The American League Championship Series is upon us and if you asked the “experts” back in April they would not have predicted the Boston Red Sox playing the Detroit Tigers for a World Series berth. However, that is exactly what we have.
The Boston Red Sox knocked off the Tampa Bay Rays in one American League Division Series while the Detroit Tigers outlasted the Oakland Athletics in the other matchup.
Why should the Red Sox advance? Or why should the Tigers advance? Let’s take an overview of each team’s starters, closers and offense to see if we can find a kink in the Red Sox or Tigers armor.
Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox have been front runners throughout the 2013 season taking the lead and controlling the American League East winning 97 games in 2013. The Red Sox were second in the American League in team batting average (.277), fifth in home runs (178), scored 57 more runs than any other team in the American League and were third in stolen bases. With Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz, Jacoby Ellsbury, Shane Victorino and others the Red Sox have speed, power and an uncanny ability to score runs making them an offensive threat to any rotation they will face. The Red Sox easily scored the most runs in the ALDS and their run production will never turn into a complete vanishing act.
Their staff is not bad but they are just a couple of ticks above average overall and have been held up by their offense. The Red Sox team ERA of 3.79 puts them in the top half of the American League but nothing special. Outside of the fragile Clay Buchholz, John Lackey carries the lowest qualifying ERA of the starts at 3.53 and the other three starters have an ERA north of 4.00.Koji Uehara has been an out of nowhere surprise for the Red Sox this year with a 1.09 ERA as the teams closer. As good as he has been if the Red Sox can’t get it to the bullpen with the lead it can be problematic.
What Needs To Happen
They must not have a poor start at Fenway. It is key for Boston to hold serve at home where they have a clear advantage. While they have a potent offense David Ortiz must play well. He is the machine that keeps everything flowing in Boston. Players like Pedroia and Victorino must add value to the lineup in the ALCS and cannot slump. John Lackey and company must find a way to outperform their regular season starts. They cannot count on offense alone against the Detroit Tigers in this series.
The Detroit Tigers were right behind the Red Sox in offense during the regular season. They led the American League in team batting average (.283) and were second in on base percentage (.346) and OPS (.780). They were in the top third in doubles, home runs and walks as well. Led by the phenom Miguel Cabrera who if it wasn’t for Chris Davis would have won back to back Triple Crowns. Add to the mix Prince Fielders pop, Victor Martinez’s steady bat (.301 BA, 84 RBI and 90 Runs) and the outfield past and future in Torii Hunter (.304 BA) and Austin Jackson and you have a formidable lineup for any rotation to face. This lineup always keeps the Tigers in a game.
The Detroit Tigers rotation has arguably the best one-two punch at the front of their rotation in the American League. Former Cy Young and MVP winner, Justin Verlander and Cy Young frontrunner, Max Scherzer anchor a pitching staff that finished with the third best ERA (3.61), second lowest opposing team batting average (.247) and led in the American League in strikeouts (1,428). Add in Anibal Sanchez and close out games with Joaquin Benoit and that is tough for opposing teams. Justin Verlander regained his old form in the ALDS dominating the Athletics in both starts including the series finale on the road. This rotation could just be too much for even the vaunted Red Sox offense.
What Needs To Happen
Justin Verlander must continue to pitch like the Verlander of old while Sherzer and Sanchez continue to be dominant. Prince Fielder will need to step up his production with the injury situation of Miguel Cabrera. Cabrera must find a way to play through the injury and be productive to counter the Red Sox offense. Austin Jackson must find a way to start rallies by getting on base and avoiding the strikeout while improving his poor batting average and on base percentage from the ALDS.
Prediction: Tigers in Six Games
This was a tough call against two deserving ball clubs. Boston has the best offense in the American League but they cannot afford to start slow as Detroit’s offense is not a slouch either. If they lose one of the opening two games in Fenway then there will be trouble. A team should not have to rely on some combination of Ryan Dempster, John Lackey or Jake Peavy to lead them to glory. The offense might be able to pick them up but the Red Sox will have a tough test against the talented Tigers rotation.
Detroit’s offense slumped in the ALDS against the Athletics tough rotation but I cannot see the Tigers lineup having the same issues night in and night out against Boston. Likewise Boston’s pitching was skewed to the positive due the Rays offense in the ALDS. Offensively they line up well against each other. I can see the two teams splitting in Fenway and I would not be surprised to see Detroit take control at home. I expect a close series each night but at the end of the day the front three of the Tigers rotation should be enough for them to head to the World Series.
Who will win the 2013 ALCS?
- Detroit Tigers (55%, 114 Votes)
- Boston Red Sox (45%, 95 Votes)
Total Voters: 209