Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Playoff Primer- Justin Verlander

What?  He's not the whole team?  Oh.  Well, they're fucked.

No but seriously.  It's like, Verlander, Miguel Cabrera, and Alex Avila's .554 babip or whatever the fuck that is. And Detroit has already announced that in the ALDS, Verlander will throw on regular rest, which, thanks to the schedule re-alignment, means that he will throw game 1 and game 5 if necessary.  Good luck squeezing a win out of anybody else against a playoff team.

Verlander is probably going to win the AL CY, and deservedly so, but I don't think people pay enough attention to how easy the schedule is for AL Central teams.  Remember how I like to throw the Blue Jays in to other divisions and claim that they would have been very competitive this season, just to make myself feel better?  The Toronto Blue Jays would have won the AL Central this season by at least as big of a margin as the Tigers did this season if the Tigers and Jays switched places.

I honestly struggle to pick out anything about the Tigers that says to me "this is the best aspect of this team" when it comes to the 3 things that comprise baseball.  The rotation, I suppose, is kind of strong...?  Verlander is obviously a complete animal who can go throw 120 pitches over 8 innings and then come shut you down in the 9th with a 101mph fastball.  Beyond that... Doug Fister and Max Scherzer are definitely there, but under no circumstances do they add up to make a rotation that will be good enough to shut down the Rays/Red Sox, Yankees, or Rangers.

Furthermore, if you're going to play those teams, expect to throw a lot of pitches, which in turn, will get to the bullpen earlier.  Any game that gets to the bullpen early is probably going to be bad news for the Tigers.  Sure, Jose Valverde is 47/47 in saves, but that ignores that 4.5bb/9, the .242 babip against, the 82.5% strand rate (average is about 75%, but even elite pitchers can get that to ~80% sustainably... 4.5bb/9 doesn't sound elite to me), and the fact that he's outperformed his FIP by about 1.4 runs, and his xFIP by nearly 2 runs...  and he's a closer, who typically pitches one inning, with a lead, without inherited runners...  basically there's not that much value to a guy like Valverde.  Basically, Valverde is league average at best, Joaquin Benoit has been good, Al Alburquerque has been awesome when healthy, and that's it.  If these guys get gassed at all, watch out.

Beyond Miguel Cabrera, who is certainly a top-5 hitter in baseball, I can't point to this offense and suggest that they can outslug any other playoff team.  The Alex Avila party has got to slow down sooner or later, and Victor Martinez is the only other clearly above average contributor offensively.  The offensive numbers of the entire Tigers lineup need to be taken with a grain of salt; they play in a park that favors hitters (not necessarily in homeruns, but average, doubles, etc.), and their schedule allows them to play against significantly weaker opponents and thus lower quality pitching much more often.

Defensively, it's pretty much hit or miss with this team.  Austin Jackson plays a very good CF, and Peralta is a good defensive SS, but beyond that, there's not much.  The Tigers and Rangers are currently playing for the right to not face the Yankees, which is always a privilege, but I honestly can't see what good it's going to do.  Detroit is a worse team than the Yankees, a worse team than the Rangers, a worse team than the Rays, and if the Red Sox manage to get the Wild Card, Detroit has a better rotation that doesn't nearly make up for the fact that they'll have a much worse offense and defense.  There is literally no circumstance that I can envision, short of some hilarious 3rd party interference, that sees the Tigers in the ALCS.  Beyond that, anyone making bets should load up on whoever the Tigers play, because oddsmakers won't look at the regular season schedule situation when setting odds, so whoever they play will get an excellent price.

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