Detroit vs. San Francisco
Before we get any deeper, let me make this perfectly clear: the winner of Game 4 will win the World Series. Now I'll go on to explain why.
Detroit fans, don't worry about shaking off the rust from the long layoff, because with Verlander pitching, there won't be much need for slick fielding or long offensive rallies. A solo homer or two ought to do it, as I expect Verlander to cruise through at least 7 2/3 innings in Game 1 and easily outpitch his counterpart, Barry Zito. If Bochy is smart, he'll stick with Zito even if he's struggling because it will be important to have all his weapons at his disposal in Game 2 if Bumgarner fails early. If recent history is an indication, that's a likely scenario.
Bochy is savvy, and I expect Game 2 to go to the Giants thanks to some crafty pitching around Cabrera and an important hit or two from Buster Posey off Detroit pitcher Doug Fister.
Game 3 looks to be a pitching duel between Matt Cain and Anibal Sanchez, but I think this is where the bats will wake up. Cabrera will show the world why he is a Triple Crown winner, Prince Fielder will demonstrate his surprising agility, and the Giants' hitters will show that it has been more than just starting pitching to get San Fran to the Series this year. In the end, Jim Leyland will be forced to go to Jose Valverde at some point and the results won't be pretty. Game 3 goes to the Giants.
The pivotal Game 4 will go to the Tigers, thanks to the dominance of Max Scherzer, the power of Miguel Cabrera, and the return to mediocrity of Ryan Vogelsong. Detroit's offense will make sure this is the first game of the series that isn't close. In turn, it will tie the series with Verlander still available, so the odds will not be in San Fran's favor.
At this point, scheduled starters often change, and every situation is dictated by things that happened previously, so I won't continue with the specifics other than to say that Verlander will win his start and Tim Lincecum will end up pitching more innings in this World Series than Barry Zito.
Bochy might lose confidence in Bumgarner's stamina and weigh the possibility of starting Matt Cain on short rest. Either way, the results will favor the Tigers. A fatigued Cain will fall just short in Game 6, or if Bochy elects to save him, there won't be a Game 7.
Both teams have flaws. San Francisco has difficulty putting rallies together against strong pitching, and Detroit has trouble fielding the ball, period. I give the nod to the Tigers because the cold air, power pitching, and frequent pitching changes that occur in the postseason to get the best matchups will contribute to plenty of strikeouts - strikeouts mean Miguel Cabrera and others can sit on their gloves while the outs accumulate, negating their major flaw.
San Francisco has proven an ability to beat teams with better offenses, and they are built well for their ballpark, but Verlander and Cabrera are two stars too bright to overcome over the course of a best of seven. If the Giants can figure out a way to manufacture a win in Game 1 or Game 4, they will have the upper hand, but my official prediction is that those games will go to Detroit, as will the World Series.
Prediction: Detroit in 6