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Pro Sports Wrap - Sports Personality of the Day:Steven Stamkos

The Indians have unsurprisingly cooled off from their very unexpected hot start to the season, and the Detroit Tigers have now caught up with them for the AL Central lead. This game features an interesting pitching duel between two guys who have been doing well so far this season. Justin Verlander has been terrific, as always, and Justin Masterson is having a good year as well.

Although wins are a stupid stat for pitchers, I have a tidbit involving wins that is more of a fun fact. Verlander has not lost a game since April 27th, while Justin Masterson has not won a game since April 26th.

Asdrubal Cabrera has been beasting this year, and he's going to be the main source of offense for the Indians against Verlander. Cabrera is so good that he has a 2.5 WAR on Fan Graphs. Michael Brantley has also been one of the key cogs this year for the Indians, and the ever-patient Carlos Santana will try and work out some good ABs against one of the best pitchers in baseball.

The Tigers have been lifted by three hitters who have been nothing short of amazing. Miguel Cabrera has been Miguel Cabrera so far (2.6 WAR, .441 OBP), Alex Avila has been a pleasant surprise. The former backup catcher has come out of nowhere to post a 2.3 WAR so far this season. Jhonny Peralta is a former Indian who is finding success with Detroit this season. Peralta also has a WAR over 2, and he leads a fearsome trio.

Masterson is able to get groundball outs, and he isn't a flashy pitcher by any stretch of the imagination. He gets outs, and gives up his fair share of hits, but he doesn't give up anything big. We all know what Verlander can do, so I won't waste my laptop's battery life raving about how crazy his fastball is.

Masterson has a WAR of 2, and I don't expect his production to tail off at all. Verlander has a 2.4 WAR, but I do expect his production to slightly worsen. However, I do expect him to have another great year.

I think that the Tigers will win this game, because they have Justin Verlander and Miguel Cabrera on their side. Both of them are two of the best players in the game, but this is definitely a game to watch. This is a good pitching matchup that has first place implications in the AL Central.
Looking to Take 1st

The Mariners are hanging around in the AL West race thanks to some great starting pitching that has overcome the league's worst offense. The M's simply can't hit. They bring out their ace to face James Shields. Yours truly predicted a huge bounce-back season for Shields after he had a poor 2010. So far, Shields has been lights out, and Felix Hernandez is also pretty good. He only won the Cy Young Award last season.

Among starting pitchers, Felix has the 5th best WAR and Shields the 7th best WAR mark in the Majors, but there are quite a bit of ties. Although Shields has an ERA of 2.15 and King Felix a 3.19 ERA, Hernandez's FIP is 2.78 and Shields' 2.96. This game is in Safeco, which is obviously one of the three best parks in the game for pitchers. This is a pitching matchup through and through. The numbers above show that Shields has been luckier than Hernandez, and Hernandez's numbers will rise while there will be a slight fall in Shields' overall production.

Hernandez does benefit from the ballpark though, because he has a very low home run rate with an average groundball rate. Both pitchers will reap Safeco's rewards today. Shields is better at limiting his walks and has been slightly better at striking out batters. Hernandez is better at getting hitters to chase out of the zone and is among the best in the league at doing so. However, Shields throw less "bad" pitches inside the zone. In other words, Shields is more consistent.

I am really only focusing on the pitching matchup, because we know the Rays are the better hitting team. Shields and Hernandez have two of the best curveballs in baseball, but Shields' curve has been more effective this year. I mean, it's been terrific. Hernandez's power curve is also dangerous. Shields' changeup has fooled hitters throughout the season. It has been nothing short of unhittable. The thing is, Hernandez has the best changeup in baseball. His change is incredible and is a wonder to behold.

This game is going to be all about pitching with two of the best aces in the game duking it out. My money's on the Rays because they have a much better offense.
Facing King Felix


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