With a 93-69 record and a AL Central crown, the Detroit Tigers will go into the ALDS on the road starting on Friday to take on the Oakland Athletics, whose 96-66 record won them the AL West division championship.
This is a very interesting matchup. The Tigers are the defending AL champions, and are loaded with talent all over the field. The A’s are certainly no slouches, but the $60 million in contracts that they have on their team certainly pales in comparison to the $148 million by the Tigers. Obviously, money does not mean everything, the Athletics have a legitimate chance to win this series.
Billy Beane continues to put out an incredible team with his lack of financial support. He continually finds under-the-radar players who contribute in a big way for Oakland.
Bartolo Colon and his 18-6 record and 2.65 ERA at $3 million is a good example of this, especially when compared to Detroit’s Justin Verlander who had a 13-12 record, a 3.46 ERA and cost the Tigers just over $20 million. There are plenty more examples of this as the A’s simply get the best out of their players.
While they may be expensive, the Tigers have a very impressive stock of talent: Verlander, probable AL MVP Miguel Cabrera and possible AL Cy Young Max Scherzer just to name a few. However, the one guy who sticks out as the difference-maker in this series is first baseman Prince Fielder.
If the Tigers expect to beat the scrappy A’s, they must get serious production out of Fielder. In somewhat of a down season, Fielder hit .279 with 25 home runs and 106 RBIs. Fielder played in all 162 games this season, so the fact that he only hit 25 home runs is definitely interesting.
The home run total and .457 slugging percentage is the lowest that Fielder has had in his nine-year career, besides when he played in only 39 games in 2005 as a rookie.
With that being said, he is an extremely important part of the Detroit lineup, batting fourth behind Cabrera. The Tigers will be counting on Fielder even more because Cabrera is struggling with injuries. On Wednesday, manager Jim Leyland talked to the media about Cabrera’s health, saying “he’s not 100 percent” .
With their MVP candidate having some injury issues, the Tigers need Fielder to step up. The power may seem to be on a decline, but it is certainly still there. Just watch Fielder at the plate — the guy can still hit it a mile. In a short five-game series, a few timely home runs will be huge.
No offense to Yoenis Cespedes and Josh Donaldson, but the A’s simply do not have a power hitter like Fielder. That is why he will be the difference-maker in this series.