Great week of football picks: 8-3-2 against the spread, 10-3 straight up. Now right at .500 for the year, at 51-51-4, and 59-45 straight up. Things are starting to make sense. Maybe. One thing is for sure: Matthew Stafford is terrible. I can't believe how much I dislike that guy right now.
Instead of my usual picks, I'm going to talk about the World Series, which starts tomorrow.
The Giants came back from an improbable 3-1 deficit and now face the Tigers, who underachieved as much as any team in the MLB during the regular season, but somehow ended up stomping the obnoxious Yankees in the ALCS. It's easy to forget that if Coco Crisp didn't drop a fly ball, the Tigers would have eliminated in 4 games in the first round. It's also easy to forget the struggles of Peralta and Delmon Young, who both were fantastic in the playoffs but terrible in the regular season. Young improved from .267 to .294 and Peralta went up from .239 to .343. I don't know why Delmon Young waited 165 games to show patience at the plate and take bad pitches, but he's doing it now and it's one of the biggest reasons why Detroit is the favorites to win it all.
Because of the days off, the Tigers have their starting rotation set just the way they want it, while San Francisco has to pitch whoever is available.
Game one pits the best pitcher in the world against Barry Zito, the 34 year old Giants lefty who won the Cy Young way back in 2002. Zito was one of the best pitchers in the league from '01 to '03, but has steadily declined since, and this year was downright awful against right handed batters, giving up a .355 average and 18 homers. All season, Detroit's hitters have struggled against righties and killed lefties, so this is a perfect matchup for game 1. Verlander has plenty of rest and has been focused on dominating the World Series since April, so he'll be zooming through at least 8 innings and giving up at most 2 runs, probably fewer.
The Giants' lineup is loaded with singles hitters, which is why they were 3rd in the NL in average but only 8th in slugging percentage. They are quite average in drawing walks, average in stolen bases, and average in runs scored. They don't excel in anything, but they certainly aren't bad offensively in any way.
By far, their best offensive player is Buster Posey, the best catcher in baseball. In fact, Posey led the NL in batting average (.336) and was super consistent, hitting above .300 in five of six months this season. (Posey is also a huge reason why my fantasy baseball team won the championship).
The rest of their lineup is pretty average, with stud outfielder Melky Cabrera suspended since August. Second basemen Marco Scutaro is a solid .300 hitter with no power, but he's currently on a 10 game hitting streak in the playoffs. Outfielder Hunter Pence is a good player (.285 career average with lots of power and tons of RBI), but since being traded to San Fran in August he is hitting only .219. Then there's speedy Angel Pagan, a .288 hitter with almost 30 steals. And Pablo Sandoval is a stocky 3rd basemen with some power and a solid average. It's not an overpowering offense, but it's no slouch.
The Giants' pitching staff is much more imposing than their offense, much like Detroit. Ace Matt Cain (who will pitch game 4 against Max) is one of the best pitchers in the business, and Ryan Vogelsong (game 3 against Sanchez) is a definite stud. Then there's Madison Bumgarner, who pitches against Fister in game 2 in what should be the best pitching matchup of the series. As far as bullpens, San Fran's is excellent (fewest blown saves in the NL, anchored by 2 great relivers in Santiago Casilla and Sergio Romo. Detroit's bullpen is erratic at best. Coke and Albuquerque have been solid in the playoffs, Benoit was good in the regular season, and Smyly and Dotel are decent but not dominant. If Leyland pitches Valverde in the 9th inning, which I highly suspect he will, it will be an indication that Leyland values stupidity over winning, but we already know that to be true. However, I do think the Potato closes 1 or 2 games without giving up a run. Just getting by on luck and defense, as he's done before.
To be honest, I still can't believe the Tigers made the World Series, with the hideous regular season they suffered through. But right now, our starting pitching is unbelievable, and the offense is doing just enough. Here is my World Series prediction:
Game One - Verlander dominates - 8 innings, 1 run, 3 hits, Ks. Tigers win 5-2.
Game Two - Fister and Bumgarner duel, it's 2-2 going into the 8th, and Detroit gets the clutch hit and the 3-2 win.
Game Three - Vogelsong stymies the Detroit offense, but Sanchez holds his own and Detroit somehow sneaks away with another close win.
Game Four - Cain keeps the Giants from being swept. Scherzer bombs. Giants 8-2.
Game Five - Verlander slams the door, complete game shutout, and wins the World Series MVP.
Tigers in 5.