Prince Fielder falters for flailing Tigers

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While Saturday’s shutout loss was definitely a team effort, Prince Fielder’s struggles are a central reason the Tigers are now just one defeat away from losing the World Series.

Swinging at pitches off the plate, Fielder went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts in Game 3. He grounded into a double play his first time up. Overall, Fielder is 1-for-10 in the World Series, and he’s down to .188 with just one extra-base hits and three RBI in 48 at-bats for the postseason.

This isn’t Fielder’s first go at the postseason, so it shouldn’t be a case of the pressure getting to him. He had three homers and four doubles in 11 games as the Brewers won the NLDS and lost to the Cardinals in the NLCS last year. He also took part in the NLDS in 2008, though he had just one hit in 14 at-bats then (it was a homer).

Still, this is Fielder’s first World Series, and he has been unusually anxious at the plate. He’s seen just 30 pitches in his 11 plate appearances. It’s not like him at all.

That’s not to put it all on Fielder. Miguel Cabrera hasn’t done much, collecting two singles and two walks in three games. The Tigers have just three extra-base hits in the series, and their lone homer was Jhonny Peralta’s meaningless two-run shot in the ninth inning of Game 1, reducing the Giants’ lead from seven runs to five.

Having amassed 18 consecutive scoreless innings, the Tigers offense has wasted fine performances from Doug Fister and Anibal Sanchez the last two games. The team should get another good one from Max Scherzer on Sunday, but with ace Matt Cain on the mound for the Giants, one wonders if it will make any real difference.

In the playoffs, the Yankees’ weakness has become their strength

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Two weeks ago, when the playoffs began, the idea of “bullpenning” once again surfaced, this time with the Yankees as a focus. Because their starting pitching was believed to be a weakness — they had no obvious ace like a Dallas Keuchel or Corey Kluber — and their bullpen was a major strength, the idea of chaining relievers together starting from the first inning gained traction. The likes of Luis Severino, who struggled mightily in the AL Wild Card game, or Masahiro Tanaka (4.79 regular season ERA) couldn’t be relied upon in the postseason, the thought went.

That idea is no longer necessary for the Yankees because the starting rotation has become the club’s greatest strength. Tanaka fired seven shutout innings to help push the Yankees ahead of the Astros in the ALCS, three games to two. They are now one win away from reaching the World Series for the first time since 2009.

It hasn’t just been Tanaka. Since Game 3 of the ALDS, Yankees pitchers have made eight starts spanning 46 1/3 innings. They have allowed 10 runs (nine earned) on 25 hits and 12 walks with 45 strikeouts. That’s a 1.75 ERA with an 8.74 K/9 and 2.33 BB/9. In five of those eight starts, the starter went at least six innings, which has helped preserve the freshness and longevity of the bullpen.

Here’s the full list of performances for Yankee starters this postseason:

Game Starter IP H R ER BB SO HR
AL WC Luis Severino 1/3 4 3 3 1 0 2
ALDS 1 Sonny Gray 3 1/3 3 3 3 4 2 1
ALDS 2 CC Sabathia 5 1/3 3 4 2 3 5 0
ALDS 3 Masahiro Tanaka 7 3 0 0 1 7 0
ALDS 4 Luis Severino 7 4 3 3 1 9 2
ALDS 5 CC Sabathia 4 1/3 5 2 2 0 9 0
ALCS 1 Masahiro Tanaka 6 4 2 2 1 3 0
ALCS 2 Luis Severino 4 2 1 1 2 0 1
ALCS 3 CC Sabathia 6 3 0 0 4 5 0
ALCS 4 Sonny Gray 5 1 2 1 2 4 0
ALCS 5 Masahiro Tanaka 7 3 0 0 1 8 0
TOTAL 55 1/3 35 20 17 20 52 6

In particular, if you hone in on the ALCS starts specifically, Yankee starters have pitched 28 innings, allowing five runs (four earned) on 13 hits and 10 walks with 20 strikeouts. That’s a 1.61 ERA.

While the Yankees’ biggest weakness has become a strength, the Astros’ biggest weakness — the bullpen — has become an even bigger weakness. This is why the Yankees, who won 10 fewer games than the Astros during the regular season, are one win away from reaching the World Series and the Astros are not.