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October 7, 2012

Playoff Prospectus

ALDS Game Two Preview: Athletics at Tigers

by Daniel Rathman

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Things got off to an inauspicious start for Justin Verlander and the Tigers, as Coco Crisp smacked the fourth pitch of Game One out to right field to give the Athletics a 1-0 lead. From that point on, however, the flame-throwing righty shut down Bob Melvin’s lineup, scattering two more hits and four walks while striking out 11 over seven innings of work. Verlander outdueled rookie Jarrod Parker, who pitched well but could not match Detroit’s ace in a 3-1 decision.

The A’s and Tigers will tangle again this afternoon, only 15 hours after the conclusion of the opener. Here are the PECOTA odds and projected starting lineups for Game Two:

Athletics (Tommy Milone) at Tigers (Doug Fister) – 12:00 p.m. ET
PECOTA Odds of Winning: Tigers 55.5 percent, Athletics 44.4 percent

Projected Starting Lineups:

Athletics vs. Fister (R)

Tigers vs. Milone (L)

Coco Crisp (S)

Austin Jackson (R)

Stephen Drew (L)

Omar Infante (R)

Yoenis Cespedes (R)

Miguel Cabrera (R)

Brandon Moss (L)

Prince Fielder (L)

Josh Reddick (L)

Delmon Young (R)

Josh Donaldson (R)

Jhonny Peralta (R)

Seth Smith (L)

Andy Dirks (L)

George Kottaras (L)

Avisail Garcia (R)

Cliff Pennington (S)

Gerald Laird (R)

After converting on their 2-in-3 odds of winning Game One, the Tigers are once again favored in today’s matinee, although PECOTA foresees a more competitive affair, mostly because Verlander can’t toe the rubber every day. Then again, Fister is as competent a number-two starter as any American League playoff team can boast, and he overcame Detroit’s shaky infield defense to log a 3.45 ERA in 26 regular-season assignments.

Milone, on the other hand, is a somewhat curious choice by Melvin, one perhaps motivated by Brett Anderson needing a couple of extra days to recover from the oblique injury he suffered at Comerica Park last month. The 25-year-old southpaw relies on an aggressive approach and fly-ball contact, and while the vast pastures of the Coliseum help to mask Milone’s middling stuff, the Tigers’ home yard may be a bit less forgiving.

Acquired from the Nationals in the Gio Gonzalez deal this past winter, Milone faced the Tigers twice in 2012, tossing seven innings of one-run ball in Oakland on May 11 but serving up three runs on nine hits in 4 2/3 frames in Detroit on September 20. Here are his pitch breakdowns from each of those outings, via Brooks Baseball:

Tommy Milone - May 11 vs. DET

Tommy Milone – September 20 @ DET

Milone threw 98 pitches in the win at the Coliseum and 94 in the no-decision at Comerica Park. One difference between his two outings is immediately clear: after relying on the change-up as his primary off-speed pitch in Oakland, Milone used nearly twice as many curveballs in Detroit, perhaps in an effort to miss more bats. With a fastball that seldom touches 90 on the radar gun, Milone needs a sharp array of breaking stuff at his disposal to be successful, and—as evidenced by the dearth of swings-and-misses on his curve in the latter outing—he did not have it the last time the Tigers saw him.

The lack of whiffs on Milone’s fastball in those two outings is equally worrisome. He threw a combined 95 two- and four-seam fastballs to Tigers hitters and only elicited four whiffs. If that ratio does not improve, the A’s are likely to have their backs against the wall when the series moves to Oakland.

Regardless, Milone figures to need help from his offense, which—apart from Crisp’s leadoff homer and Stephen Drew’s third-inning double—might as well have hit the area clubs on Saturday night. That brings us to the Matchup of the Game: Crisp versus Fister.

The speedster and the sinkerballer have squared off a dozen times, and Crisp has seldom been fooled, going 6-for-12 with a pair of triples. Crisp was out of the lineup when Fister held the A’s to one run in six innings on May 12, so the two last met on September 16, 2011, when Crisp went 0-for-3. As shown by the match-up tool linked above, Fister fed Crisp a steady diet of curveballs in that meeting, inducing a flyout on the bender to start the game, then pitching backwards in his ensuing two trips.

The Fister-Crisp chess match is not limited to the batter’s box, though. For a lanky, 6-foot-8 pitcher, Fister is tremendous at halting opponents’ running games, and he teamed with Detroit’s catchers to allow only two stolen bases in his 26 starts this year. Crisp, however, is an equally accomplished thief, having gone 39-for-43 on steal attempts during the regular season. Fister’s ability to keep Crisp off the basepaths and to prevent him from running wild could be pivotal in Game Two.

Daniel Rathman is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Daniel's other articles. You can contact Daniel by clicking here

Related Content:  Coco Crisp,  Athletics,  Tigers,  Doug Fister,  Tommy Mlione

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