December 18, 2014

Elyria
Cloudy
29°F
test

Tribe still chasing Tigers’ tails

If the Indians maintain their quick start to the season and contend for the Central Division title, it’s likely they will have to get through the Detroit Tigers at some point.
Let’s take a look at how the Wahoos match up against the defending American League champions:
First base
Ryan Garko (.336, 6 HR,
17 RBIs) vs. Sean Casey (.262,
0 HR, 10 RBIs) — Casey is a name with experience but Garko is an up-and-comer with a big bat.
EDGE: Indians
Second base
Josh Barfield (.234, 2 HR,
23 RBIs) vs. Placido Polanco (.326, 1 HR, 26 RBIs) — Barfield, who is slowly emerging from a season-starting slump, had a big season last year, but it was one — his rookie year. Polanco has been doing it longer.
EDGE: Tigers
Shortstop
Jhonny Peralta (.280, 10 HR, 33 RBIs) vs. Carlos Guillen (.337, 6 HR, 36 RBIs) — Peralta is en route to redeeming himself for an unproductive season last year with a hot start that includes the team lead in homers. Guillen is the better defender and is far from a slouch at the plate.
EDGE: Tigers
Third base
Casey Blake (.268, 6 HR,
24 RBIs) vs. Brandon Inge (.218, 8 HR, 17 RBIs) — Blake has returned to his old position to save the Indians from a potential dilemma. He can play anywhere and is an adequate offensive player. Inge hits for power and is solid in the field.   
EDGE: Even
Catcher
Victor Martinez (.318, 7 HR, 36 RBIs) vs. Ivan Rodriguez (.278, 4 HR, 23 RBIs) — Martinez is morphing into one of the league’s top hitters but is still lagging defensively. Pudge is a top-notch defender who doesn’t hit as well as he used to but can still swing the bat.
EDGE: Even
Right field
Trot Nixon (.291, 2 HR,
20 RBIs) vs. Magglio Ordonez (.358, 12 HR, 45 RBIs) — Nixon, who is coming off back surgery, has played surprisingly well, but this one is no contest.  
EDGE: Tigers
Center field
Grady Sizemore (.274, 8 HR, 24 RBIs) vs. Curtis Granderson (.283, 8 HR, 27 RBIs) — These guys have similar numbers but Sizemore is one of the premier players in the majors. Case closed.
EDGE: Indians
Left field
David Dellucci (.227, 1 HR,
7 RBIs) and Jason Michaels (.281, 2 HR, 13 RBIs) vs. Craig Monroe (.233, 6 HR, 27 RBIs) — Only one of Cleveland’s platoon players is pulling his weight, the one who doesn’t play as much. Monroe hits for power and is an adequate fielder.
EDGE: Tigers
Designated hitter
Travis Hafner (.270, 9 HR,
32 RBIs) vs. Gary Sheffield (.240, 9 HR, 22 RBIs) — Hafner is one of the elite offensive players in the majors. Sheffield is a star but the glimmer is fading.
EDGE: Indians
Rotation
C.C. Sabathia (6-1, 3.51), Cliff Lee (2-1, 5.93), Fausto Carmona (5-1, 2.77), Paul Byrd (5-1, 3.81) and Jeremy Sowers (1-4, 6.29) vs. Justin Verlander (5-1, 2.68), Jeremy Bonderman (3-0, 3.57), Mike Maroth (3-1, 4.94), Nate Robertson (4-4, 4.03) and Chad Durbin (4-1, 4.74) — Both rotations have starters on the disabled list — Jake Westbrook and Kenny Rogers — and both are considered among the top starting staffs in the big leagues.  
EDGE: Even
Bullpen
Joe Borowski (0-2, 7.50,
15 saves), Rafael Betancourt
(0-0, 1.83), Fernando Cabrera (1-2, 5.59), Aaron Fultz (3-0, 1.98), Roberto Hernandez (2-1, 5.60), Tom Mastny (3-2, 3.10) and Mike Koplove (0-0, 3.00) vs. Todd Jones (1-1, 3.43, 15 saves), Fernando Rodney (1-4, 4.71), Wilfredo Ledezma (3-1, 5.18), Jose Mesa (1-1, 11.57), Tim Byrdak (0-0, 4.26), Jason Grilli (2-1, 6.33) and Bobby Seay (0-0, 5.40) — The Tigers’ relief corps has struggled without one of its best relievers, injured flamethrower Joel Zumaya. Cleveland’s pen hasn’t been the disaster it was last year, but it’s been less than stellar.   
EDGE: Tigers
Bench
Kelly Shoppach (.326, 1 HR,
7 RBIs), Andy Marte (.180,
1 HR, 8 RBIs) and Mike Rouse (.143, 0 HR, 2 RBIs) vs. Marcus Thames (.175, 3 HR, 8 RBIs), Omar Infante (.324, 0 HR,
4 RBIs) and Mike Rabelo (.233,
0 HR, 4 RBIs) — Shoppach is a top-flight backup catcher and Thames is more than a bench player in a deep Detroit outfield.
EDGE: Even
Manager
Eric Wedge (29-17) vs. Jim Leyland (29-18) — Wedge hasn’t been to the playoffs in four seasons in Cleveland, while Leyland, considered one of the best in the game, has made it to a pair of World Series, winning once.
EDGE: Tigers
Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7137 or cassenheimer@chroniclet.com.