This isn't quite how the script was supposed to play out. The American League East was supposed to be the best division in baseball, and they were supposed to have an all AL East ALCS. Everyone thought at the beginning of the season that it would be the Boston Redsox playing the Yanks, just like old times, but Texas and Detroit thought differently. Both teams looked pretty impressive in their ALDS, with the Tigers knocking off the New York Yankees in 5 games, and the Texas Rangers beating the Tampa Bay Rays in 4 games. So now it comes down to these two teams, with a chance to go to the World Series on the line.
Detroit won the regular season series 6-3, but don't take too much from that. Texas never played Detroit when they were fully healthy. Either Josh Hamilton or Adrian Beltre were injured every time they played, and Texas wasn't getting beat bad either. Four of the six losses that the Rangers endured were by 1 run. So with that being said it's time to break these two teams down.
The Tigers starting rotation is obviously strong up front. They are led by Justin Verlander, who is a lock to win the AL Cy Young Award, and could also possibly win the AL MVP Award. Doug Fister has also been lights out since coming to Detroit in a trade, as he has a 1.79 ERA while posting an 8-1 record. After that though things do get a little shaky. Rick Porcello posted a 14-9 record, but his 4.75 ERA leaves him a little questionable. Max Scherzer also posted a good record at 15-9, but he also had a high ERA at 4.34. Their starting rotation is very top heavy and they like to throw the fastball, so that could definitely favor Texas.
The Rangers starting rotation begins with the lefty C.J. Wilson. Wilson had a rough outing in his first start, but I wouldn't expect that to happen again. He was one of the best in the league this year as he went 16-7 with a 2.94 ERA, so expect him to bounce back. They also have the young left hander Derek Holland. His 3.95 ERA is a little misleading, as he was actually much better than that down the stretch. He was 10-1 after the All Star break. Colby Lewis had a pretty good season as well, but he is lights out in October. He is 4-0 with a 1.67 ERA in 5 postseason career starts. Matt Harrison rounds it out for Texas, and he posted a 14-9 record with a 3.39 ERA during the season, which is pretty good for a 4th starter. This was a tough one to decide, but the top heaviness of Detroit gives them the edge.
Detroit's bullpen has been just about as good as it gets. Jose Valverde has closed out 51 games this year without a blown save. Joaquin Benoit has been a dominant setup man, and Phil Coke and Daniel Schlereth have been very reliable lefties.
One of the major strengths for the Rangers is their bullpen. Neftali Feliz had troubles earlier in the season, but since July he has been as reliable as they come. The Rangers also got Mike Adams and Koji Uehara in separte deals at the trade deadline, and both have been very effective over the course of the season. They also now have Alexi Ogando in the bullpen, where he worked last year, and that seems to give Texas the ultimate advantage here.
Detroit has been a great offense all year as they have ranked near the top in all major categories for most of the season. They have the always dangerous Miguel Cabrera, who won the batting title this season. They also have Victor Martinez. He hit .330 this year and drove in over 100 runs. Jhonny Peralta and Alex Avila both hit near .300, and together they had 40 home runs. The Tigers put up 787 runs this season, which was 4th in the majors. Outside of Austin Jackson, they aren't much of a threat to steal bases. Jackson had 22 steals this season, while the rest of the team only had 27. The Tigers have a very potent offense, and they plan to use all their strengths against Texas.
And while Detroit does have a great offense, it seems Texas definitely one ups them. It's tough to put out a better lineup than the Rangers. Ian Kinsler only hit .255, but he worked 89 walks and had an OBP that was .355. Adrian Beltre would be in MVP considerations if he hadn't missed 37 games due to injury, and somehow he still managed to hit 32 homers and 105 RBI. Michael Young hit .338 this season and knocked in over 100 runs, despite hitting only 11 home runs. Josh Hamilton also missed 41 games this season, and he still hit near .300 and hit 25 bombs. Mike Napoli has been one of the best hitters since the All Star break, as he hit near .400. He also hit 30 home runs in only 369 at bats, which is remarkable. All together Texas has 5 players with over 25 homers, and all together they had 210. One place that Texas has a clear advantage is on the base paths. They stole 143 bases this season compared to Detroit stealing only 49. In the end Texas is just a better offensive team.
The Tiger have Wilson Betemit as their best player off of the bench, and he has been pretty good, but after that they just aren't the best. They have Don Kelly, Ramon Santiago, Andy Dirks, and Omir Santos also, but those players haven't contributed too much.
Texas on the other hand could possibly have the best bench in the playoffs. Yorvit Torrealba has played in over 100 games this season, Endy Chavez hit over .300 in 83 games, and Esteban German is a speedy utility infielder that can play 3 infield positions. Craig Gentry has been very valuable also. He stole 18 bases without being caught during the regular season, and he can play any outfield postion.
Jim Leyland has a very impressive resume. He's won 2 pennants, and also won the World Series with the Florida Marlins in 1997. His old school managing style definitely gets the job done, and we all know he has the respect of his players.
Ron Washington is a great manager, and he has improved his record every season with the Texas Rangers. He knows how to use his players, and will find multiple ways to score runs. He's one great manager, but Leyland has the experience.
As you can see this looks like it's going to be one great series. Texas gets a big advantage by getting home field advantage, but don't expect it to phase Detroit too much. I think these are the two best teams left in the playoffs, but in the end Texas' combination of a lethal offense and a strong pitching staff will win them this series.
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