ALDS Breakdown: Tigers vs. Athletics

The defending AL Champions, the Detroit Tigers, begin their quest for another title in the ALDS against the Oakland Athletics.  Games 1 and 2 will be played Friday at 9:37 and Saturday at 9:07, in Oakland.  Games 3 and, if necessary, 4 and 5 have not been given a start time, but Games 3 and 4 will be in Detroit on October 7 and 8, with a potential game 5 in Oakland on October 10.

These two teams played in the ALDS last year, with the Tigers winning in 5 games, with the home team winning each game except the winner-take-all Game 5.

Lineup:  Tigers.  The Athletics lineup is solid, both for now and the future, with several stars like Yoenis Cespedes, and only one lineup regular over the age of 30 (Coco Crisp).  The Tigers, however, feature potential AL MVP Miguel Cabrera, as well as Prince Fielder, Victor Martinez, Torii Hunter, and Jhonny Peralta.  A’s pitchers will have to pick their poison here.

Bench: Tigers.  The Athletics have a strong bench, including Chris Young and Alberto Callaspo.  The Tigers, on the other hand, have starters in reserve, with Don Kelly, Andy Dirks, Matt Tuiasosopo, and Nick Castellanos.

Rotation:  Tigers.  While Bartolo Colon and the rest of the A’s starters have been solid all year, they are no match for the Tigers.  Max Scherzer at 21-3 will likely win the AL Cy Young, and will pitch Game 1, followed in some order by 2012 AL Cy Young winner Justin Verlander, Doug Fister, and Anibal Sanchez.  This is probably the best rotation in baseball.

Bullpen:  Tigers.  Oakland’s bullpen is full of solid arms, like Pat Neshek, Ryan Cook, Jesse Chavez, and Sean Doolittle, but the Tigers counter with Drew Smyly, Al Alburquerque, and Phil Coke. each of whom more than hold their own.  A tough call goes the way of the Tigers.

Closer:  Athletics.  This one was another tough call, but Australian Grant Balfour has shown he is one of the best closers in the game.  He saved Game 3 in last year’s series between these two, and had 38 this season.  Tigers closer Joaquin Benoit inherited the role from struggling Jose Valverde at midseason, and although he has 14 career postseason appearances, and saved 24 games this season, he has never had a postseason save opportunity.  Balfour by a nose.

Manager:  Tigers.  Another tough call, because Bob Melvin is an excellent manager who has done great things in the Athletics organization.  Jim Leyland, however, won his 6th division title this year, and has won 3 pennants and the 1997 World Series (with the Marlins), while losing a fourth pennant on a Francisco Cabrera miracle in 1992.  I have a feeling the last thing he wants to accomplish is bringing a World Series to Detroit before he ends what is likely a Hall of Fame career.

Home-field/crowd:  Athletics.  The Athletics have only won one playoff series since losing the 1992 ALCS, when the swept the Twins in the 2006 ALDS only to lose to, you guessed it, the Tigers in the ALCS that year.  This crowd will be hungry, and the A’s will have 3 of the 5 games at home, if the series goes the distance, and there’s a good chance it will, because 5 of the A’s 6 appearances in the ALDS ended in Game 5 losses (the exception being 2006).  Although they play in what may be the worst stadium in baseball, I’ll give them the edge here.

Although the Tigers won 5 of my 7 criteria, these were all very tough calls to make.  The series is probably a toss-up, but since Detroit had the edge in my breakdown, I’ll give them the edge in the series, in 5 games (just like last year).

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