SAN FRANCISCO - For the 12th straight year a new World Series champ will be declared.
The San Francisco Giants, the team with the eighth-highest payroll in Major League Baseball, hosts the Detroit Tigers, the team with the fifth-highest payroll, in the opener of the 108th World Series on Wednesday at AT&T Park.
The Giants won it all two years ago, beating the Texas Rangers in seven games, while the Tigers have not won since 1984.
It’s the first time both franchises will meet in post-season play.
We asked an expert, an American League pro scout, how the they stack up against one another.
Like most good story tellers, he starts at the beginning:
“The weather in San Francisco could kill the offence of Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder plus Buster Posey,” he said Tuesday. “In Pablo Sandoval and Cabrera you have two guys not real adept at third base. We should see some guys bunting, there will be some small ball if the ball is not travelling.”
He compared the Game 1 pitching matchup -- Detroit’s hard-throwing Justin Verlander against soft-tossing lefty Barry Zito -- to Mike Cueller vs. Nolan Ryan.
“With the Giants using their best two starters to win Game 6 and 7 over St. Louis, it could negate their home field advantage,” the scout. “The Giants have to beat Verlander one of these games.
“If Verlander runs up his pitch count with a lot of strikeouts, Jim Leyland will take him out. They’ve taken care of his balky shoulder and that opens the vulnerability to the Tiger bullpen.”
Our official prognosticator does not see the Giants “deflating” after winning their sixth elimination game or being happy to be here.
“They’re like the Cardinals last year, they’re on a roll,” said the scout.
And the prediction is ...
“Detroit will win in six ... or seven games,” he said. “But if the Giants beat Verlander Game 1, that will shake up the Tigers. It’s going to be an interesting Series.”
And neither team has a lights-out, Mr. Automatic closer.
The best-of-seven series will feature Tigers starting pitching vs. Giants hitters.
The winner won’t be decided by which left fielder -- Delmon Young or Gregor Blanco -- collects the most hits.
Yet, a position-by-position look is always one way to examine rosters.
And now our 22nd annual post-season, matchups.
A list of the probable starting lineups, their regular-season numbers, the scout’s comments and his ratings out of a possible 10.
Tigers: Gerald Laird (.282 batting average, two home runs, 11 runs batted in, .710 on-base plus slugging) and Alex Avila (.243 AVG, 9 HR, 48 RBI, .736 OPS).
“Laird is an experienced later-part-of-the-game guy. I thought he’d throw more out. They’ll use him against Barry Zito. Avila is still a developing player. He’s more of a cripple hitter. His defence has gotten better. Nothing came easy for the him, he’s a converted guy who used to be an infielder.”
Giants: Buster Posey (.336 AVG, 24 HR, 103 RBI, .957 OPS).
“Posey might be the MVP in the NL, he’ll come out of this slump. He’s facing a more conventional staff -- he’ll see more fastballs against Detroit, another converted guy, too. He could be The Factor.”
Rating: Posey 8, Avila 5, Laird 3.
Tigers: Prince Fielder (.313 AVG, 30 HR, 108 RBI, .940 OPS).
“I love this guy. His defence comes and goes, his glove is still below average. He’s more agile and athletic than his body suggests. His bat is so dangerous, more dangerous in Detroit than in San Fran. How do you contain him? Challenge him.”
Giants: Brandon Belt (.275 AVG, 7 HR, 56 RBI, .781 OPS).
“His defence is something to fall in love with. Saw him play the outfield in the Dominican last year. Not many balls will get by him at first. The bat is a work in progress as he develops his strike zone.”
Rating: Fielder 8, Belt 5.
Tigers: Omar Infante (.274 AVG, 12 HR, 53 RBI, .668 OPS).
“There used to be issues with him turning double plays. When he was with the Marlins he was fine, then when he first got to Detroit again he had problems. The last couple of weeks he’s been better. It was like he was protecting an injury. He’s a quality player and can yank one once in a while.”
Giants: Marco Scutaro (.306 AVG, 7 HR, 74 RBI, .753 OPS).
“Right now he’s in another zone. It’s a good comparison. He’s a better contact hitter and has fewer holes than Infante -- even before this hot streak. Very instinctive I don’t like him at short, but I love him at second.”
Rating: Scutaro 7, Infante 6.
Tigers: Miguel Cabrera (.330 AVG, 44 HR, 139 RBI, .999 OPS).
“He’s a lot better than I thought playing third, but still below average. His arm saves him on back hand plays. His bat is the best in either league. He’s the most dangerous ‘good’ hitter with apologies to a healthy Jose Bautista. Cabrera is crazy dangerous.”
Giants: Pablo Sandoval (.283 AVG, 12 HR, 63 RBI, .906 OPS) “Also below average on the corner. I’d be bunting -- on both guys. He has a legit arm and is very disciplined at the plate.”
Rating: Cabrera 10, Sandoval 6.
Tigers: Jhonny Peralta (.239 AVG, 13 HR, 66 RBI, .689 OPS).
“A deceptive player. We’ve had this guy moving to third -- for about six years. He’s still playing short. He makes all the plays within his range. Very much a routine shortstop. Some power but a hit-and-miss guy.”
Giants: Brandon Crawford (.248 AVG, 4 HR, 45 RBI, .683 OPS).
“He’s above average with the glove, covers more ground, makes more spectacular plays and makes all the routine plays. He’s a low fastball hitter. As Jimy Williams used to say about Manny Lee, ‘His RBIs are in his glove.’ ”
Rating: Peralta 5, Crawford 5.
Tigers: Delmon Young (.267 AVG, 18 HR, 74 RBI, .707 OPS).
“If they keep him focused he’ll do damage. I don’t like him as an overall player, I like his bat, but he’s a terrible outfielder and a bad base runner. He’s a streaky hitter. You don’t know which one guy will show.”
Giants: Gregor Blanco (.244 AVG, 5 HR, 34 RBI, .676 OPS).
“Don’t like him with the bat. He can bunt for a hit, but I seldom saw him bunt. You can beat him at the plate with a fastball. Has above average speed, he’d be above average in centre. He’s a bench guy.”
Rating: Young 6, Blanco 4.
Tigers: Austin Jackson (.240 AVG, 16 HR, 66 RBI, .856 OPS).
“Love this guy. He’s cut his strikeouts down. He’s improved off last year and has a chance to get better. Above average on the bases and in centre. Breaking balls give him problems. He has triples written all over him.”
Giants: Angel Pagan (.288 AVG, 8 HR, 56 RBI, .778 OPS).
“You have to respect this guy and the way he’s played for them, I’d like to see more speed from my centre fielder. He’s slightly above average with the glove.”
Rating: Jackson 7, Pagan 6.
Tigers: Avisail Garcia (.319 AVG, 0 HR, 3 RBI, .692 OPS).
“I had a few looks at him in the second half. The league didn’t know him and he hit some fastballs. Al Kaline has him as a star in the making. Hall of Famers usually know these things and this kid is a five-tool guy. If I’m the Giants: nothing but breaking balls. Pressure didn’t affect him. More ability than Pence, but he’s not a better player right now.”
Giants: Hunter Pence (.253 AVG, 24 HR, 104 RBI, .784 OPS).
“He’s had two different seasons, good in Philadelphia, bad with the Giants. He’s become a swing-and-miss guy, which he’s never been. He’s more athletic than the disjointed quirky look he gives you. He’s not stealing. He could be a good guy for the Giants in this. He has no fear of hitting a fastball.”
Rating: Pence 6, Garcia 6.
Tigers: Justin Verlander (17-8 record, 2.64 earned-run average), Doug Fister (10-10, 3.45 ERA), Max Scherzer (16-7, 3.74 ERA), Anibal Sanchez (9-13, 3.86 ERA).
“The Tigers have more depth. A starting staff should not be centered around one guy, but with Verlander you can. I’d say they (the Giants) have to get to him early, play small ball. I’ve seen the others at their best, at their worst. Detroit is much deeper. Scherzer is a power guy, Fister changes speed so well.”
Giants: Barry Zito (15-8, 4.15 ERA), Madison Bumgarner (16-11, 3.37 ERA), Ryan Vogelsong (14-9, 3.37 ERA) Matt Cain (16-5, 2.79 ERA).
“Not as excited about this group. I thought Cain was too cautious in Game 7 but it was the sixth inning and St. Louis had nothing but zeros. He’s their best and not as good as Verlander. The Giants have more quality No. 3 types.”
Rating: Tigers 8, Giants 6.5.
Tigers: Joaquin Benoit (5-3, 3.68 ERA), Phil Coke (2-3, 4.00 ERA), Octavio Dotel (5-3, 3.57 ERA), Drew Smyly (4-3, 3.99 ERA), Rick Porcello (10-12, 4.59 ERA), Al Alburquerque (0-0, 0.68 ERA).
“This is a hot-and-cold group. Benoit has been bad. I don’t have the confidence that Jim Leyland has. Benoit some nights reverts to where he was in Texas. Coke pitches on adrenalin, he’s always jacked up, there was a time when he’d try to throw the ball through the radio booth. He could be a key guy.”
Giants: Jeremy Affeldt (1-2, 2.70 ERA), Santiago Casilla (7-6, 2.84 ERA, 25 saves), Javier Lopez (3-0, 2.50 ERA), George Kontos (2-1, 2.47 ERA), Jose Mijares (3-2, 2.56 ERA), Guillermo Mota (0-1, 5.23 ERA), Tim Lincecum (10-15, 5.18 ERA).
“These guys throw more strikes than the Tigers. I see them as getting the job done -- without the big sexy names. Affeldt has been excellent. They match up better than the Tigers. A lot fewer implosions.”
Rating: Giants 7, Tigers 5.
Tigers: Jose Valverde (3-4, 3.68 ERA, 35 saves).
“He has been dominant, but not lately. They might go to Coke. At this moment (Valverde’s) almost lost his job. This is not the 1984 Tigers with Willie Hernandez coming out of the bullpen.”
Giants: Sergio Romo (4-2, 1.79 ERA).
“He throws strikes but he’s not what I would call a pure closer. They protect Romo. If he trusts his off-speed stuff he can be dominant.”
Rating: Valverde 6, Romo 6.
WORLD SERIES PREDICTIONS
Who will win the 107th World Series?
The Detroit Tigers or the San Francisco Giants? And in how many games?
The dandelions of North American journalism gave their predictions in our 26th annual poll, four of whom predicted the St. Louis Cardinals in seven a year ago, including the first two
Gerry Fraley, Dallas Morning News: Tigers in six. “Tigers have always been John Farrell’s dream job, plus they’re battle-tested after the demanding AL Central.”
Tyler Kepner, New York Times: Tigers in six. “Detroit’s starters are better, as resourceful as the Giants offence is, I think Tiger pitching will control it.”
Danny Knobler, CBS Sportsline: Tigers in five. “Hate going against the Giants, I was wrong not picking them two years ago. It’s so rare I get a team right, I’m sticking with it.”
Jim Caple, ESPN: Giants in seven. “Justin Verlander will regret his all-star performance.”
Tom Haudricourt, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Tigers in five. “The Tigers have to sweep because if the Giants are down 3-1, they’ll have the Tigers exactly where they want them.”
Tom Gage, Detroit News: Tigers in five. “Detroit’s right-handers will dominate the Giants right-handed hitters.”
Bob Nightengale, USA Today: Tigers in five. “The only reason it won’t be a sweep is the Tiger bullpen. Giants haven’t seen pitching like this all year -- welcome to the varsity guys.”
John Lowe, Detroit Free Press: Giants in seven. “Home field advantage.”
Paul Hoynes, Cleveland Plain Dealer: Tigers in six. “I like their starting pitching.”
Richard Justice, MLB.com: Tigers in seven. “They have morphed into the best team in baseball, they’re 16-5 since Sept. 24.”
Bob Dutton, Kansas City Star: Giants in seven. “They’re a charmed bunch, and if it gets to seven, they have Matt Cain at home. He’s already won two clinchers.”
George King, New York Post: Tigers in six. “Starters a lot better.”
Marc Topkin, Tampa Bay Times: Tigers in five. “The middle of Detroit’s lineup about to explode against Giants pitching.”