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ALDS Preview: Tigers vs. Athletics

Oct 6, 2012, 11:30 AM EDT

Miguel Cabrera

You can’t predict baseball, but you can at least lay out the parameters. So let’s take a look at what the Tigers and Athletics have in store for us in the American League Division Series.

The Teams

Detroit Tigers (88-74) vs. Oakland Athletics (94-68)

The Matchups

Game 1 Saturday in Detroit: Jarrod Parker vs. Justin Verlander
Game 2 Sunday in Detroit: Tommy Milone vs. Doug Fister
Game 3 Tuesday in Oakland: Undecided (likely Brett Anderson) vs. Anibal Sanchez
Game 4 (if necessary) Wednesday in Oakland
Game 5 (if necessary) Thursday in Oakland

Analysis: As impressive as the A’s group of rookie starting pitchers have been, they just don’t have someone on the level of Justin Verlander, who is primed to start two games in the series if necessary. By the way, he allowed one run in 13 innings over two starts against the A’s this season. It’s a pretty interesting call to use Milone in Game 2 in Detroit, given that he had a 4.83 ERA on the road this season compared to a 2.74 ERA at home. It wouldn’t shock me if the Tigers head to Oakland up 2-0.

Athletics manager Bob Melvin hasn’t officially announced who he will use in Game 3, but it’s expected to be Brett Anderson, who hasn’t pitched since September 19 due to an oblique injury. That’s a big deal, as he had a 2.57 ERA and 25/7 K/BB ratio in 35 innings through his first six starts back from Tommy John surgery. Anibal Sanchez got off to a bit of a rough start after coming over from the Marlins, but he allowed three earned runs or less in seven out of his final eight starts during the regular season. Max Scherzer will start Game 4 for the Tigers if it gets that far. He probably would have pitched sooner if it wasn’t for recent shoulder and ankle injuries. A.J. Griffin figures to pitch Game 4 for the A’s.

The Storylines

  • The Tigers took the season series 4-3 while outscoring the Athletics 40-37.
  • The Tigers were tied with the Cardinals for the worst road record (38-43) among the playoff teams, so it’s important for them to take advantage of playing the first two games of the series at Comerica Park.
  • Strikeouts. We’re probably going to see a lot of them. The Athletics hit a ton of home runs (they were seventh in the majors with 195), but they also set an American League record by striking out 1,387 times. Meanwhile, Tigers pitchers were fifth in the majors this season with 1,318 strikeouts.
  • It’s a good thing Tigers’ pitchers are adept at getting strikeouts, because their defense is easily the worst of any team in the playoffs. They managed to win the American League Central in spite of it, but the margin for error is quite literally much smaller now.
  • Miguel Cabrera was awesome against pretty much everyone this season, so it shouldn’t be a surprise to learn that he put a hurting on the Athletics. The Triple Crown winner went 14-for-29 (.483) with three home runs and 14 RBI in seven games against A’s pitching. That’s nice and all, but the Tigers need contributions from other key bats like Austin Jackson and Prince Fielder so that Cabrera actually sees something to hit. The Tigers’ lineup doesn’t have a ton of depth.
  • Thanks to an unlikely cast, including Yoenis Cespedes, Josh Reddick, Jonny Gomes, Seth Smith, Brandon Moss and Chris Carter, the A’s do have some pop. But they were also second-to-last in the American League in batting average and third from the bottom in on-base percentage. Meanwhile, Tigers pitchers gave up the third least home runs in the American League. What happens if he power isn’t there?
  • The Athletics don’t get on base a lot, but they steal bases when they do. They had 122 stolen bases during the regular season, the most among all playoff teams. Coco Crisp was fourth in the American League with 39 steals while Cespedes, Cliff Pennington and Reddick were all over double-digits. The Tigers were 29th in the majors this season with 59 steals.
  • The Tigers have the edge in the rotation, but they were 10th in the AL with a 3.79 bullpen ERA while the A’s were second at 2.94. The Tigers have the big names like Jose Valverde, Joaquin Benoit and Octavio Dotel, but the under-the-radar trio of Grant Balfour, Ryan Cook and Sean Doolittle were untouchable down the stretch for Oakland. Things could get dicey if Jim Leyland is forced to pull one of his starters early.

Prediction

The Athletics went 72-38 after June 2 and came back from 13 games down to win the American League West. With their rookie starting pitchers, a strong bullpen and an all-or-nothing approach at the plate, they might be the most interesting story in this entire playoffs. Assuming you don’t have a horse in this race, this scrappy and inexperienced bunch is going to be awful difficult to root against. Still, I must separate my head from my heart here. And in doing so, I think the Tigers starting pitching will prove to be too much.

TIGERS WIN THE SERIES 3-1

  1. historiophiliac - Oct 6, 2012 at 11:56 AM

    Also, the high today in Detroit is supposed to be low 50’s (partly cloudy) — 40’s during the game. In Oakland, the high is upper 60’s (sunny), getting down to upper 50’s this evening.

  2. dawgpoundmember - Oct 6, 2012 at 12:20 PM

    got my ticket for game 2…..CAN NOT WAIT!

  3. brianbowman16 - Oct 6, 2012 at 1:04 PM

    As a Tigers fan, I’ve suffered through some unfathomable losses this year, but other than the Nats I don’t see anyone coming close to the quality of our starters. If Andy Dirks stays with what he has been doing, and the top 3 in the order do their jobs, I think the Mighty Tigers can take this series.
    By the way, how has that ninja idiot not been banned yet? I run a site with 20,000 people but ya don’t see me posting a link.
    BASEBALL IN THE D BABY!!

  4. APBA Guy - Oct 6, 2012 at 2:18 PM

    All the games at this level are interesting, and unfortunately, the last series the A’s played against the Rangers is in no way predictive. Still, the trademark of this team has been their ability to rally back when down, and that bullpen, as DJ points out, is very, very effective, if Melvin goes to them in time. No result would surprise me. Yesterday both underdogs won. The A’s could do it, and as the readers on this site know I am totally invested in the beloved A’s. What does my head say? I don’t want to ask. All I hear from that region is “veterans, Verlander, Leyland, triple crown winner”. You know, just a bunch of noise. Keep quiet brain, and get your gold jersey on!

  5. scatterbrian - Oct 6, 2012 at 3:04 PM

    A lot of analysis is pointing out the A’s offense: low batting average, a ton of Ks and HRs, etc. But their offense really evolved over the course of the season. After the break, they were first in runs scored, middle-of-the-pack in AVG and OBP, third in SLG, fourth in OPS.

  6. legacybroken - Oct 6, 2012 at 3:10 PM

    As plucky as the A’s have been this season and the unpredictable nature of the postseason, I do like My Tigers chances. As has been pointed out the A’s were a free swinging, strikeout prone group that livedand died by the Homer going up against a rotation of strikeout artists that don’t give up many homeruns. Thats a recipe for a Tigers win. Still, there are causes for concern including a shaky pen and erratic bats behind Miggy and Prince.

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