The Oakland Athletics look like a legitimately daunting adversary coming into this divisional series against the Detroit Tigers. The A’s scored the fourth-most runs and recorded the fourth-highest slugging percentage in MLB this season. They actually ranked higher than Detroit in doubles, home runs and stolen bases. Unfortunately for the rowdy fans in Oakland, that won’t be enough to beat the Tigers.
The Tigers enter this series with the better lineup, and that’s not an insult to the A’s whatsoever. It just so happens that Oakland ran into the best offensive team in the world in the first round of the playoffs. Arguments could be made that this Athletics team would beat some other ball clubs in this year’s playoffs, but actually laying down a bet against Miguel Cabrera and the powerhouse Detroit lineup would be more difficult.
Detroit comes into the ALDS with the best team batting average and the most hits in the regular season. The Tigers come in second in slugging percentage, OBP and OPS, and recorded the second-most RBI and total runs. Every relevant offensive statistic, aside from base stealing which Detroit completely ignores, has this team in the top 10. It’s not Oakland’s fault they ran into an absolute juggernaut.
It all starts with Cabrera. After becoming the first player to earn the Triple Crown award since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967, Miggy once again led the league this year in batting average and on-base percentage. He was second only to Chris Davis in homers and RBI.
No other player from this decade puts more stress on the opposing pitcher than Cabrera. While he was intentionally walked more often than anyone in baseball besides David Ortiz, doing so in this series is dangerous.
Following Cabrera in the batting order is Prince Fielder and Victor Martinez. Fielder is eighth league-wide in RBI, which gives Detroit two consecutive spots in the lineup with more RBI production than Oakland’s team leader in the area, Josh Donaldson. Martinez is 13th in MLB with 182 hits, which makes him one of four Detroit starters with hit totals in the top 25 of the league.
Oakland has only two, with Donaldson and Jed Lowrie ranking 21st and 20th, respectively.
Experience plays a big factor here and the Tigers have been to this stage before. While the A’s will surely be pumped for this series, their youth will be their undoing. For all their remarkable achievements this year, one simple stat could easily spell their doom.
In close/late inning situations, Detroit’s league-leading batting average drops to 16th at .241. While this isn’t all that inspiring, it trumps what happens to the A’s in clutch situations. Oakland’s team batting average in the regular season plummeted from 14th at .254 all the way down to 29th with a dreadful .211 average.
Getting hits and bringing runners home in clutch situations won’t get much easier for the Green and Gold when they need to win three games against the AL’s best starting rotation. Oakland will have to face Justin Verlander, probable Cy Young winner Max Scherzer, and then the guy with the lowest ERA among Detroit starters, Anibal Sanchez.
If the Athletics even make it close, it would be awfully impressive.