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October 6, 2012

Playoff Prospectus

ALDS Game One Preview: Athletics at Tigers

by Daniel Rathman

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The Braves had won a major-league record 23 consecutive games started by Kris Medlen when the righty took the mound against the Cardinals yesterday afternoon. Orioles starter Joe Saunders was winless in his six career tries at Rangers Ballpark before last night. So, naturally, St. Louis and Baltimore advanced to the Division Series, leaving Atlanta and Texas to wonder what might have been.

We’re but two games into the postseason, and havoc has already been wreaked. Below, you’ll find the PECOTA odds and projected lineups for today’s Game One matchup between the two- and three-seeds in Detroit.  

Athletics (Jarrod Parker) at Tigers (Justin Verlander) – 6:00 p.m. ET
PECOTA Odds of Winning: Tigers 67.8 percent, Athletics 32.2 percent

Projected Starting Lineups:

Athletics vs. Verlander (R)

Tigers vs. Parker (R)

Coco Crisp (S)

Austin Jackson (R)

Stephen Drew (L)

Quintin Berry (L)

Yoenis Cespedes (R)

Miguel Cabrera (R)

Brandon Moss (L)

Prince Fielder (L)

Josh Reddick (L)

Delmon Young (R)

Josh Donaldson (R)

Andy Dirks (L)

Seth Smith (L)

Jhonny Peralta (R)

Derek Norris (R)

Alex Avila (L)

Cliff Pennington (S)

Omar Infante (R)

Most teams with Cy Young award candidates are watching the playoffs from home, but the Tigers are a notable exception, and as PECOTA indicates, Justin Verlander gives Detroit a significant leg-up in the opener. Verlander won both of his starts versus Oakland this year, tossing seven innings of one-run ball at the Coliseum on May 13 and six shutout frames at Comerica Park on Sept. 19, and the 29-year-old righty closed the regular season with four consecutive victories, paring his ERA to 2.64.

The silver lining for the A’s is that they were missing a key member of their now-healthy lineup in each of those past meetings with Verlander. Cespedes was on the disabled list with a hand strain in mid-May, and Crisp sat out the mid-September showdown with conjunctivitis, so Bob Melvin’s offense lacked a power threat in the former encounter and a catalyst in the latter. A former Indian and Royal, and career American Leaguer, Crisp has seen plenty of Verlander, and his résumé is impressive. It includes an 8-for-22 (.364 average) line with two doubles and only three strikeouts, though Verlander has been able to control Crisp’s speed, holding him to just one stolen base. No other member of the Athletics’ post-season roster has more than two career hits off the Tigers’ ace.

PECOTA does give the visitors a roughly one-in-three chance of upsetting Verlander in Game One, and that’s partly because his opponent, rookie Jarrod Parker, is no slouch. Parker took the loss in his lone career start against the Tigers, which incidentally, came against Verlander in that 3-1 Detroit win on May 13. But that was a much-different Parker, then dealing with control issues that led to a disastrous outing at AT&T Park in his ensuing assignment. Parker issued four walks in each of those games, but he has done so only once in 24 starts since then, most recently on June 27. He logged a 74-to-23 K:BB after the All-Star Break, showing a marked improvement over his 67-to-41 effort in the first half.

Melvin also has a red-hot, if perhaps fatigued, stable of relievers at his disposal that could rescue Parker if what figures to be a low-scoring game begins to get out of hand. Most notably, closer Grant Balfour has retired the last 26 batters he has faced, a streak that dates back to Sept. 22 and includes a perfect appearance in each of the last five games of the regular season. 

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

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