Why the Yankees Will Win: The Yankees put the ball in play a little better than the average, at least normally. It's easy to focus on Curtis Granderson and nearly 200 strikeouts, but players like Mark Teixeira and Robinson Cano don't strike out much for hitters of their power, and Ichiro Suzuki only strikes out about once every ten at-bats. The average team struck out in 19.3 percent of its plate appearances last year; the Yankees were a bit better than that at 18.9 percent. This should work against the Tigers' great strength, strikeout pitchers, and exploit their great weakness, fielding; the Tigers were one of the worst teams in baseball at converting balls in play into outs (the Yankees were not standouts there either, but the Tigers lapped them and then some). The caveat here is that some of the Yankees who were last at the plate in the ALDS must find themselves again. The Yankees had the second-best bullpen in the league, with a 3.88 Fair RA; the Tigers were seventh at 4.21, and we all saw what the A's did to Jose Valverde. The Yankees also have a deeper lineup overall -- when the Tigers are giving Avisail Garcia starts in playoff games, when Delmon Young is still relied upon to be a key contributor, you know they're a bit short.
Why the Tigers Will Win: The Yankees only have a deeper lineup if they hit better than they did in the Detroit series and remember what the strike zone looks like, essential knowledge that seems to have eluded Granderson and Alex Rodriguez lately. In all, the Yankees struck out in 26 percent of their at-bats in the last series, and that plays right into the Tigers' hands. The Yankees also have only one all-around threat right now, Robinson Cano, to the Tigers' two in Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder, and he hit .091 in the ALDS. Neither Cabrera nor Fielder exactly set the world on fire in their ALDS series, but the two combined to strike out a total of three times in the five games, or one-third as many times as A-Rod struck out by himself. With an extra day off compared to the Yankees, who had none, the Tigers were able to set up their pitchers a little better than the Yankees, with the Game 3 matchup of Justin Verlander against Phil Hughes standing out as a possible mismatch. Conversely, Doug Fister and Max Scherzer can hold their own against Andy Pettitte and CC Sabathia, respectively. Anibal Sanchez against Hiroki Kuroda in Game 2 would figure to favor the Yankees -- if Kuroda wasn't going on short rest.