The Major League Baseball post-season is in full swing as the Baltimore Orioles (96-66), the number two seed in the American League, face off against the number three seed Detroit Tigers (90-72). The Orioles had the American League East locked up for what feels like an eternity while it took until game 162 for the Tigers to lock in their fourth consecutive American League Central crown. Below is a breakdown of the important pieces in this year’s battle.
Game 1: October 2 at Oriole Park at Camden Yards
Game 2: October 3 at Oriole Park at Camden Yards
Game 3: October 5 at Comerica Park
Game 4: October 6 at Comerica Park (If Needed)
Game 5: October 8 at Oriole Park at Camden Yards (If Needed)
When looking at these two rotations I am only going to go four deep. Let’s face it, it is the post-season and you would be hard pressed to find a club that sends out five starters. You are more likely to see a team use three starters with off days in consideration. The Orioles will be sending out the combination of Chris Tillman, Bud Norris, Miguel Gonzalez, and Wei-Yin Chen against the Tigers. Meanwhile, the Tigers will march out the combination of Max Scherzer, David Price, Justin Verlander and Rick Porcello against the boys from Baltimore.
The Tigers will be doing something that puts then in rare air during the ALDS. Their top three starters are the Cy Young award winners for the last three years. So the first three pitchers the Orioles will see are proven. Meanwhile, there is no real name value for the Orioles pitching staff but they are more than serviceable assuming their offense can deliver. However, when you look at them at face value they do not stack up.
The bullpen for each team creates a top and bottom three scenario. The Orioles bullpen carried the third lowest ERA in the American League at 3.10 while also delivering with a 1.16 WHIP, good for second in the American League. Andrew Miller and Darren O’Day will be in line to pass the ball to Zach Britton in the ninth inning. Britton converted 37 of 41 save opportunities in 2014 with a 0.90 WHIP and a sub-2.00 ERA. Will Britton handle the bright lights? That remains to be seen.
On the other hand, the Tigers bullpen combined for a 4.29 ERA and 1.48 WHIP in 2014. Both stats are good for the bottom three in the American League. Joe Nathan is a stud closer in name only at this point. He did convert 35 of 42 save opportunities but had a 1.53 WHIP and an ERA of 4.81. Both are other-worldly compared to his previous career numbers. Nathan does have post-season experience but he has never made it out of the Division Series. Nothing else of note is prevalent in the Tigers bullpen.
Name for name this is an interesting comparison. The Orioles have the likes of Nelson Cruz, who led the league with 40 home runs in a rebound season. They also have a center field stud in Adam Jones who drove in 96 runs while hitting 29 homers during the 2014 campaign. Nick Markakis and Steve Pearce are serviceable but uninspiring options for Baltimore. The losses of Manny Machado, Matt Wieters and Chris Davis will ripple throughout the lineup, especially when facing such imposing starters.
Breakout youngster, J.D. Martinez will bring his 23 home runs, 76 RBI, and a .315 batting average into the ALDS without ever sniffing the post-season in Houston.The Tigers will also trot out two complete studs in two-time MVP Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez. Cabrera continues to be a dominant offensive force in the American League as evident by his 52 doubles, .313 batting average, 109 RBI and 101 runs scored. He hit 19 less home runs than the previous year but that still equated to 25 long balls. Martinez had his best offensive season in his career. He hit .335 with 32 home runs, 103 RBI and 87 runs scored. He also managed 188 hits as a switch hitter that is equally deadly and should be feared in this lineup. The trade that brought Ian Kinsler to Detroit yielded dividends in the form of 100 runs scored, 188 hits, and solid play at second base. When Torii Hunter is an afterthought on your team them you are in pretty good shape.
Prediction: Tigers in 4 games
I can take nothing away from what the Baltimore Orioles did in the American League East in 2014. They disposed of all challengers en route to smashing the division. However, when you head into the post-season without crucial parts of your offense, a servable but not overwhelming front four, and are forced to face Cy Young award winners in the first three games than that is challenge I just cannot see them overcoming. Yes they have the better bullpen, by far, but if they are forced to hand over the ball trailing in each game then that recipe does not breed success.
I can see Baltimore winning one at dome but with a combination of post-season experience, a superior front four, and a potent offense I cannot see that Tiger losing this series. I know that is why they play the game but when looking at lineups and the metrics it is the Tigers series to lose.