Detroit Tigers (90-72) vs. Baltimore Orioles (96-66)
Season Series: Tigers won 5-1
Game 1: Tigers @ Orioles, Thurs. Oct. 2nd, 5:37 PM (Max Scherzer vs. Chris Tillman)
Game 2: Tigers @ Orioles, Fri. Oct. 3rd, 12:07 or 3:07 PM (Justin Verlander vs. TBA)
Game 3: Orioles @ Tigers, Sun. Oct. 5th, 3:45 PM (David Price vs. TBA)
*Game 4: Orioles @ Tigers, Mon. Oct. 6th, TBA (Rick Porcello vs. TBA)
*Game 5: Tigers @ Orioles, Wed. Oct. 8th, TBA (Max Scherzer vs. TBA)
The Tigers and the Orioles face off in the playoffs for the first time ever in this ALDS matchup that begins Thursday night in Baltimore. The Orioles comfortably took the AL East by a 12 game margin en route to a 96 win season. The Tigers have been in playoff mode for the past two weeks as they were fighting with the Royals for supremacy in the AL Central. The Tigers won by the slimmest of margins, one game, for the second season in a row. To determine who is likely to come out on top in this series, we will break down three categories. Those will be offense, defense, and pitching. We will wrap up with series predictions from our Tigers writers. Now to the breakdown:
The Tigers strong point this season was offense, even with all of the talent that they have on the pitching staff. The Tigers were first or second in four major offensive categories. They were first in batting average at .277, second in runs with 757, second in on base percentage at .331, and second in slugging percentage at .426. On the other hand, the Orioles fared a little worse despite their excellent record. The Orioles finished ninth in batting average at .256, eighth in runs with 705, seventeenth in on base percentage at .311, and third in slugging percentage at .422.
While Baltimore boasts having the 2014 home run champion, Nelson Cruz, in their lineup, the Tigers have a great core to counter the threat. Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez, and J.D. Martinez should be enough to counter what Baltimore throws out in their lineup on a daily basis.
To show how the Tigers can take advantage of the band box known as Camden Yards, let’s take a look back at earlier this season when Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez hit back to back home runs in the ninth inning to give the Tigers a dramatic win:
Defense has not been the Tigers strong point at times this season. Nick Castellanos does not have excellent range at third base, and center field is suspect after the loss of Austin Jackson at the trade deadline. The Tigers are very solid at second base and shortstop, where Ian Kinsler and Andrew Romine get nearly every ball that is hit in their direction. The Tigers finished ninth in the American League with 101 errors this season.
Baltimore has thrived off of defense this season, and it is the main reason they are in the position they are. Baltimore finished third in the American League with 87 errors, ten short of the league average. Baltimore also boasts an All Star center fielder in Adam Jones who is one of the top defenders in baseball. Despite being without Manny Machado, the Orioles have not suffered on the right side of the field with Chris Davis at third. J.J. Hardy also has been solid at shortstop for the Orioles despite posting a near career low in fielding percentage at .978.
It is no secret that the Tigers have one of the premier rotations in all of baseball. Their rotation currently holds the past three Cy Young winners in Max Scherzer, David Price, and Justin Verlander. The Tigers will also likely use Rick Porcello as their fourth starter, who up until August/September, was having a career year. Despite Porcello’s struggles as of late, the Tigers still field one of, if not, the strongest rotations in the post season. The bullpen, which has struggled for a majority of the season, will also get a lift with rookie Kyle Lobstein and veteran Anibal Sanchez likely joining for the playoffs. Nathan seems to be getting back into a groove, and Chamberlin and Soria will split eighth inning duties if one is to struggle.
Baltimore will not field the same high profile rotation that the Tigers will, but all of Baltimore’s starting pitchers are very effective. The Orioles will throw out their ace, Chris Tillman, in game one. They are likely to turn to Wei-Yin Chen for game two, though Bud Norris would also be a good option. Baltimore was third in the American League in team ERA with a 3.43 ERA. Meanwhile, the Tigers were eleventh in the American League with a 4.01 team ERA.
The Tigers ERA is mainly due to the bullpen struggles throughout the season and Justin Verlander having, statistically, the worst season of his career. He has been solid as of late and the bullpen has come through big in recent outings. With the big game pitchers the Tigers have, there is no reason they don’t have an advantage here.
While this series can easily be a sweep in either direction, or a series that goes the distance, there is no doubt this will be one of the more entertaining matchups of the division series.
BD- Tigers in 4
JB- Tigers in 4
JD- Tigers in 4
SM- Tigers in 5