The Detroit Tigers will make their first playoff appearance since 2006 when they play the New York Yankees in the American League Division Series (8:37 p.m. ET, TBS). We've already gone over five players who could make an impact for the Yankees; now let's take a look at those players for the Tigers.
1 & 2. Doug Fister, Max Scherzer -- AL Cy Young-favorite Justin Verlander is the cop-out choice. Your ace, especially on that leads the league in wins (24), ERA (2.40) and strikeouts (250) has to win at least one of the two (or two of the three) games he starts. More importantly for the Tigers is the efforts from Doug Fister (11-13, 2.83 ERA, 1.06 WHIP) and Max Scherzer (15-9, 4.43 ERA, 1.35 WHIP). Since acquired from the Mariners, Fister has thrived with Detroit (1.79 ERA, 0.84 WHIP, 8-1 record), but he did so with a very easy schedule. His xFIP of 3.61 indicates he has not been as good as his ERA, but he's a guy who won't walk anyone and gets groundballs -- extremely valuable against a hitting team like the Yankees.. He's not a big strikeout guy, though there's a reason he's been one of the best pitchers over the second half. Now, he gets to show it on the playoff stage, in Yankee Stadium. Scherzer, on the other hand, flashes No. 1 starter stuff, but you just never know which pitcher will show up. His xFIP indicates he's been better than his ERA shows, but he'll have to limit his walks, 2.58 per nine (which he's done more so lately) and not be so wild. Fister vs. Nova and Scherzer vs. Garcia are two very even match ups and Detroit needs one of these guys to step up big time.
3. Austin Jackson -- Former Yankee prospect, Jackson is Detroit's leadoff hitter and by far the fastest guy on the team (22 steals), so it's crucial he gets on base to not only set the table, but provide a runner to drive home for the middle of the order. His problem? A .317 on-base percentage primarily because he's struck out 27 percent of the time. The Tigers' main problem could be hinged on the fact that manager Jim Leyland utilizes a pretty poor lineup structure that sees none of the better OBP guys hit in the top third of the lineup so guys liike Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez and Alex Avila have to do their damage by driving themselves in.
4. Al Alburquerque -- Jose Valverde (2.24 ERA, 1.19 WHIP) was a perfect 49-for-49 in save chances this year, but in order to get to the ninth inning (with a lead) the bullpen, which has been solid all year, needs to do its job. Alburquerque (1.87 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, along with 67 strikeouts in 43 1/3 innings) has been sensational and is deserving of a key role -- most likely a seventh-inning one -- this postseason. In order for Detroit to be successful, it needs to shorten games, and it has the arms to do so. Albuquerque to Joaquin Benoit to Valverde will be crucial in this series.
5. Miguel Cabrera -- Remember the 2003 World Series when Cabrera debuted as a 20-year-old and hit four home runs and 12 RBI? That was a precursor for things to come as Cabrera has become one of the most feared hitters in baseball (.344/.447/.585), 30 home runs, 105 RBI this year). Cabrera has the ability to carry an offense and even with Martinez protecting him, he will be the hitter Yankees' pitchers highlight as the one they don't want to beat them.
6. Rick Porcello -- Slated as the Game 4 starter against CC Sabathia, let's just say the Tigers don't want to go into that game down 3-0. Porcello (4.92 ERA, 1.41 WHIP) has a great arm but is more of a contact-sinker guy who has very little ability to put away batters via the strikeout. Even with a decent 4.02 xFIP, Porcello will have a tough time against New York's lineup. He has a 5.56 ERA against them in his career in just 22 2/3 innings (four starts).