Position-by-position breakdown for Tigers-O's
Two of baseball's top offenses will collide when the Orioles take on the Tigers in the American League Division Series.
It all starts at Camden Yards with Game 1 scheduled for Thursday at 5:37 p.m. ET on TBS.
The Orioles ran away with the AL East crown, their first since 1997, to make the postseason for the second time in the last three years. Baltimore won 96 games, tied for the second most in the Majors, and belted 211 home runs along the way, the most by any team in the Majors.
On the flip side, the Tigers won the AL Central on the final day of the regular season, holding off a late charge by the Royals. Detroit led the AL in slugging percentage (.426) and OPS (.757). Add in arguably the best rotation in the game, and the Tigers are eying a fourth consecutive trip to the AL Championship Series.
But October is always full of drama and surprises. Here's a look at how these clubs match up at each position:
The Orioles don't steal a lot of bases as a team, and it will be even harder to do so against Alex Avila, who led the AL with 36 runners caught stealing this season. Avila ranks fourth among all AL catchers since 2010 with a 29.4 caught-stealing percentage. The Tigers, on the other hand, were fourth in the AL with 106 steals, which presents a tough task for Baltimore's backstops. Veteran Nick Hundley threw out just five runners, though rookie Caleb Joseph had 23 caught stealing in 78 games. Advantage: Tigers
Miguel Cabrera had another monster year for the Tigers, leading the AL with 52 doubles and posting a .313/.371/.524 slash line. The reigning two-time AL MVP, Cabrera played 159 games and was in the top three in the AL in runs (101) and hits (191). He's been productive in October, too, with a hit in 10 of 11 postseason games in 2013. The Orioles will be without slugger Chris Davis for the ALDS because of a suspension, but Steve Pearce has proven to be more than a capable replacement. Pearce showed his power with 21 home runs and 26 doubles over 102 games, including an impressive .556 slugging percentage. Pearce stepped up when the O's needed him most this season and Baltimore could use more of the same in this series. Advantage: Tigers
In his first year in Detroit, Ian Kinsler showed why the Tigers acquired him from the Rangers last offseason in a trade for Prince Fielder. Kinsler ranked among the top five in the AL in runs scored (100), hits (188) and doubles (40), while starting all but two games at second base. The four-time All-Star has a career .311 average in 34 postseason starts. Jonathan Schoop earned the starting job in his first full season in the Majors and has been a nice surprise for the O's. Kinsler was second among AL second basemen with 17 homers, while Schoop ranked third with 16. Advantage: Tigers
With rising star Manny Machado sidelined by a knee injury, the Orioles have gone with Kelly Johnson and Jimmy Paredes at the hot corner. Johnson is on his third club this season. Paredes has produced in a limited role, hitting .302 in 18 games since coming over in July from Kansas City. Nick Castellanos has been a nice surprise for the Tigers as a rookie in his first full season, with 31 doubles, 11 homers, 66 RBIs and 138 hits in 148 games. Advantage: Tigers
J.J. Hardy saw his home runs decline this season, but the power is still there as evidenced by his 28 doubles. He entered the year as the only big league shortstop with at least 20 homers in each of the last three seasons, but went deep only nine times in 2014. Still, Hardy has an established track record and remains among the best shortstops in baseball. Andrew Romine and Eugenio Suarez split playing time at short this season. Romine has a better glove, and the Tigers mostly went defense-first down the stretch. But Detroit might go with Suarez for a game or two at Camden Yards to add more punch to the lineup. Advantage: Orioles
Alejandro De Aza became the primary left fielder in September after coming over in a trade with the White Sox at the end of August. In 20 games with the O's, De Aza hit .293 with three homers, five doubles, 10 RBIs and 11 runs scored. Nelson Cruz, who led the Majors with 40 homers, made 60 starts in left this year, though Baltimore likes him more as a designated hitter. In his first year with Detroit, J.D. Martinez has been one of the biggest surprises in the game. After three mediocre years in Houston, Martinez posted a .315/.358/.553 slash line with 23 homers, 30 doubles and 76 RBIs in 123 games. Advantage: Tigers
Adam Jones has been a mainstay in center for the O's for the last seven seasons and has been an All-Star in each of the last three years. Jones produced as the Orioles' No. 3 hitter this year, driving in 96 runs and collecting 30 doubles and 29 homers. The Tigers might be without their primary center fielder as Rajai Davis is nursing a strained ligament in his pelvic area. Davis suffered the injury on Saturday and did not play in the regular-season finale. If Sunday's game was any indication, Ezequiel Carrera might see the most time in center against Baltimore. Advantage: Orioles
Torii Hunter continues to produce in his 18th season in the big leagues, and the veteran has been a key piece for the Tigers both on the field and in the clubhouse. Hunter, 39, hit .305 in September to help Detroit clinch. In 45 career postseason starts, Hunter has a .278 average with four home runs, 12 doubles, 20 RBIs and 24 runs scored. Nick Markakis had another solid year for the O's, becoming only the second player in franchise history to post six seasons with at least 50 multihit games. Markakis has been a dependable outfielder for Baltimore since he broke in with the club in 2006, but he's never experienced October baseball. Advantage: Tigers
Two of the best sluggers in baseball will look to make an impact from this position. Cruz impressed in his first year with the O's, leading the Majors with 40 homers and finishing third in the AL with 108 RBIs. On the other side, Victor Martinez crushed the ball all year long on his way to his most prolific offensive season. The switch-hitting Martinez led the Majors with a .974 OPS and was tops in the AL with a .409 on-base percentage. He tied for fourth in the Majors with 188 hits to go along with 32 homers, 33 doubles and 103 RBIs. If one team has an advantage here, it is a slight one. Advantage: Tigers
The Orioles were hit hard by injuries to key players this year, but the silver lining there was the club adding depth to the bench. Infielder Ryan Flaherty appeared in 102 games and Delmon Young provided a power bat in 83 games as an outfielder/designated hitter. For the Tigers, Don Kelly played seven different positions over 95 games. Depending on who starts at shortstop, the Tigers will have some power or a solid infield defender available off the bench. Advantage: Orioles
With Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer and David Price, the Tigers are the rare club with a trio of Cy Young Award winners from the last three seasons. What's more, all three pitchers have started in the World Series. Detroit is built around its rotation, and it certainly is a formidable one. The Orioles have six capable starters, but won't need nearly that many in a best-of-five format. Baltimore's rotation has made huge strides since its last postseason appearance in 2012. Chris Tillman has given the O's a quality start in 16 of his last 21 outings and will make his October debut as the Game 1 starter. Advantage: Tigers
Orioles relievers combined for a 3.10 ERA, which was the third-lowest mark in the AL, and a 1.16 WHIP, tied for the second lowest. With a solid late-innings trio of left-hander Andrew Miller, righty Darren O'Day and closer Zach Britton, Baltimore should feel confident with a lead late in games. As for the Tigers, it's no secret their weakness in recent postseasons has been the 'pen. There has not been much improvement in 2014. Detroit relievers combined for a 4.29 ERA, 1.48 WHIP and .270 batting average against to finish among the bottom three teams in the AL in each statistic. Advantage: Orioles
Joe Nathan has pretty much seen it all in 10 seasons as a big league closer. The veteran saved 35 games for the Tigers this year, his ninth season with at least 30 saves. Only Mariano Rivera, Trevor Hoffman and Lee Smith have more 30-save seasons. A six-time All-Star, Nathan has pitched in the playoffs in five different seasons but has never advanced past the Division Series. On the other end of the spectrum, Britton is in his first year as a closer. The left-hander has proven capable in that role, converting 37 of 41 save chances. Pay attention to how Britton responds to the bright lights of October. Advantage: Tigers