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Detroit Vs New York Preview

AMERICAN LEAGUE PLAYOFFS—ROUND 1

Detroit Tigers

They are the surprise team of the season. Nobody expected the Detroit Tigers to be anywhere near the top of their division, forget about finishing in the money for the playoffs. Manager Jim Leyland has some sort of magic, which has been seen previously with the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Florida Marlins.

They’ve got the best team ERA, 3.82, in the AL and given up only 160 homeruns. Among all American League playoff teams, Detroit’s given up the second fewest walks. Only Minnesota is better.

This fine pitching squad is composed of vets and young guys. Kenny Rogers (17-7, 3.79 ERA) has had a good season but continues to be unstable when under pressure. Jeremy Bonderman (14-8, 3.99 ERA), rookie Justin Verlander (17-9, 3.63 ERA) and Nate Robertson (13-13, 3.84) complete a formidable starting rotation.

Todd Jones is 37 of 42 save opportunities with a 4.11 ERA. Jones had a tough June but has gotten stronger and been more dependable from the start of July through the end of the season.

Although their .274 team batting average places them third among playoff teams, they are just behind the Yankees on hitting the long ball and slugging percentage (.448). The big hitter is outfielder Magglio Ordonez (.296 AV, 24 HR, 103 RBI), who recently suffered back spasms. Carlos Guillen (.317 AV, 19 HR, 84 RBI) is a master at getting on base, while homerun threats include Marcus Thames (26 HR) and Craig Monroe (28 HR), who has 98 RBI.

In the field, the Tigers made over 150 errors, the most of any playoff team, but they also have a sound double play. Their 165 DPs place them less than 10 behind the playoff leading Oakland A’s.

Rogers is pegged to start the first game of the Tigers’ initial playoff series. It makes sense except the guy handles pressure inconsistently. Strong pitching gives this team an upper hand and Jim Leyland knows how to manage every aspect of this club. Hitting is a concern if Ordonez breaks down.

New York Yankees

Just about everyone made the Yanks the favorite before the season started. They won the AL East comfortably and finished with the best record in the league. Now comes the true test—the playoffs.

New York certainly embodies the idea that “you can never have enough starting pitching.” Randy Johnson (17-11, 5.00 ERA), Chien-Ming Wang (18-6, 3.57 ERA) Jaret Wright (11-7, 4.39 ERA), Cory Lidle (12-10, 4.83 ERA) and Mike Mussina (14-7, 3.57 ERA) are all viable starters. But of all teams in the playoffs, the Yankee pitching staff touts the worst ERA (4.40), given up the third most walks (494) and have the lowest save percentage of any team in the ALCS. And althoug teams are only hitting .261 versus Yankee pitchers, they are third amongst playoff teams in on-base-percentage.

Mariano Rivera (34 SV of 37 SVO, 1.80 ERA) has been stellar. He’s still the ultimate closer.

The Bronx Bombers have hit more homers and have the best slugging percentage of any team in the ALCS. They’re also second in team batting average and no team in the league has scored more runs—925.

Derek Jeter (.345 AV, 14 HR, 96 RBI), Jason Giambi (.252 AV, 37 HR, 113 RBI), Alex Rodriguez (.290 AV, 35 HR, 121 RBI), Jorge Pasada (.276 AV, 22 HR, 91 RBI) and Johnny Damon (.286 AV, 24 HR, 80 RBI) offer impressive output. After missing most of the season due to injury, Hideki Matsui (.306 AV, 8 HR, 29 RBI) looks ready to play and Gary Sheffield can still contribute.

In fielding, the Yankees are third in errors and double plays. Yet, this is probably a better fielding team than those that have played over the past few years.

There’s fine pitching, although ace Randy Johnson has been having severe back problems and Mussina and Lidle have the potential for inconsistency. The ERA should be a concern for the Yanks, but their hitting should be a concern for any team that they meet. Joe Torre is still one of the best coaches in the majors.

Summary

The Tigers and Yanks are fairly evenly matched. Hitting goes to the Yanks, especially in run production. Although homers and slugging are very close. The Tigers have the best ERA and a sound and healthy pitching squad. There’s world class hurlers playing for New York, but there’s also inconsistency and health concerns. Manager Leyland is as cool and smart as Torre. Both teams are rested but Detroit has not played well in the stretch. Still, if good pitching beats good hitting, then the Tigers should win. If they can take the first game, Detroit certainly has the potential to take the series. Watch for Rodriguez on the Yanks or Rogers on the Tigers to implode. They could be key.

Maddux Sports Series Prediction.

We will go out on a limb here and call for a major upset. Detroit in 5 Games.

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