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October 5, 2014

Playoff Prospectus

PECOTA Odds and Game 3 Previews

by R.J. Anderson and Sam Miller

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Tigers/Orioles

Bullpen problems have the Tigers on the verge of failing to advance to the ALCS for the first time since 2010—otherwise known as the last time Detroit failed to make the postseason.

Orioles (Bud Norris) at Tigers (David Price) 3:30 pm ET

PECOTA odds of winning: 54% Tigers, 46% Orioles

Projected Starting Lineups

Tigers vs. Norris (R)

Orioles vs. Price (L)

Ian Kinsler (R) 2B

Nick Markakis (L) RF

Torii Hunter (R) RF

Steve Pearce (R) 1B

Miguel Cabrera (R) 1B

Adam Jones (R) CF

Victor Martinez (S) DH

Nelson Cruz (R) DH

J.D. Martinez (R) LF

Delmon Young (R) LF

Alex Avila (L) C

J.J. Hardy (R) SS

Nick Castellanos (R) 3B

Ryan Flaherty (L) 3B

Austin Romine (S) SS

Nick Hundley (R) C

Ezequiel Cabrera (L) CF

Jonathan Schoop (R) 2B

Injuries/Availability: Rajai Davis might not have started anyway, given a righty on the mound, but his hamstring issues have affected him to the point where he exited last game in the middle innings. His status is unclear. Kevin Gausman threw 55 pitches on Friday, so he's unlikely to appear in relief.

Outlook: The Orioles, though the underdogs according to PECOTA, will attempt to secure their first trip to the ALCS since 1997.

The starting pitcher responsible for getting them there is Norris, a portly righty who the team acquired last July. Norris has a power profile, heavy on fastball and sliders, which lends itself to platoon issues. The good news for Norris (and by extension Baltimore) is the Tigers lineup will feature mostly righties. The bad news is it's still a quality lineup.

Opposing Norris will be Price. The Tigers undoubtedly envisioned the former Cy Young winner starting meaningful October games for them when they acquired him, but this wasn't what they had in mind. In 11 post-trade starts, Price notched seven quality starts and averaged seven innings per. Brad Ausmus needs him to do both in order for Detroit to play another day.

The Tigers bullpen has been the story of the series thus far. Let's see if that can change in what might be the series finale. - R.J. Anderson

Angels/Royals

The only thing more surprising than a Royals series win would be a Royals series sweep. The Angels will have their least-effective starter (at least this year) on the mound to try to stop it.

Los Angeles Angels (C.J. Wilson) at Kansas City Royals (James Shields), 7:37 p.m. Eastern

PECOTA odds of winning: 53% Angels, 47% Royals

Projected Starting Lineups

Angels vs. Shields (R)

Royals vs. Wilson (L)

Kole Calhoun (L) RF

Alcides Escobar (R) SS

Mike Trout (R) CF

Norichika Aoki (R) RF

Albert Pujols (R) 1B

Lorenzo Cain (R) CF

Howie Kendrick (R) 2B

Eric Hosmer (S) 1B

Erick Aybar (S) SS

Billy Butler (R) DH

David Freese (R) 3B

Alex Gordon (L) LF

Josh Hamilton (L) LF

Salvador Perez (R) C

C.J. Cron (R) DH

Omar Infante (S) 2B

Chris Iannetta (R) C

Mike Moustakas (L) 3B

Injuries/Availability: Kelvin Herrera was unavailable for Friday’s game with a “slight” flexor strain, but was reevaluated Saturday and is said to be available today.

Outlook: The one game in the series the Royals might have circled as a should win, pairing home field advantage with the Our-Best-Vs.-Your-Worst pitching matchup. The Royals surely wish they could have used James Shields twice in this series, but it’ll be an exclamation point in the history of The Trade if he gets the W in a clinching game. He’s coming off his shortest outing of the year—at five innings—and it’s a safe bet that, barring a meltdown, Yost will let him go deeper in this game, particularly if Herrera is unavailable.

Shoot, if the middle of the Angels’ order doesn’t start hitting, Shields might throw a Maddux. Trout, Pujols and Kendrick went 2-for-23 in the first two games, though they’re hardly alone; Kole Calhoun is the only Angel with more than one hit. The Royals’ game plan against Trout wasn’t quite so extreme on Friday—Ventura threw a few pitches low in the zone—but they did throw four pitches up and in, and 40 percent of the pitches he has seen thus far are in the upper half of the zone or higher. That’s not where Shields usually works, so there could be a clash between his style and the scouting report. For the very, very little it’s worth, Trout has four extra-base hits (and a lineout) in nine trips against Shields.

There’s probably not another postseason team—maybe not another postseason team in the past few years—that would have let the current version of C.J. Wilson start a game for them. He’s got a 5.64 ERA in his past 20 starts, though to his credit not much has changed physically from his great years: Same six-pitch mix, same 92 mph fastball, same sharp, effective slider. For that matter, same wildness: His 59 percent strike rate this year was one of the league’s worst, but so was his 59 percent strike rate in 2010, when he was quite effective. But the mechanics get away from him. Seven of his 31 starts this year could fairly be called “disasters.” —Sam Miller

R.J. Anderson is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see R.J.'s other articles. You can contact R.J. by clicking here
Sam Miller is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Sam's other articles. You can contact Sam by clicking here

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