This Friday, October 4th, at 9:37 pm (because eff you, America), the Moneyball A’s and the $$$ball Tigers will face off in Game One of the ALDS. Since TigerSnark is the most trusted Detroit Tigers website in the known universe, I know you have come here for the most comprehensive breakdown of this series possible.
Or something. I will try not to disappoint.
2013 Regular Season Records
Detroit: 93-69 (Pythagorean W-L: 99-63)
Oakland: 96-66 (Pythagorean W-L: 96-66)
Head-To-Head: Oakland took the season series 4 games to 3.
At Home: Detroit was 51-30. Oakland was 52-29.
On Road: Detroit was 42-39. Oakland was 44-37.
Shutouts: Detroit pitched 12 shutouts and were also shutout 12 times. Oakland pitched 13 shutouts and were shutout 10 times.
Momentum (if it exists): Detroit finished 13-13 for September. Oakland finished 19-8.
Oddball W-L record stats: Oakland was only 2-5 against Cleveland, a team Detroit dominated to a 15-4 record. However while Detroit was 0-6 against the Angels, the A’s went 11-8 against them. Both teams went 3-3 against Tampa.
Starters: Detroit has the best starting staff in the playoffs. Cy Young favorite Max Scherzer will get the ball in Game One. Former Cy Young/MVP winner Justin Verlander, despite a “down year” will pitch Game Two. The AL ERA leader Anibal Sanchez will pitch the first game in Detroit on Monday. And fourth starter Doug Fister is a ground ball machine whose 115 ERA+ is better than four of the six Athletic pitchers that started at least 10 games this year. No one wants to face this rotation in the playoffs.
Oakland’s best starter this year has been the never-aging Bartolo Colon (I believe that’s him pictured above wrestling Bret Hart), who finished with a 2.65 ERA, a 141 ERA+, and 3 shutouts. Out of the other five main starters Oakland has used in 2013, only Sonny Gray (10 starts) has an ERA+ of over 97. AJ Griffin, Jarrod Parker, Tommy Milone, and Dan Straily were all in the 90’s in ERA+ this year. Despite having the highest ERA at 4.14, Milone appears to be the toughest matchup of the group against Detroit due to being left-handed. He is 2-0 with a 3.24 ERA in 3 career regular season starts against the Tigers. Detroit did manage to beat him in the ALDS last year, but they only scored 1 run off of him in 6 innings while doing so.
Starters Advantage: Detroit
Bullpen: Throughout the season, Detroit’s bullpen has been a mess when it comes to middle-relief. But the combination of Rick Porcello, Drew Smyly, Jose Veras, and Joaquin Benoit is a formidable group that will negate that issue if the starters do their job in the postseason. Having Porcello in the bullpen for the playoffs gives a serious lift to the biggest weakness of the Tigers. Veras and Smyly, though good overall, have had shaky moments down the stretch. So did Benoit, but he was a top level closer once the team gave him the job after the Papa Grande Fiasco Experiment.
Oakland has five relievers with at least 45 games that post an ERA+ of 112 or better. Australian closer Grant Balfour (who struggled late) leads a group of solid pitchers that have performed better than Oakland’s starters, for the most part. Sean Doolittle and Jerry Blevins are impressive from the left side, while Ryan Cook and submariner Pat Neshak are good righties. Jesse Chavez pitched in 35 games out of the pen for them, too, with lesser results including a 3.92 ERA and a WHIP of 1.221.
Bullpen Advantage: Oakland
Catcher: Detroit’s Alex Avila struggled mightily in the first half before rebounding in the second with solid numbers. Bryan Pena surprised everyone by hitting .291 in a backup role this year. Oakland's Derek Norris put up an OPS+ of 113 this season and is backed up by Stephen Vogt and veteran Kurt Suzuki.
First Base: Prince Fielder struggled from May to August, but hit .337 with an OPS of .933 in September. He knocked in 106 runs on the year and is always a threat to leave the yard, but has a tendency this season to chase bad pitches. He jumped from 84 strikeouts in 2012 to 117 this season. For Oakland, Brandon Moss led the team with 30 home runs after being given up on by the Red Sox , Pirates, and Phillies from 2007-2011. Moss has flourished in Oakland, though his OPS dropped nearly 100 points from last year to this season.
Second Base: Despite a leg injury earlier in the year, Omar Infante would go on to be second on the Tigers this year with a .318 batting average. His solid defense has gone a long way in improving the once terrible infield D of the Tigers. Oakland’s Eric Sogard is the weakest bat in the Athletics’ lineup, but he has a plus glove and was second on their team in stolen bases this year with 10.
Third Base: Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera is the best hitter alive when he is healthy. But he’s been hobbled in recent weeks with injuries and when last seen, was still unable to run. Even at 70%, Cabrera is still a force to be reckoned with at the plate. On defense, though, he is a statue at third in his current state. Like Detroit, Oakland’s best hitter was their third baseman. Josh Donaldson was under the radar this year, but still hit .301/.384/.499 with 24 HR and a team high 93 RBI. Donaldson even finished second to Mike Trout in WAR in the AL this season. He did strike out 110 times, though, so the strikeout-happy Tigers pitchers may be able to handle him better than other teams.
Shortstop: Jose Iglesias is a master with the glove, but not so much with the bat. He hit .259 as a Tiger this year, but .303 overall due to his ability to rack up infield singles. Jed Lowrie is the opposite. His strength is his offense where he hit .290 with 15 home runs. In the field, he is well below average.
Outfield: Detroit will likely feature a platoon of Jhonny Peralta and Andy Dirks in left field. Peralta is new to the outfield and a potential defensive nightmare for the Tigers out there. However, the team hopes his bat will make up for it. Dirks is a solid defender that struggled for much of the season at the plate, despite a couple nice games. Austin Jackson patrols center for Detroit and is one of the game’s best defenders out there. His tendency to strike out and be streaky at the plate, though, is a wild card in this series. Torii Hunter is in right and hit over .300 for the second straight year at the age of 38. He is no longer the Gold Glover he used to be and really had issues on going back on balls this year. The words “cutoff man” are not in his vocabulary, either.
Oakland has an all-or-nothing hitter in Cuban star Yoenis Cespedes in left field. His 26 homers were second to Moss on the A’s this year, as were his 137 strikeouts. Josh Reddick plays right for Oakland and struggled mightily for most of this season, finishing with a .226 batting average. He remains a power threat, though. Coco Crisp in center will be the key to the offense for Oakland. He led the team with 21 stolen bases and should be able to run at will against Detroit’s catchers. He has hit .318 against Detroit in his career, his highest average against any team he has played more than 16 times.
Designated Hitter: Victor Martinez was terrible until July for Detroit. He raised his batting average up to .301 on the season and can supply the occasional home run. He’s by far the most difficult Tiger to strike out. Oakland’s Seth Smith is a lefty that’s probably not a strong enough hitter to merit a starting DH job. He is power comparable to Martinez’s, but will hit around 50 points less. Smith also strikes out in about a quarter of his plate appearances.
Bench: Detroit’s bench is filled with decent fielders than cannot hit much. Ramon Santiago and Don Kelly are .200 hitters that can play multiple positions on the field as late-inning defensive subs. Matt Tuiasosopo started strong, but was miserable in the second half including going hitless in September. Oakland has a homer-or-strikeout option in Chris Young as their fourth outfielder. Nate Frieman, Alberto Callaspo, and Daric Barton all had an OPS+ of 102 or higher this year in supporting roles.
Runs Per Game: Detroit scored 4.91 runs per game this year. Oakland scored 4.73.
Team OPS+: Detroit-110, Oakland-110.
Position Player Advantage: Push
I think the Tigers win the series, 3 games to 1. You should never, NEVER underestimate the A’s, but the starting pitching of the Tigers should be too much for them to overcome. Of course, that’s if they pitch the way we know they are capable of pitching. Looking at YOU, Justin Brooks Verlander.
Oakland has a lot of guys that strike out and Detroit’s rotation struck out more than any team in history this year. I think that will be the difference in seeing the Tigers advance to the ALCS.
PLEASEPLEASEPLEASE let me be right.
Get your coffee/energy drinks ready for some late nights on Friday and Saturday. Also be ready to watch the escaped convicts that make up the Oakland fanbase out there.
I’ll be at Comerica on Monday if anyone wants to say hi.
Enjoy. This is what it’s all about.