By Mark Miller
So how are the Detroit Tigers and San Francisco Giants, neither with even the second-best regular-season records in their respective leagues, playing in the World Series?
In a word, pitching, especially starting pitching. Consider the following statistics:
ñ Detroit’s Justin Verlander captured the 2011 American League Cy Young Award while San Francisco’s Tim Lincecum won it in the National League in 2008 and 2009. Verlander also was the American League’s most valuable player last year.
ñ Verlander threw no-hitters in 2007 and 2011. Teammate Anibel Sanchez did the same with Florida in 2006 while San Francisco’s Matt Cain had a perfect game June 13.
ñ Detroit ranked third in the American League with a 3.75 earned run average and has shined in the post-season with a 7-2 record and 1.69 ERA.
ñ San Francisco was fifth in the National League at 3.68 and gave up just one run in its final three games against the St. Louis Cardinals in the league championship series.
Want more? Verlander has won his last seven games including the post season with a 0.69 earned run average. Teammate Max Scherzer went 16-7 with a 3.74 ERA and was 6-1 with a 1.77 ERA in his final nine regular season starts. Though he was 10-10 with a 3.45 ERA overall, Doug Fister was 8-3, 2.51 after the All-Star Break.
Cain had a 16-5 regular-season record and 2.78 ERA. Ryan Vogelsong was 14-9, 3.37, Madison Bumgarner 16-11, 3.37 and Barry Zito 15-8, 4.08.
The main question mark for Detroit is its bullpen, especially closer Jose Valverde who has yielded seven earned runs in 2.1 innings this post-season. San Francisco’s Sergio Romo has given up just one run in 7.1 innings after emerging from the pack with 14 of 15 save opportunities in replacement the injured Brian Wilson.
Based on all these numbers, don’t be surprised if the 2012 Fall Classic that begins Wednesday in San Francisco is low scoring.
Offense no slouches
While pitching dominates, the teams have enough offense to be dangerous. The Tigers feature third baseman Miguel Cabrera, the first Triple Crown winner in 35 years with a .330 average, 44 home runs and 139 runs batted in and first baseman Prince Fielder, who added 30 HRs and 108 RBI plus a .308 average.
Detroit also includes center-fielder and Denton native Austin Jackson (.300, 16, 66) and left-fielder Delmon Young (.267, 18, 74).
For the Giants, catcher Buster Posey returned to his 2010 form with 36 homers, 103 RBI and a .336 average after missing most of 2011 with an injury. Third baseman Pablo Sandoval (.283, 12, 63) and second baseman Marco Scutaro (.362 average in 61 games after coming over from Colorado) provide additional spark.
Scutaro had a record six multi-hit games in the N.L. Championship series to help the Giants overcome a 3-1 deficit and beat the defending World Series champion Cardinals. That followed a league division series where San Francisco won three straight after losing the first two to Cincinnati.
Both Detroit’s Jim Leyland and San Francisco’s Bruce Bochy are seeking their second World Series titles in their third attempts. Bochy lost to the Yankees 4-0 with the San Diego Padres in 1998 and beat the Texas Rangers 4-1 in 2010. Leyland won with the Florida Marlins in 1997 in a 4-3 thriller against the Cleveland Indians and lost 4-1 to the St. Louis Cardinals in 2006.
Because the Tigers had five days off after sweeping the New York Yankees in the A.L. Championship Series and the Giants used so much energy against the Cardinals, look for Detroit to win the 2012 World Series in six games.