ALDS Breakdown: Oakland Athletics vs. Detroit Tigers
The champions of the AL West (Athletics) and AL Central (Tigers) will take part in what should be a very entertaining Division Series. The Tigers won the season series 4-3, but you can be assured that there will be plenty of fireworks back and forth between these two teams.
The Tigers have one of the most potent lineups in the American League led by Triple Crown winner and AL MVP favorite Miguel Cabrera. Also, Fielder had an amazing year protecting Miggy in that lineup. On the other side, the A’s have one of the worst statistical lineups in all of Major League Baseball. It is astounding to see how many games they won with such a seemingly anemic offense. This is not even close.
When you have a perennial Cy Young Award candidate at the top of your rotation like the Tigers do in Justin Verlander, it helps to give your team a major confidence boost. However, the Tigers pitching staff takes a major dive after Verlander and Scherzer (who has been struggling with arm fatigue). The main thing that you can attribute the Athletics’ success to this season is their great young pitching staff. That staff was sixth in ERA and WHIP this season. They have suffered a few injuries and inconsistencies down the stretch, but their staff is good enough to stack up against anyone.
The Tigers bullpen has been decent, but they have struggled at times to bridge the gap between the starter and Jose Valverde. Even still, Valverde has not been as solid as he has been in the past few seasons. The Athletics have had a tough time trying to find a solid closer throughout the year, but they may have found one in Grant Balfour. Balfour started the season as the Athletics’ closer, struggled mightily, but has come back strong to include three straight saves against the Rangers to help clinch the AL West.
Bob Melvin helped to facilitate one of the best turnarounds of the season, but Jim Leyland has the most experience out of any manager in MLB. He has won the pennant in each league, and he won the Manager of the Year Award in each league as well. His experience and decision-making will be key for the Tigers to win this series.
The Athletics are a very young team with very few active veterans. The Tigers have many players with playoff and World Series experience. This is definitely an advantage for the Tigers.
Biggest Storyline: Will it Strike Midnight for Cinderella?
The Athletics have ridden an improbable wave of momentum from June to now. No one, and I mean NO ONE in his or her right mind would have picked that team to win the West before the season started. However, here we are, and the A’s are division champs. Yet, was the amazing comeback streak to the AL West title the grand storyline for the A’s, or do they have more magic in them? We shall see.
Key for the Athletics: Avoid Cabrera, Minimize Fielder
The duo of Cabrera and Fielder is the best hitting combo in all of baseball. The young but inexperienced Athletics’ staff must do all they can to make the rest of the Tigers lineup beat them. This will have a lot to do with getting the one-and-two-hole hitters out so that they can pitch around Miggy and Fielder.
Key for the Tigers: Solid Defense
The Tigers are one of the worst teams in the entire league on defense. They lost many games this season because they did not play sound, fundamental baseball. In the playoffs, the ball has a tendency to find fielders that are either uncomfortable or struggling. The Tigers will need to clean that up in a big way to avoid losing games because of bonehead plays.
Prediction: Tigers in 4
The Athletics have been dubbed the “Team of Destiny,” and they are surely one of the best stories in all of baseball this season. However, I think that the Tigers are a team that is just now finding their juggernaut form. I would not be surprised at all to see the Tigers win this series in impressive fashion.
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