Jobu previews the ALCS matchup between the Oakland A’s and Detroit Tigers.
The ALCS officially kicks off on Saturday, as the A’s travel to Detroit to take on the Tigers in the first of the two best of fives in the American League. Like most playoff series, this one is very tough to call. The Tigers come in tied with the St. Louis Cardinals for the worst record of all the playoff teams (88-74). The A’s come into this series as one of the biggest surprises of the year, as they overcame a five game deficit in the last nine to take the American League West away from the Texas Rangers. I’ll do my best to pick you guys a winner.
How the Tigers Can Win
The Tigers have two of the best weapons in all of baseball, and they will be on full display in this series. The first is Justin Verlander. The reigning American League MVP and Cy Young Award winner is flat out one of the best pitchers in baseball. If he starts a possible deciding game five, the Tigers will be in good shape.
The other weapon, of course, is the guy who will most likely be taking home the AL MVP this year, Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera. Cabrera seems to be on a different plane than any other hitter in baseball. The only thing he can’t do for a team is steal bases, but he has everything else covered.
The rest of the Tigers’ team isn’t half bad either. Their offense struggled at times this year, but they do boast one of the better young leadoff hitters in the game in Austin Jackson, and another great power bat in Prince Fielder. Not having Victor Martínez hurts (he was lost in Spring Training to a knee injury), but Jackson, Fielder and Cabrera provide a good foundation.
Pitching wise, the Tigers are pretty well off too. Verlander and Max Scherzer, who will be starting game four for Detroit, finished first and second in the American League in strike outs. Doug Fister and Anibal Sanchez aren’t half bad either, which makes the Tigers tough to handle if they get their pitchers going.
The one glaring weakness for Detroit is the bullpen. I know José Valverde was perfect in saves last year, but he hasn’t been this year. He’s blown 5 saves and I watched him almost blow a few more against the Yankees this season. He’s too wild, too inconsistent and he’s going to cost them at least one game in this seers.
How the A’s Can Win
They say momentum doesn’t really help in baseball, but I don’t buy that for a second. If I’m right, and it does help, then the A’s might win the whole thing this year. They have been amazing of late, including sweeping the Rangers at home in the last three games of the year. They’re hitting, they’re pitching and they’re winning with both.
Another intangible that the A’s have is that they’re mostly made up of rookies. These guys are a loose bunch that really seem to have fun when they play, which helps keep them mentally balanced and confident in tight games. I can’t say enough about that.
They’re also a talented bunch of players too. Their young pitching staff carried them through their surge, even after veteran Brandon McCarthy suffered a fractured skull on a come-backer last month (he might be pitching in this series). Guys like Jarrod Parker, Tommy Milone and A.J. Griffin could all contend for the Rookie of the Year if a guy named Mike Trout wasn’t taking it home. On offense, they boast eight double digits home run guys, and Yoennis Céspedes might be on his way to being one of the best all-around talents in the game. They can hit and they can pitch, and that spells trouble for the Tigers.
Although i talked about how their youth could be a catalyst for a deep playoff run, there is something to be said for playoff experience. A team with so many rookies that have never played playoff baseball before might give in to nerves and stumble out of the blocks once the umpire says play ball.
This is a really tough one to call. The A’s had a better record than the Tigers this season, and they’ve been hot the entire second half, but they don’t have a shut down guy like Verlander heading their staff, or a Triple Crown guy to carry the offense. I think this one is a bit of a toss up, but I think the Tigers’ playoff experience will get them through this round ahead of the A’s. Tigers win in five, but watch out for the A’s for years to come.
Featured image courtesy of: Orlin Wagner/AP
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