Verlander, Smerlander: ALCS Preview and Rangers-Tigers Game 1 Open Thread

Categories: Sports

Alexi_Ogando_Merten.jpg
Photo by Sam Merten
The Tigers have this year's AL Cy Young, but the Rangers are so deep, there wasn't room for Alexi Ogando (3-0 versus Detroit this year) in the rotation.
[Editor's note: At the request of a few regulars, we're going with a rare weekend-night open thread to celebrate the Rangers' second straight appearance in the American League Championship Series. Will we do this again tomorrow? Hard to say. Let's see how tonight goes. I'll be in and out, but tonight you're in the capable hands of the beloved Sam Merten, because this man knows his baseball ...]

Yes, it's time for the American League Championship Series, folks, but who woulda guessed the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees wouldn't be here? Seems like every prognosticator and self-proclaimed sports expert had one of the two in the World Series at the beginning of the year. (Yes, me too. I had Boston beating Philly. Whoopsie.)

But, as we know now, the Sox and Yanks weren't nearly as good as they appeared on paper. Meanwhile, the Texas Rangers didn't miss a beat after losing the World Series and ace Cliff Lee, and the Detroit Tigers made key additions in the offseason (signing Victor Martinez) and at the trade deadline (landing Doug Fister in a deal with Seattle) to find themselves back in the ALCS for the first time since 2006. (Ironically, that's the last time neither Boston nor New York were there.)

There are a boatload of stats -- some of which you'll find in my position-by-position comparison after the jump -- to digest when evaluating the match-up, but the collapses of Boston, New York and Philadelphia tell us that no amount of stats can measure the heart of a team. And certainly no one player can win or lose a series.

That one player in this series is supposed to be Justin Verlander, the likely unanimous AL Cy Young winner who will also grab a some MVP votes. But I'm not scared of Verlander, and the Rangers shouldn't be either.

Verlander has been great for a while now, winning at least 17 games in five of the last six seasons, so it's not like his success this year has been a surprise. And while he definitely had a career year this season, it's not like he was Sandy Koufax or Bob Gibson. In fact, just how much difference really was there between Verlander (24-5, 2.40 ERA, 250 K, 0.92 WHIP, 4 CG, 2 SO) and Rays ace James Shields (16-12, 2.82 ERA, 225 K, 1.04 WHIP, 11 CG, 4 SO)? Or, heck, even C.J. Wilson (16-7, 2.94 ERA, 206 K, 1.19 WHIP, 3 CG, 1 SO)?

To be clear, Verlander was obviously the better pitcher throughout the course of the regular season, but the question is: How much better?

When it's postseason time, aces are aces, and the regular season is rarely the best way to determine the outcome of a game or a series. If it was that easy, Roy Halladay should have beat Chris Carpenter last night. But Carpenter out-aced Halladay, and there's no reason to suggest Wilson can't do the same to Verlander.

And it's not like Verlander set the world on fire against the Yankees. Nine innings and five runs? Yikes. And that actually lowered his career postseason ERA to 5.58. Yup, that's 19 earned runs in 30 2/3 innings for those counting at home.

Even if Verlander finds his dominance against Texas, I'm still picking the Rangers in six. While you can argue that Detroit has the best player in the series in Verlander, Texas has the better team. And, call me crazy, but I'm always convinced the best team wins in a seven-game series.

Before a quick stroll through each position, here's the latest for those who missed it. The Rangers dropped Matt Treanor from the roster and added Yoshinori Tateyama. The Tigers replaced Delmon Young (oblique injury) with Danny Worth and switched Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello in the rotation. Young's absence is huge, given his three homers against New York in the ALDS.

Catcher: Mike Napoli v. Alex Avila
Advantage: Rangers

While 24-year-old Avila had a breakout year offensively (.295 BA, 19 HR, 82 RBI) and defensively (tied Russ Martin with 40 runners thrown out), earning him the starting gig in the All-Star Game, Nappy was better in both areas.

Say what you want about the legitimacy of catcher's ERA as a stat, but the difference between Napoli (3.18) and Yorvit Torrealba (4.33) is too significant to overlook. And, oh, yeah. He also was one of the top offensive players in baseball. Had he played a full season, his numbers would be somewhere around a .320 batting average with 40 homers and more than 100 RBI.

A quick note on Napoli that has bothered me throughout the season and playoffs: Jon Daniels did not swindle the Angels for Napoli. He took advantage of Toronto GM Alex Anthopoulos, who had done some swindling of his own to get Napoli for Vernon Wells and his ridiculous contract.

First Base: Mitch Moreland v. Miguel Cabrera
Advantage: Tigers

Not even close. Cabrera is a Frank Robinson clone and one of the best players in the game.

Second Base: Ian Kinsler v. Ramon Santiago
Advantage: Rangers

Not close here either. Kins has 30 homer-30 stolen base seasons in two of the last three years, while Santiago is, well, a complete spare.

Shortstop: Elvis Andrus v. Jhonny Peralta
Advantage: Tigers

This one's really close, but Peralta, who had a career year with the stick (.299 BA, 21 HR 86 RBI) and the glove (second among AL shortstops in fielding percentage) is a tick better than Andrus, who's still just 23 years old and had 25 errors this year.

Third Base: Adrian Beltre v. Brandon Inge/Don Kelly
Advantage: Rangers

While Beltre has been busy proving himself as the best free-agent signing, folks were surprised to know Inge is still in the league and only recently learned Kelly's name.

Left Field: David Murphy v. Ryan Raburn
Advantage: Push

Young would have given the edge to Detroit, but it's a toss-up between these two fourth-outfielder types.

Center Field: Josh Hamilton v. Austin Jackson
Advantage: Rangers

Another clear win for Texas here, as last year's AL MVP is light years ahead of Jackson.

Right Field: Nelson Cruz v. Magglio Ordonez
Advantage: Rangers

Normally, this would be Cruz in a landslide since Ordonez isn't the player he used to be. I expect Cruz to get out of his current funk, but if he doesn't, the 37-year-old Ordonez could prove to be the better player in this series.

Designated Hitter: Michael Young v. Victor Martinez
Advantage: Push

With nearly the same stat line this year (.338 BA-11 HR-106 RBI for Young, and .330-12-103 for Martinez) and reputations, this one is definitely too close to call.

Game 1/5 Starter: C.J. Wilson v. Justin Verlander
Advantage: Tigers

Verlander won the pitching Triple Crown, but this one's closer than you'd think for the reasons I described above.

Game 2/6 Starter: Derek Holland v. Max Scherzer
Advantage: Rangers

These two had similar statistical years (15-9, 4.43 ERA, 174 K, 1.35 WHIP for Scherzer, and 16-5, 3.95, 162, 1.35 for Holland), but I give the edge to Holland because of his playoff experience and superior performance in the second half (9-1, 3.06 ERA, 1.21 WHIP).

Game 3/7 Starter: Colby Lewis v. Doug Fister
Advantage: Rangers

OK, so Fister was incredible after leaving Seattle, posting an 8-1 record with a 1.79 ERA and microscopic 0.84 WHIP. But Lewis has been The Man in the postseason with a 4-0 record and 1.67 ERA in five career starts.

Game 4 Starter: Matt Harrison v. Rick Porcello
Advantage: Rangers

Once again, very similar stat lines between these two (14-9 with a 3.39 ERA for Harrison, and 14-9 with a 4.75 ERA for Porcello), but Harrison has proved to be a much more effective hurler.

Bullpen: Mike Adams, Scott Feldman, Alexi Ogando, Darren Oliver, Mike Gonzalez, Koji Uehara, Neftali Feliz and Yoshinori Tateyama v. Brad Penny, Al Alburquerque, Joaquin Benoit, Daniel Schlereth, Ryan Perry, Jose Valverde and Phil Coke
Advantage: Rangers

Sure, Mike Adams and Koji Uehara had some serious slip-ups in the ALDS, and Valverde hasn't blown a save opporuntiy all year, but I expect Adams and Uehara to be just fine. And the not-so-secret weapon for Texas is Alexi Ogando, who earned a win in all three of the Rangers victories against the Tigers this year and posted a sparkling 1.29 ERA.

Bench: Craig Gentry, Endy Chavez, Esteban German and Yorvit Torrealba v.
Don Kelly, Wilson Betemit, Omir Santos, Andy Dirks, Danny Worth
Advantage: Rangers

Texas has more speed and defense, which is what the bench is used for most often in the AL.

See y'all in the comments.

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478 comments
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TheRealDirtyP1
TheRealDirtyP1

Holy shit. I was out of town, but glad to come here and see 400+ comments. And Mert doing the preview? Brings a tear to my eye. Can't wait for today's thread. Stay hard ________ .

Sam_Merten
Sam_Merten

With tonight's game postponed until tomorrow at 3:19 p..m, we'll open up a thread about an hour or so before game time.

Robert Wilonsky
Robert Wilonsky

Till tomorrow. Of course, now Sam and I are on the phone talking about the game ...

Smoke break.

Again, thanks.

McDoom
McDoom

Thank you Big Bob. You're the best

Robert Wilonsky
Robert Wilonsky

Thanks to all for playing. Sam has indeed agreed to host tomorrow -- tell yer friends, wake the kids. I'll hop in later, but Sam'll post a preview at 5:30, and from then, game on. Can't quit now, no?

Chuck G.
Chuck G.

'ppreciate cha pals. I really appreciate yuh.'

McDoom
McDoom

I'll be at game 2 tomorrow. My record in Rangers' ALCS game 2's is 1-0. Just sayin...

primi timpano
primi timpano

Yes.  Thx and have a good break fast tomorrow.

Robert Wilonsky
Robert Wilonsky

Or today. Shit -- just realized, never had dinner. Drinks, but no dinner.

Robert
Robert

Hello win column. Thanks RW, Sam, and everyone.

Sam_Merten
Sam_Merten

What a great game. Thanks to Robert for asking me to do this, and thanks to everyone who participated. Not sure if I'll be back tomorrow, but this was a blast.

Gary
Gary

Hey, Robert, thanks for opening this thread.  It's way better than the DMN, where nobody interacts with anyone else. 

Sam_Merten
Sam_Merten

Ball game! Three more wins for another World Series berth.

Robert Wilonsky
Robert Wilonsky

We doing this tomorrow? Because I got a thing in the evening ...

McDoom
McDoom

I want to like with $Texas times

McDoom
McDoom

Heard this. Neftali can throw home heat

Sam_Merten
Sam_Merten

Leaving Miggy on deck would be spectacular.

Sam_Merten
Sam_Merten

Embarrassing AB by Jackson.

primi timpano
primi timpano

Feliz was good but the batter did not have a clue.

primi timpano
primi timpano

They can't see the ball at all.  This is awesome.

Gary
Gary

Thanks for not throwing a curve on 0-2

Chuck G.
Chuck G.

Joan Jett piss-poor fielding.

primi timpano
primi timpano

Pitiful fielding. Pick it up or get out of the way

Sam_Merten
Sam_Merten

How does that happen when he's already shown bunt?

Chuck G.
Chuck G.

Why did Beltre all of a sudden think he was deep sea fishing in the Caribbean?  

primi timpano
primi timpano

He's loosening up but I really like Tim McCarver.  Always learned something new and interesting.

Sam_Merten
Sam_Merten

Anything's better than Buck Martinez from last series. Really awful.

Gary
Gary

I also think Buck is good.  Except when he says Feliz has great command of his curve.  When Feliz hangs that curve, I show great command of my expletives.

Gary
Gary

After the second rain delay, Francona has been better, insightful at times.

McDoom
McDoom

I thought that Buck/Francona have been decent once they got out all their Verlander fellatiating in the first couple of innings

Chuck G.
Chuck G.

Yep, he got a quick tutorial from Rhadigan during the delays.

Chuck G.
Chuck G.

Purple kush.  Nah, I'm kidding. Just pole.

Chuck G.
Chuck G.

Hamilton---where have you gone?

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