The 2012 Major League Baseball season has been nothing short of spectacularly crazy. From a plethora of injuries to emerging young superstars, this season has been non-stop entertainment for baseball fans around the world. The World Series is now upon us, as the best team from the American League faces off with the best from the National League to determine who the greatest team of the year is. The Detroit Tigers and the San Francisco Giants both traveled completely different paths to reach this final plateau, but in the end they will battle it out on America’s biggest stage to win that coveted trophy in the Fall Classic. Here is a breakdown of each team position by position and how they matchup with each other.
Catcher: Buster Posey vs. Alex Avila
Buster Posey is coming off of just winning the Comeback Player of the Year in the National League and his play in the playoffs has shown why. Posey is one of the top two most important bats in the Giants lineup while his counterpart, Alex Avila, is clearly in his lineup for defensive purposes. Posey isn’t so bad on the defensive end himself and with Avila batting even worse in the postseason (.227) than he did in the regular season (.243), Posey is proving to be the much better catcher between the two.
Edge: Buster Posey
1st Base: Brandon Belt vs Prince Fielder
Like the catcher position, this comparison is almost unfair. Brandon Belt is a solid defensive first baseman but is only in his first full season in the Majors, making him a work in progress. Prince Fielder on the other hand was one of the biggest pickups of the offseason and teamed up with his PIC, Miguel Cabrera, to absolutely dominate pitching across the league all season long. On top of Fielder’s ridiculously good hitting, he is also getting better defensively every game and will soon pass his father as the best in the family.
Edge: Prince Fielder
2nd Base: Marco Scutaro vs. Omar Infante
If I was asked at the beginning of the playoffs who is the better between these two second basemen I wouldn’t have hesitated in saying Omar Infante. But after a 14-hit NLCS which resulted in Scutaro winning the NLCS MVP, he is now the favorite in my mind. Both of these players are defensive specialists with the ability to hit for average, but there is not much power coming from either of them. Scutaro is slowly turning into the best midseason acquisition of the league, and Infante has been nothing more than just a solid #9 hitter in the Tigers lineup.
Edge: Marco Scutaro
Shortstop: Brandon Crawford vs. Jhonny Peralta
Both of these players are clear indications of defensive specialists. The only difference between the two is power and experience, Crawford 2 years and Peralta 9 years. Peralta is always a threat to go deep and has had an amazing 2012 playoffs thus far (.343 BA), with a couple bombs already. Crawford will not hit for power, he only has two extra base hits in the playoffs, but he is a scrappy player and will find ways to get on base to help his team. Neither of these teams rely heavily on either of these SS and their offense, but both can make an impact on any given day.
Edge: Jhonny Peralta
3rd Base: Pablo Sandoval vs. Miguel Cabrera
This has to be the most intriguing matchup of any position in this series. The first Triple Crown winner since 1967, Miguel Cabrera, versus one of the most lovable and talented players in his position, Pablo Sandoval, will be heavily watched by every spectator. Unfortunately for Sandoval, he will be compared to the best player in the game right now for the entirety of the series. Cabrera is without question the best hitter in the league and the fact that he matches that with stellar defense makes him a priceless player. I like Panda, but it is tough when you are compared to the best. Cabrera is coming off of arguably one of the greatest offensive seasons ever and single-handedly carried the Tigers offense for most of the year.
Edge: Miguel Cabrera
Left Field: Gregor Blanco vs. Andy Dirks/Delmon Young
Obviously Detroit does not play two left fielders but since they are an American League team, they do play with a designated hitter. While I am not positive who the Giants will throw out there as the extra bat when the games are being played in Detroit, I do know that Delmon Young will be strictly a DH when they are home. Andy plays a solid left field and even has some pop to his bat but he will not be playing when they are in San Francisco. So I will be comparing Blanco to Young and even though Blanco has had a good year and has a solid glove, Delmon proved in his ALCS trouncing of the Yankees, just how valuable he can be. Young’s glove is a little skeptical but not enough to keep his bat out of the lineup.
Edge: Delmon Young
Center Field: Angel Pagan vs. Austin Jackson
I have a soft spot in my heart for Angel Pagan because he is truly one of the hardest working men in the game and he has proved that again this season in his first year in San Francisco. Pagan is extremely talented in the field and provides the Giants with some important at bats at the front of the lineup. Austin Jackson has the same responsibility for the Tigers. Jackson is one of the fastest in the game and he might even come out of this season with a gold glove. He is young and super talented in every aspect of the game. While I absolutely love Pagan as a player I think that Jackson is just on another level talent-wise.
Edge: Austin Jackson
Right Field: Hunter Pence vs. Brennan Boesch
Boesch is always a threat when he picks up a bat and he adds to that by playing a solid right field. Boesch will find himself anywhere from the 6 to the 8 hole in the lineup and with Cabrera and Fielder in front of him, he will have a big role to play for driving in runs for the Tigers. In my mind, Hunter Pence is one of the most talented outfielders in the National League. Unfortunately for the Giants, he is yet to really emerge as that superstar I know he is. Pence had a subpar regular season and he hasn’t done anything particularly special in the postseason, but every one of Detroit’s pitchers knows the threat that Hunter poses every time he is at the plate. I think this will be a good series for Pence and he will finally prove his worth as a San Francisco Giant.
Edge: Hunter Pence
Starting Pitching: Justin Verlander and company vs. Matt Cain and company
I love the pitching matchups that will be coming out of this series. While I think that Justin Verlander is the best pitcher that the Majors has seen since Randy Johnson and Roger Clemens were in their prime, I think that the pitchers the Giants are throwing out there can give them a run for their money. Verlander will be facing Barry Zito in game 1 of the World Series because Cain is just on two days rest after pitching a masterful game 7 in the NLCS against the Cardinals that inevitably led to their WS trip. The Giants have Bumgarner and Vogelsong to round out their starting 4 with Lincecum available for long relief or even an injury replacement. The Tigers have strikeout master Scherzer, Fister, and Sanchez to follow in Verlander’s footsteps. I don’t think the Tigers staff will have as easy a time as they did against the anemic bats of the Yankees, but there is no denying the amount of talent that Detroit puts out there on a nightly basis.
Edge: Justin Verlander and company
Relief Pitching: Sergio Romo and company vs. Jose Valverde and company
In my NLCS preview, I completely underrated the Giants bullpen. They pitched magnificently throughout the NLCS and were flawless in the final 3 wins that brought them to the World Series. Sergio Romo has had a couple of hiccups but he has managed to get himself out of any trouble that came his way. Jose Valverde on the other hand got rocked in his only game against the Yankees and was lucky enough to have his team save him in an eventual game 1 victory. Both of these teams have solid set up men and long relievers that can salvage games in any inning. What it comes down is that both of these teams starting pitching staffs are so good that the bullpens will not see much action in this series.
Edge: Sergio Romo and company
Manager: Bruce Bochy vs. Jim Leyland
I think that Bruce Bochy has done an incredible job all season long, leading the Giants to yet another NL West crown and now a trip to his second World Series in three years. What’s most impressive is that Bochy has done all of this without one bona fide superstar on their roster. It has been the true definition of team play. Leyland took a totally different approach to the season as he had his team revamped in the offseason into a teams of all-stars and it clearly took him longer than expected to get his shit together. It wasn’t until mid-September that Detroit even took first place in the pathetic AL Central. Well, that slow start is behind them and the Tigers are coming off one of the most dominant sweeps in Championship Series history, and with Leyland’s already uber-impressive resume, I find it hard not to pick Detroit as the team with a managerial advantage.
Edge: Jim Leyland
Overall, these two teams are ridiculously close on paper. I think this series will come down to 7 hard fought games and each of these teams fans will be on the edge of their seats on a nightly basis. I feel that Detroit has a slight advantage by having Justin Verlander pitch game 1, which will give Leyland the option to put him in for a game 4 start and maybe even a game 7 one if necessary. I know I am looking forward to well played World Series and I can’t wait to see who takes home the grand prize.