A position-by-position look at the Detroit Tigers and San Francisco Giants going into the World Series, starting tonight:
Tigers: Prince Fielder. Durable and disciplined at the plate, he provides excellent lineup protection for Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera. Fielder, however, batted only .211 with a homer and three RBI during the AL playoffs.
Giants: Brandon Belt. A highly regarded prospect when he reached the majors in 2011, he hit only seven home runs but showed some pop late in the NL Championship Series against St. Louis.
Tigers: Omar Infante. Acquired from Miami in July to plug a hole at second base, the 2010 NL All-Star is a versatile veteran who can handle the bat.
Giants: Marco Scutaro. Took his game to a new level after quietly arriving from Colorado in an overlooked deal for former Augusta GreenJacket Charlie Culberson. Scutaro batted .362 with 44 RBI and 40 runs in 61 games for the Giants. Then he hit .500 in the NLCS to earn MVP honors.
Tigers: Jhonny Peralta. He packs power for a shortstop and played extremely well on offense and defense during an ALCS sweep of the Yankees.
Giants: Brandon Crawford. Has been able to hold down the job despite a .304 on-base percentage. He also made 18 errors.
Tigers: Miguel Cabrera. Batted .330 with 44 homers and 139 RBI to become baseball’s first Triple Crown winner since Boston’s Carl Yastrzemski in 1967. Held in check during the AL playoffs, Cabrera remains a fearsome sight at the plate.
Giants: Pablo Sandoval. The former GreenJacket was slowed by injuries this season but fulfilled his crucial role as a run-producer in the playoffs, hitting .320 with three homers and nine RBI.
Tigers: Alex Avila. Hit just nine homers with 48 RBI, but he still carries a dangerous bat.
Giants: Buster Posey. The NL batting champion and a leading contender for MVP, he’s been slumping in the postseason, though, other than a grand slam in the deciding Game 5 at Cincinnati.
Tigers: Delmon Young. MVP of the AL Championship Series, Young owns the club record with seven postseason homers – all in the past two years – and ranks second in RBI (14).
Giants: Gregor Blanco. An outstanding defensive player, the former Atlanta Brave made his mark with a sensational catch that saved Matt Cain’s perfect game in June. Stole 26 bases this year and he can work a walk with his sharp eye.
Tigers: Austin Jackson. An athletic leadoff man who can really go get it in center. He has some power, too, adding 16 homers and an AL-high 10 triples.
Giants: Angel Pagan. Led the majors with 15 triples and was 29 for 36 on stolen-base attempts. He’s a multiskilled player who can do several different things to impact a game.
Tigers: Avisail Garcia or Andy Dirks or Quintin Berry. Called up from the minors late in the season, Garcia hit .319 in 47 at-bats and possesses a rocket arm. Dirks hit .322 this season in 314 at-bats. Berry stole 21 bases without getting caught. Both are left-handed hitters.
Giants: Hunter Pence. Proven RBI man who adds much-needed punch to an offense that ranked last in the majors with 103 home runs.
Tigers: Young. When the series shifts to Detroit in Game 3, Young can move back to DH and the Tigers can choose between Dirks, Berry and Garcia at the corner outfield spots, improving their defense.
Giants: Sandoval, Posey or Aubrey Huff. San Francisco has several options here on the road.
Tigers: It all begins with Justin Verlander. The reigning AL MVP and Cy Young Award is 3-0 with a 0.74 ERA and 25 strikeouts over 24⅓ innings in three playoff starts. Anibal Sanchez and Doug Fister were inconsistent during the season. Max Scherzer had 231 strikeouts this year.
Giants: Matt Cain anchored the group this season, going 16-5 with a 2.79 ERA and 193 strikeouts in 219⅓ innings. Left-hander Barry Zito revived his career by winning 15 games this year and pitched particularly well down the stretch. Ryan Vogelsong has blossomed into an All-Star in San Francisco and he went 2-0 with a 1.42 ERA in three playoff starts. Vogelsong won’t be fully rested until the series gets to Detroit, so the question for the Giants is whether to start Tim Lincecum or lefty Madison Bumgarner in Game 2. Lincecum pitched well in relief during the playoffs, then was shaky in his lone NLCS start. Bumgarner, a former GreenJacket, has struggled mightily in October after going 16-11 with a 3.37 ERA during the regular season. San Francisco limited the Cardinals to one run over the final three games of the NL Championship Series.
Tigers: This is an area of concern. Excitable closer Jose Valverde was perfect on save opportunities last season, but vulnerable at times this year – and it only got worse in the postseason. Setup man Joaquin Benoit has been shaky at times, too. Phil Coke saved two games against the Yankees and tossed 7⅓ scoreless innings in the playoffs.
Giants: After losing All-Star closer Brian Wilson to a season-ending injury in April, the Giants have pieced things together nicely. Santiago Casilla held down the job for a while before Sergio Romo took over. He has a win, a save and a 1.17 ERA in seven postseason games. Javier Lopez is lights-out against left-handed hitters and Jeremy Affeldt has pitched 8⅓ shutout innings this postseason.
Pick: Tigers in 5.