October 6, 2012
Athletics-Tigers Division Series Preview
It’s difficult to say which is more surprising: that Oakland made the playoffs at all, or that Detroit did so only because Robin Ventura dragged a rotting White Sox carcass across the finish line with just four wins over their final 15 games. Despite being predicted by all but one BP writer to finish the season atop the AL Central, Detroit enters the playoffs with the worst record of the bunch—a full five wins below both AL wild cards. Oakland, on the other hand, was predicted to finish in the basement of the AL West, below even the Mariners. After winning their final six games, however, they secured the number-two seed in the playoffs. We’re sure to see this matchup billed as youth versus experience, with Oakland’s young rotation and breakout hitters pitted against the veteran wiles of Miggy, Fielder, and Verlander.
The star power clearly resides in the middle of the Detroit order, but Oakland has kept up with the Tigers all year overall, accumulating a .266 TAv to Detroit’s .268. Yoenis Cespedes has proven to be a shrewd offseason signing, showcasing better plate discipline than most expected while bringing exactly the power and speed we knew he’d display. The biggest story, however, may be Josh Reddick—who emerged as a veritable middle-of-the-order threat with 31 home runs—or Brandon Moss, who blasted 21 homers in just under 300 PA and will start every game against the all-righty Detroit staff. Late-season additions Drew and Donaldson help round out what figures to be a formidable Oakland offense.
Detroit’s offense hasn’t been as quite as explosive as many expected (sixth in TAv, 11th in runs scored), but that can’t be blamed on Prince Fielder, who has formed one of the league’s most imposing three-four duos with Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera. Unheralded in this offense have been Andy Dirks and Quintin Berry, neither of whom began as starters (or even in Detroit, in the case of Berry). They provide solid production in flanking Austin Jackson (who’s in the midst of a career year himself) in the outfield, and mid-season acquisition Omar Infante has filled the team’s gaping hole at second base and rounded out the order nicely.