The Red Sox are four wins away from the World Series. Just let that sink in for a second.
The team standing in their way is the Detroit Tigers, who beat the Oakland Athletics in the ALDS last night. When you look at Detroit’s roster, you see a lot of star power. In their lineup, they have Prince Fielder, Victor Martinez, Austin Jackson, and the best hitter in baseball, Miguel Cabrera. Their top 4 starting pitchers are very good as well. This team doesn’t have a glaring weakness, which probably shows why they’ve made it this far.
The Red Sox haven’t announced their full rotation for this series yet. John Farrell announced that Jon Lester will start Game 1 and Buchholz said today he is pitching Game 2. My guess would be that John Lackey then starts Game 3 and Peavy starts Game 4. The starters looked pretty good for the most part in the ALDS but they will be going up against a much better offense this time around.
When looking at how the Red Sox starters have done versus the current Tigers hitters, you don’t see numbers that you’re very excited about.
The current Tigers hitters combine for a batting average of .374 off of Jon Lester. Some of Detroit’s best hitters have staggering numbers against Lester: Cabrera (10-19), Avila (3-6), Hunter (11-23) and Martinez (6-13). Despite the high averages however, the power numbers are relatively low. Only 5 homeruns given up in 155 at bats.
John Lackey hasn’t had great success versus Detroit’s lineup either. The team has a .306 batting average against Lackey but again, the power numbers are down. Just 4 homeruns in 196 at bats. Here are some of the hitters with success against #41: Cabrera (.333), Dirks (.400), Fielder (.444), Jackson (.375), Martinez (.407) and Peralta (.355).
Not every Sox starter struggles against Detroit’s lineup however. Clay Buchholz has limited their hitters to a .229 batting average. Only Avila and Peralta have had sustained success against him. As for Jake Peavy, he’s only allowed the Tigers lineup to hit .258. Torii Hunter hits .438 off him and Miguel Cabrera has 3 homeruns off him but that’s about all they have going against Peavy.
Also, Peavy has spent parts of 5 seasons pitching in the AL Central in which he faced the Tigers a lot so he brings a lot of familiarity to that lineup with him.
We know that Anibal Sanchez is pitching Game 1 for the Tigers but nothing has been confirmed after that. I’m just guessing, but I’d assume the Tigers would have Max Scherzer go in Game 2, Justin Verlander in Game 3, and Doug Fister in Game 4. It matches up pitchers with the proper days off and it allows Detroit to use their two best pitchers, Scherzer and Verlander, in Games 6 and 7 if necessary.
Only 5 Red Sox hitters have ever faced Sanchez, who has spent most of his career in the National League. Out of those 5, only David Ortiz has had success. In three at-bats, he is 3-3 with 2 homeruns.
In Max Scherzer’s career against Boston, Sox hitters have a batting average of .282. The 21 game winner pitched in Boston in early September and did well (7 IP and 2 ER) but was bested by Jon Lester and the Sox won. Four Boston hitters have had success versus Scherzer: Ellsbury (5-9), Gomes (2-6), Ortiz (7-15 and 2 HR), and Saltalamacchia (5-12).
Justin Verlander has been able to shut down the Red Sox over the past few years. The team only bats .194 against him and only one player with 10+ at-bats has had any good fortune and that’s David Ortiz (10-27). Verlander looks to be a tough match-up for the Sox and they may have to face him twice.
The last starter for Detroit is Doug Fister. The Sox hitters have a .317 batting average against him. While many players don’t have a lot of at-bats against Fister, they have had success in a small sample. Ellsbury hit .375, Middlebrooks hits .400, Nava hits .417, Saltalamacchia hits .455, and Victorino hits .800. Fister will most likely go in Game 4 and it looks like that’s a game the Sox should win.
When looking at the breakdown of the Tiger’s pitching staff against the Red Sox hitters, it looks like there’s one constant and that’s Ortiz having a lot of success. For Boston to make it to the World Series, David Ortiz will no doubt have to come up big this series. He was effective against the Rays and hopefully that continues.
It looks like each team has two starters that pitch well against their opponent and two pitchers that struggle against their opponent. With that being even, and both teams having a lot of good players, it seems like this well be a very close series.
I wasn’t sure that the Red Sox could beat Tampa Bay in the ALDS given the Rays starting rotation and I was wrong. I feel the same about the Red Sox against Detroit’s pitching staff but after seeing how well Boston played as a whole against Tampa, I’m picking the Red Sox to win the series in 6 games. There is just a special feeling about this team.