October 23, 2012
World Series Position-by-Position Breakdown
The Giants have been in business since 1883, the Tigers since 1901. The former has now won 20 National League pennants since the modern World Series began in 1903, while the latter has captured 11 American League pennants. This will be the first time these two historic franchises have met in the Fall Classic. SI.com's Cliff Corcoran breaks down the Tigers while Jay Jaffe takes a look at the Giants. (Edges determined by consensus.) Game 1 of the World Series is Wednesday night at AT&T Park in San Francisco.
Prince Fielder
.313 30 108 .940
Joey Votto is the best first baseman in baseball, but with Albert Pujols slowing down a bit, Fielder is in the argument about who's No. 2. Over the last six seasons, Fielder has averaged a .289/.401/.549 line with 38 home runs, 112 RBIs, and a 151 OPS+. That his power numbers were down a bit this year had more to do with changing ballparks than any drop in his performance. A significant portion of his outstanding on-base percentage comes from intentional walks (he led the majors the last two years) and hit-by-pitches (led the majors this year). He has no real value in the field or on the bases, but given his overall production at the plate, those are quibbles.
Brandon Belt
.275 7 56 .781
The more consistency with which San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy wrote Belt's name into the lineup at first base instead of Posey, Brett Pill or Aubrey Huff, the better Belt responded. In the three months where he made at least 20 starts (June, August and September), Belt hit a combined .320/.393/.515, while in the other months he hit .212/.315/.288. He didn't show a radical platoon split, though the shape of his production changed when facing lefties (.242/.315/.453) instead of righties (.290/.380/.406). More glaring were his home/road splits; he was a stud at AT&T Park (.315/.401/.505) but struggled elsewhere (.237/.321/.341), a surprise given how tough his home park is on lefties. After going 1-for-13 in the Division Series, he heated up in the NLCS, going 8-for-26 with three extra-base hits, including a moon-shot homer that put the exclamation point on the Giants' clinching victory in Game 7.
Omar Infante
.274 12 53 .719
Infante and Justin Verlander are the only current Tigers who also played for the 2006 pennant winners, but Infante spent most of the interim in the National League, returning at this year's trading deadline to fill the Tigers cavernous hole at second base, where his predecessors had hit a combined .201/.286/.276 through July 23. Infante has no above-average skills. His primary value is keeping his team above replacement level at a given position, though he has struggled to do even that over the past two months, hitting .238/.277/.305 since Aug. 26, postseason included, barely better than his Detroit predecessors.
Marco Scutaro
.306 7 74 .753
Acquired from the Rockies on July 27, Scutaro hit a searing .362/.385/.473 in 268 PA for the Giants, closed the year on a 20-game hitting streak and wound up setting a career high with 74 RBIs; San Francisco went 38-20 (.655) in his starts. Since being bowled over by Matt Holliday's dirty takeout slide in Game 2 of the NLCS, he has become something of a mascot for the team, earning series NLCS MVP honors via a 14-for-28 showing with three doubles after a 3-for-20 Division Series.

The cornucopia of defensive metrics available suggest his work at second base was below average this year, but the change in teams combined with a fair bit of work at other positions means dealing with a double handful of small sample sizes that aren't very revealing.
Jhonny Peralta
.239 13 63 .668
Peralta is a solid defensive shortstop with some pop in his bat who was a key component of the Tigers' ALCS victory over the Yankees, going 7-for-18 with a pair of home runs in four games. His 2011 season (.299/.345/.478, 21 HR, 86 RBI) was the second-best of his career, behind only his breakout age-23 season in 2005. His inability to repeat that performance this year seems to be largely the product of his failure to get as much lift on the ball, resulting in more groundballs and a corresponding drop in batting average on balls in play and home runs.
Brandon Crawford
.248 4 45 .653
Crawford's a plus-fielder whose glovework was worth anywhere from 8 to 13 runs above average this year depending upon which metric you use. His hitting, meanwhile, went from execrable to merely awful in his second big league season thanks to a respectable second half (.260/.327/.370) notable for much-improved strikeout and walk rates. While he has hit just .206/.325/.294 in 40 postseason PA, he's driven in six runs, four of which came with the score either tied or within one run in either direction. Still, he's not here for the lumber, he's here for the leather. His catch of Kyle Lohse's inning-ending line drive in Game 7 may have been the defensive play of the series; it saved the Giants two early runs, and changed the complexion of the game.
Miguel Cabrera
.330 44 139 .999
Cabrera became the first hitter to win the Triple Crown in 45 years this season and is in the discussion about being the best hitter in baseball. In addition to leading the American League in batting average and the majors in home runs and RBIs this year, he led the AL in slugging percentage and the majors in total bases and OPS.

The most amazing part is that he was even better in each of the last two seasons. Cabrera has hit .334/.420/.604 over the last three years with an average of 37 home runs 123 RBIs, 110 runs scored and a 175 OPS+. The biggest change this year is that his walks were down, likely the result of having Fielder hitting behind him.

The Tigers took a big chance in moving Cabrera back to third base this year, but he re-adjusted to his old position better than most expected and hit .337/.407/.667 with 26 home runs in the second half of the season. He's still a sub-par fielder, but being able to play both Cabrera and Fielder in the NL park in the World Series will more than compensate for Cabrera's shortcomings in the field in this Series.
Pablo Sandoval
.283 12 63 .789
After a hot start (.316/.375/.537 with five homers through May 2), Sandoval missed five weeks due to a broken hamate in his left hand that required surgery, and hit a fairly ordinary .272/.331/.419 with seven homers the rest of the way. That said, he's been the Giants' top hitter in the postseason (.320/.340/.580 with three homers in 53 PA), so perhaps the hand is less of an issue now. As a switch-hitter, he matches up well with the Tigers' staff, batting .275/.344/.465 against righties this year, compared to .299/.336/.409 against lefties. His career platoon split is even wider, including a .513 slugging percentage against righties. He's a surprisingly good fielder despite his rotund physique, though his defensive numbers weren't as strong as in 2011.
Quintin Berry
.258 2 29 .684
A minor league veteran with his fourth organization, the 27-year-old Berry made his major league debut in May and impressed as an injury replacement for Jackson and Dirks, but cooled off significantly in the second half, hitting just .218/.270/.293 after the All-Star Break. Nonetheless, he managed to sneak past fellow lefty Brennan Boesch, who hit .169/.273/.260 after Aug. 9 and has been left off the Tigers' roster all postseason, to claim the large side of a complex corner outfield platoon with Avisail Garcia. Berry's biggest asset is his speed. He has good range in left, can spot in center and is a perfect 24-for-24 in stolen base attempts between the regular and postseasons..
Gregor Blanco
.244 5 34 .676
Blanco carved out a spot as the team's starting rightfielder thanks to a torrid May (.315/.427/.457), but he hit just .226/.302/.312 from June 1 to the end of the season, shifting over to leftfield after Hunter Pence's acquisition and Melky Cabrera's suspension. Even so, his speed was an asset; he stole 26 bases in 32 attempts, ranked 12th in the majors in Baserunning Runs (5.6), and was generally viewed as an above-average via the various defensive metrics thanks to centerfielder-caliber wheels. He hasn't exactly been hot this postseason (.222/.364/.417 in 44 PA) but four of his eight hits have been for extra bases.
Austin Jackson
.300 16 66 12
The most underrated Tiger took a huge step forward in this, his third major league season. Already established as an elite glove man in center (The Fielding Bible rated him the best defensive centerfielder in the majors in 2011), he became a star at the plate as well, cutting his strikeouts, increasing his walks and hitting for more power, in part by reducing his groundball rate. Only an early-season abdomen strain (which cost him 21 games) and a down year on the bases (just 12 steals at an awful 57 percent) kept him from being a regular part of the MVP conversation, and he has kept it up thus far in the postseason, hitting .297/.350/.514 in 41 plate appearances..
Angel Pagan
.288 8 56 .778
With 15 triples and 29 steals this year, Pagan's got plenty of speed, but he hasn't been a factor on the basepaths in the postseason. In fact, he's rarely been on, hitting just .208/.246/.377 in 57 PA, though four of his 11 hits have been for extra bases, including two homers. The switch-hitter matches up well with the Tigers, as he's stronger against righties (.296/.351/.448 this year) than lefties (.271/.313/.424), a split consistent with his career trend. Defensive metrics vary widely when it comes to his work this year, with a 22-run spread between the best and worst, but for the most part they agree he's an above-average centerfielder.
Andy Dirks
.322 8 35 .857
Dirks, 26, had a break-out year in 2012, his second season, albeit one interrupted by a two-month disabled list stay due to an inflamed Achilles tendon and buoyed by an inflated batting average on balls in play (.365). He is a solid fielder in both corner pastures, capable of subbing in center, and will move to leftfield against lefthanded starting pitchers to allow rookie Avisail Garcia to start in right. Dirks' production at the plate this year, however, was a bit of a fluke, one that has thus far been exposed this postseason, in which he has hit just .257/.278/.314. If you combine Dirks' regular and postseason work over the last two years, he has hit .290/.335/.443 in 621 major league plate appearances. That's not a far cry from his career minor league line and a better representation of his ability as a hitter than his 2012 numbers above.
Hunter Pence
.253 24 104 .743
Since the year 2000, 401 players have hit 20 homers and driven in 100 runs in a season, and only two of them have posted a lower OPS than Pence; the next-lowest this season, Curtis Granderson, had an OPS 68 points higher. The 29-year-old Pence struggled after being acquired from the Phillies on July 31 (.219/.287/.384 with seven homers in 248 PA), and he's been dreadful this postseason (.188/.204/.271 in 49 PA). Even so, he's a whirling dervish -- "all elbows and kneecaps," as Vin Scully described him -- whose antics at the plate and in the field have provided plenty of entertainment.
Alex Avila
.243 9 48 .736
Avila was an MVP candidate in 2011, but regressed significantly this year, largely due to a correction in his batting average on balls in play, which dropped 53 points from his .366 figure a year ago. His drop in power (from a .211 isolated power to .142) is more difficult to explain. Avila's production dried up almost completely against his fellow lefties this season, prompting the Tigers to platoon him with the righthanded Gerald Laird, who actually hit better against righties this year, but also out-hit Avila against lefties. Laird, who was the Cardinals' backup last year, is a better backstop, but had a below-average rate of baserunner kills this season. Avila was better at stopping the running game, but led the league in passed balls.
Buster Posey
.336 24 103 .957
Posey rebounded from a season wrecked by a grisly home plate collision to win a batting title and lead the league in all of the major Wins Above Replacement (Player) metrics en route to a season that may net him the NL MVP award. He hit a remarkable .433/.470/.793 in 181 plate appearances against lefties, a skill that will be rendered moot by the Tigers' righty-heavy staff; his performance against righties was a more modest .292/.382/.440.

Behind the plate, Posey was good if not Yadier-level outstanding, throwing out 30 percent of would-be base thieves but faring very well in terms of pitch-framing. He has struggled during the postseason (.178/.288/.311 in 52 PA) save for a pair of homers, with the Cardinal pitchers feeding him a steady diet of low-and-away stuff in the NLCS that largely prevented him from pulling the ball in the air.
Delmon Young
.267 18 74 .707
The top pick in the 2003 amateur draft and the top prospect in baseball soon after, Young, now 27, has matured into a replacement level player. He can't run, can't field, won't take a walk or work a count, and doesn't have the kind of power or ability to hit for average that can meaningfully compensate for those deficiencies. He does, however, have a knack for hitting playoff home runs. In two postseasons as a Tiger, he has hit .265/.315/.588 in 73 plate appearances with a franchise-record seven postseason home runs. He won the ALCS MVP award for hitting .353/.421/.765 with two home runs in four games against the Yankees.

Avisail Garcia, who starts in rightfield against lefties, is a big, toolsy, 21-year-old Venezuelan with surprising speed and a great throwing arm, but he has managed just one extra-base hit in 70 major league plate appearances between the regular and postseasons. Ramon Santiago and Danny Worth are defense-first infield subs. Don Kelly is a supersub who has played all nine positions in the major leagues and is a Leyland favorite. None of these men, including platoon catcher Gerald Laird, is a threat at the plate..
Hector Sanchez
.280 3 34 .685
The Giants aren't blessed with a very good bench, and lack an obvious DH for when the series shifts to Detroit; during interleague play, Bochy used Posey and Sandoval for more than half of the team's plate appearances at the position. Perhaps the most probable scenario would be for Bochy favorite Sanchez -- an undisciplined hacker who walked five times in 227 PA -- to get in work behind the plate catching either Tim Lincecum (whom he caught in 16 of 33 starts) or Barry Zito (whom he caught in 25 out of 33 starts) while Posey and Belt split DH and first base chores between them. Beyond that, the options are grim. Lefty Aubrey Huff (.192 /.326/.282) and righty Xavier Nady (.184/.253/.316) both had terrible seasons at the plate, though the latter's stats as a pinch-hitter (6-for-13, 13 total bases) offer small sample-based hope. Ryan Theriot is the reserve middle infielder whose best fit is batting against the southpaws the Tigers don't have, and he's even more buried because fellow infielder Joaquin Arias is a better lefty-masher (.303/.333/.434 in 163 PA this year) who could also elbow his way into the lineup given space for an extra bat.
Justin Verlander
2.64 17-8 239 1.057
The Tigers' rotation is their biggest strength heading into the World Series. In Justin Verlander they have the best pitcher in baseball over the last two seasons, and in Fister, Sanchez and Scherzer, they have better rotation depth than the Giants. They also, by virtue of having swept the ALCS, have the ability to set up their rotation, as all four of their starters could technically start Game 1 of the World Series on extra rest.

Of course, the man who will start Game 1 is Verlander, who in addition to winning the 2011 American League Cy Young and MVP awards has pitched well enough to win another Cy Young this year. Over his last seven starts, he has gone 7-0 with a 0.69 ERA, 0.86 WHIP and 4.73 K/BB with roughly a strikeout per inning and more than 7 1/3 innings pitched per start. The other three men in Detroit's rotation, meanwhile, have posted a 1.20 ERA in six postseason starts (two each) with a 1.04 WHIP, more than a strikeout per inning and just shy of 6 1/3 innings pitched per start.
Matt Cain
2.79 16-5 193 1.040
Particularly when compared to the rested Tigers, the Giants' rotation is in disarray as they head into the World Series. Barring someone working on three days' rest, San Francisco won't get more than three turns out of its two best starters, Matt Cain and Ryan Vogelsong, and won't get more than two unless the series goes seven games. NLCS hero though he may have been, likely Game 1 starter Barry Zito is still a pitcher who hasn't had a ton of success lately (even during the Giant's 13-start undefeated stretch on his watch, his stats remain pedestrian) and the lefty has a huge platoon split going into a matchup loaded with righty hitters.

The troubles of Tim Lincecum, who may start Game 2, are well-documented, and despite his strong relief work earlier in the postseason, his NLCS Game 4 start (4 2/3 innings, 4 runs) suggested he still hadn't ironed things out. At this writing, Madison Bumgarner remains a possibility if the Giants are confident they have tweaked his mechanics enough to snap out of a late-season slide (6.85 ERA and less than five innings per start over his last nine turns); that would allow them to return Lincecum to the bullpen, where he could be a weapon.

Cain and Vogelsong, who will take Games 3 and 4 in some order -- unless Vogelsong works Game 2 on three days' rest -- have fared better. Cain hasn't been as sharp as usual (a 3.52 ERA but one quality start out of four in the postseason, and four homers allowed in 23 innings), but he's kept the Giants in every game, including both series clinchers. Vogelsong has delivered two of the team's four starts of six innings or more and has allowed just three runs in 19 innings while striking out 18. If he's moved up to Game 2, a Zito-Vogelsong-Cain-Lincecum/Bumgarner-Zito-Vogelsong-Cain plan snaps into place.
Jose Valverde
3.78 3-4 35/40 1.78
The Tigers' bullpen was thrown into disarray when closer Jose Valverde blew leads in consecutive outings earlier this postseason. First he allowed three runs in blowing the save and taking the loss in Game 4 of the Division Series against the A's, a game in which the Tigers could have ended the series; then he blew a 4-0 lead in Game 1 of the ALCS to the Yankees. Valverde hasn't pitched since and now sports a 12.10 postseason ERA in nine appearances for the Tigers over the last two years.

He's on the World Series roster, but Tigers manager Jim Leyland, who turned to lefty Phil Coke to finish the final three games of the ALCS, two of them in save opportunities, has made no indication that he intends to restore him to the closers role. Coke hasn't allowed a run, inherited or otherwise, in 7 1/3 innings in this postseason. If Coke does remain the closer, that makes rookie Drew Smyly, a repurposed starter, the top lefty in the 'pen. He held lefties to a .224/.283/.388 line during the regular season and has turned in two clean outings thus far this postseason.

Outside of the volatile Valverde, the righties in Detroit's bullpen are an impressive bunch. Primary set-up man Joaquin Benoit has been bit homer-prone this season, and blew a Division Series save with the help of a longball, but has been one of the top set-up men in baseball over the last three seasons, posting a 2.71 ERA, 10.4 K/9 and 4.44 K/BB over that span. Veteran journeyman Octavio Dotel has had similar peripherals over the last two seasons and hasn't allowed a hit in four appearances this posteason. Then there's 26-year-old Al Alburquerque, who, thanks in part to a wipe-out slider, has struck out 13.5 men per nine innings in 56 2/3 career regular season innings and is perfect in his only two appearances of this postseason. Fifth starter Rick Porcello will serve as the long man in the case of a blow-out or extended extra-inning game. He has faced just one batter this postseason.
Sergio Romo
1.79 4-2 14/15 6.30
Despite the loss of Brian Wilson -- now the hairiest cheerleader in baseball history -- the Giants have a strong bullpen, and Bochy's handling of the unit may be his biggest strength. The bullpen has delivered a 2.57 ERA and a 40/9 K/BB ratio in 42 postseason innings so far, though a lot of that work has been low-leverage due to wide score margins. Bochy has three lefties at his disposal in Jeremy Affeldt, Javier Lopez and Jose Mijares, the better to key on Prince Fielder and Alex Avila in high-leverage situations; the trio allowed just one homer and a .303 SLG in 258 PA versus lefty hitters during the regular season, and Bochy isn't afraid to use either Affeldt or Lopez to close out games if the matchup merits it.

Rookie George Kontos and ageless Guillermo Mota are the righty middlemen; the former has gained Bochy's trust enough to be the first cowboy out of the chute in all seven of his appearances, while the latter has been knocked around in October. Santiago Casilla led the Giants with 25 saves but has been bumped down into the role of top righty setup man, a bit homer- and walk-prone during the regular season but strong thus far this month. Romo, the current righty closer option, compiled a sterling 63/10 K/BB ratio in 55 1/3 innings, and held righties to a .192/.229/.308 line. He has just one save this month, but blew just one out of 15 save opportunities all season.
Jim Leyland
Career W-L Postseason W-L
1,676-1,659 39-30
This is the third World Series in 21 managerial seasons for the 67-year-old Leyland, whose success with the Tigers could propel him to the Hall of Fame. The gruff-voiced, chain-smoking, spikes-wearing, mustachioed Leyland is straight out of central casting, but, with the possible exception of Kelly, he doesn't play favorites. Dirks, Berry, Garcia, Smyly and Alburquerque have all been given opportunities early and often this season, and in the last month alone, Leyland has twice shown a willingness to change horses mid-stream in order to optimize his team's performance. He abandoned the slumping Boesch and Valverde in favor of players with shorter track records but superior performance.

Leyland knows what he has in Verlander and is not shy about letting him throw 120 to 130 pitches per start, but he doesn't ride his pitchers indiscriminately, as evidenced by his handling of Max Scherzer in the wake of Scherzer's sore shoulder. Though Scherzer was Detroit's second-best starter in the second half of the regular season, Leyland has held him back as the team's fourth starter in each round of the playoffs and, despite his strong starts, has hooked him early when his velocity starts to wane.
Bruce Bochy
Career W-L Postseason W-L
1,454-1,444 26-25
Having guided San Francisco to its second pennant in three years, Bochy's work deserves validation as more than simply a starting pitching-driven fluke. He has succeeded despite his lineup foibles (his manipulation of Belt early in the season, and his lust for the hacktastic Sanchez in particular), a weak bench (Giant subs hit just .208/.282 /.324, the fifth-worst performance in the league) and a fondness for smallball tactics (the Giants ranked second in the league in hit-and-run attempts, fourth in stolen base attempts and tied for eighth in position player sacrifice hits).

Largely, that's because his squad is well-suited for same, with the league's second-lowest strikeout rate (17.2 percent), an above-average stolen base rate (75.2 percent) and Baserunning Runs score (4.4) and a middle-of-the-pack double play rate (2.3 percent). Those successes add up in the Giants' low-run environment, as does Bochy's deft touch with a bullpen that's not beholden to the star closer model; it's no accident the team went 30-20 in one-run games, the league's second-best record.
The big question facing Detroit coming into the World Series is how it will respond to having had six days off since sweeping the Yankees in the ALCS. The Tigers also had six days off coming into their last World Series appearance, in 2006, and lost that Series in five games. This time around, Leyland has attempted to keep his team sharp by having them play intrasquad scrimmages fleshed out by instructional league players. Historically, the number of days a team has off before the World Series has proven insignificant, with the 2008 Phillies being a recent example of a team that had six or more days off but won the Series anyway. . . . Of the ten teams to make the postseason this year, only the Tigers and Cardinals had losing records on the road, both going 38-43 (.469) away from home. Detroit scored just 4.1 runs per game away from Comerica Park this season, and its only two postseason losses thus far have come on the road. . . . As might be expected given Valverde's volatility, the Tigers have not performed well in close games this year, going 21-27 (.438) in one-run games and posting a losing record (4-5) in extra-innings. That said, they won their only extra-inning game this postseason (after a Valverde blown save forced extra frames) and are 2-1 in one-run games, though Valverde didn't pitch in either of the two wins.
The Giants' roster has undergone a fair bit of turnover since their 2010 World Series win; Posey and Sandoval are the only remaining regulars from that team (Huff is now a reserve), and Cain the only starter with more than two postseason turns this year. Whether it's attributable to Bochy's leadership or the clubhouse environment in general, this is an exceptionally resilient team. San Francisco withstood the shocking late-season loss of its hottest hitter, the suspended Melky Cabrera, by going an NL best 30-15 from August 15 onward, and survived six back-to-the-wall elimination games in the postseason, coming from down 2-games-to-0 in the best-of-five Division Series against the Reds (on the road, no less) and from down 3-games-to-1 in the best-of-seven NLCS. They can thank All-Star Game MVP Melky for that home field advantage, which could be key given the team's 51-36 record at home (including the postseason); the Tigers went 54-31 at home, 41-45 on the road.

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