a 10 out of 10. Yasiel Puig was proud.

The six-time All-Star admitted “I haven’t had to” pay for a meal in Toronto since that moment in the ALDS, as Jonah Birenbaum notes for The Score. Bautista also served as the assistant coach for musician Drake at the NBA All-Star Celebrity Game. As Drew noted earlier, Bautista had a pretty nice view at the NBA Slam Dunk Contest as well.

The Jays are hopeful to sign Bautista, 35, to a multi-year extension. In six seasons since breaking out with the club in 2010, he has hit .268/.390/.555 with 227 home runs and 582 RBI in 3,604 plate appearances. No one has hit more home runs since the start of the 2010 season, as Miguel Cabrera is the closest at 199. And only Cabrera, Adrian Gonzalez, Robinson Cano, and Albert Pujols have driven in more runs in that span of time. It’s easy to see why, despite his age, the Jays want to keep Bautista around a little while longer.

Dallas Keuchel, Astros did talk long-term contract

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Dallas Keuchel‘s agent Darek Braunecker told MLB Network Radio in early January that he had not engaged in any long-term contract negotiations with the Astros’ front office. Two weeks later, the sides reached a one-year, $7.25 million agreement, avoiding a salary arbitration hearing. So was a bigger financial commitment ever discussed?

Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle has the answer, writing in his offseason review that the “Astros and Keuchel have had substantial talks about extensions [this winter] … but to no avail.”

Keuchel carries all the leverage in the world after winning the 2015 American League Cy Young Award with a 2.48 ERA, 1.017 WHIP, and 216/51 K/BB ratio in 232 innings. He also made three appearances in the postseason to a 2.57 ERA in 14 frames.

Keuchel’s $7.25 million salary for 2016 will be a record for a player in his first year of arbitration eligibility. Locking up some of his free agent years (2019, 2020, 2021, etc.) would likely take a commitment of $120 million or more.

Houston has the 28-year-old left-hander under contractual control through 2018, and it sounds like the plan is to go season-to-season with his salaries.

He’ll remain a huge value to a good-looking Astros team.

Yadier Molina gets cast removed from surgically-repaired thumb

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Yadier Molina underwent surgery to repair a ligament tear in his right thumb shortly after the Cardinals were eliminated from the NLDS by the Cubs, and then he needed a followup procedure two months later.

It’s been an offseason of rest and rehab for the seven-time All-Star and eight-time Gold Glover, though he’s about ready to ramp up the intensity of workouts with the beginning of spring training approaching …

Brayan Pena was signed to a two-year, $5 million free agent contract this winter to provide more reliable depth behind the plate. He’ll be the Cardinals’ starter at catcher come Opening Day if Yadi isn’t quite ready.

Molina started a whopping 131 games behind the plate in 2015.

Jose Fernandez wants $30 million a year, Marlins don’t plan on paying

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You’ve heard the stories by now. Jose Fernandez does not get along with Marlins management and is doubtful to sign a long-term contract with the team.

There’s still time for those relationships to be repaired — Fernandez can’t become a free agent until after the 2018 season — but we also have a monetary issue at play.

Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald writes Sunday that the Marlins are “under the impression” Fernandez and his representatives want $30 million per year on a long-term deal, a figure the Marlins “have no plans to meet.”

If the Marlins won’t pay, Fernandez and his reps will seek that number when the ace right-hander reaches free agency. That could be the same offseason Bryce Harper tries for $500 million.

A friend of Fernandez told Jackson that the 23-year-old native of Cuba was upset about some of the trades the Marlins made last summer and the removal of pitching coach Chuck Hernandez. You probably heard talk of Miami shopping Fernandez this winter, but the asking price was predictably sky-high.

Fernandez has been limited to 19 starts over the last two years because of Tommy John surgery and a biceps injury, but he boasts a stellar 2.40 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, and 10.5 K/9 in 289 career major league frames. He will make $2.8 million in 2016 and carries two more years of arbitration eligibility.

If he can put together a run of 30-start, 200-inning seasons, Fernandez will get that $30 million per year and probably much more.