The Oakland A’s shocked the world with their incredible second half. Now, they’re looking to do even more.
Oakland is currently preparing for their series against Prince Fielder, Miguel Cabrera and the Tigers, who disappointed the baseball world but managed to sneak into the playoffs. The Triple Crown winner Cabrera is hoping to tackle the A’s and end their improbable run, but the A’s have different thoughts.
We don’t know what will happen, but it’s always fun to preview and predict. So, here is a full position-by-position breakdown of the A’s-Tigers series.
Catcher: Derek Norris/George Kottaras vs Alex Avila
Oakland doesn’t seem to have much talent at catcher, but their catchers have aided their success this year.
Derek Norris has come up with some key hits, while George Kottaras has power and gets on base. Kottaras has homered in 5.3 percent of his plate appearances this year, while sporting a .351 OBP. Norris hit .444 in the series against the Rangers, while hitting a home run and knocking in three. Norris has a spectacular .989 fielding percentage, and he has gunned down 12 base-stealers this year.
Alex Avila doesn’t have a good batting average (.243), but he has a .352 OBP. Avila has come up with a lot of clutch hits this year, but he also has a strikeout rate above 28.3 percent. His fielding percentage is an incredible .994, and he has gunned down 34 potential base-stealers to post a 1.2 DWAR. He has power, too, and has come up with some big hits this year.
Norris and Kottaras have come up big, too. But the stats don’t lie, and this is an easy choice for me. Avila is better, but honestly, he’s not that much better.
Avila 6, Norris/Kottaras 4: Tigers 6, A’s 4
First Base: Brandon Moss vs Prince Fielder
Brandon Moss has been instrumental to the success of the A’s, coming up with huge hits all year long. But he’s definitely not as good as Prince Fielder.
Fielder is hitting .313 with a .412 OBP, 30 homers and 108 RBI. After a sluggish start to the season, he picked up the slack and helped the Tigers fend off the White Sox to make the playoffs. If you make a mistake to him, he will hit it out of the park. Fielder has postseason experience, so he knows what he’s doing.
Moss certainly isn’t as talented as Fielder, but he has been just as valuable, if not more. Moss has 21 home runs in just 265 at-bats, while Fielder need 581 at-bats (not including walks) to hit just nine more. He has hit a home run in just under eight percent of his at-bats, while getting on base (his OBP is .358) and delivering down the stretch for the A’s.
Without Moss, Oakland wouldn’t be here. But it’s obvious that Fielder is better, and that he’s a lot better. Their small differences in stats make me want to make this race close, but the fact that Fielder is having a down year with these stats is what made this into a blowout.
Fielder 8, Moss 2: Total: Tigers 14, A’s 6
Second Base: Adam Rosales/Cliff Pennington vs Omar Infante
Omar Infante filled a huge void at second base for the Tigers, but he is in the midst of a down year. On the other hand, the A’s don’t really have anyone at second base.
Pennington is struggling and Rosales is a nobody who hasn’t done anything to make a name for himself. Both are good on defense, and they fit in with the A’s, a team that plays the game the right way but doesn’t have the most talent. Pennington hit .215 with a terrifying .278 OBP, but he is a career .249 hitter. If he can hit .250 in the playoffs and make decent plays with the glove, it will be fine. Rosales, meanwhile, is hitting .222, and he isn’t good with the bat.
On the other hand, Infante is very talented. He hit .321 in 2010 with the Braves, but this year, his OBP (.300) is worse than that. Infante doesn’t have much power, but he has an incredible 11.7 percent strikeout rate and a respectable .274 batting average. His defense is decent, too, and he’s definitely better with the bat than both Oakland second baseman.
Even though Infante can make slick plays with the glove, I’d give the edge to Oakland on defense. However, when you consider that Oakland’s second baseman hits ninth on a regular basis, the edge needs to go to Detroit here.
Infante 7, Pennington/Rosales 3: Total: Tigers 21, A’s 9
Shortstop: Stephen Drew vs Jhonny Peralta
Despite having poor numbers, the A’s know they struck gold when they traded a prospect for the slick-fielding shortstop.
Drew has provided a spark to Oakland’s offense, getting on base, scoring runs, driving in runs and helping the team. His defense has been spectacular, as usual, while he’s done a great job rebounding from a horrific injury last year. Drew is hitting .250 with Oakland, and he has posted a .315 batting average in Oakland’s last 13 games.
Peralta is having a down year, but he has power and can make great plays with the glove. Peralta is hitting a meager .239, while he has posted just a .167 batting average in Detroit’s last six games. His timing is a bit off at the plate, and that won’t help. Drew is on, and he
This is a tough decision, but I’m going to go with Drew. Peralta broke out last year, but he’s been striking out a lot and struggling. Drew, on the other hand, is completely ready for a playoff run. And, I think his recent success has earned him a big advantage.
Drew 7, Peralta 3: Total: Tigers 24, A’s 16
Third Base: Miguel Cabrera vs Josh Donaldson
This matchup isn’t as laughable as it would’ve been in July or even early August, but the hot-hitting Donaldson is no match for the winner of the Triple Crown.
Cabrera became the first player to accomplish this incredible feat since 1967, hitting .330 with 44 homers and 130 RBI. He picked up the slack when Fielder struggled, and recently, both have been on fire. The result? First place in the AL Central. Donaldson is hitting just .241, but that’s because of his horrible start to the season. He also has nine home runs in just 274 at-bats.
Donaldson is on fire and hitting home runs for the A’s, but he is no match for Cabrera. Expect Donaldson to record a few hits in the series, but Cabrera is the guy who will pounce every time you make a mistake. He can make plays with the glove, too, although he’s not known for doing so.
As much as I respect Donaldson and what he’s done, I can’t take credit away from Cabrera. If it was Brandon Inge at third base, Cabrera might take all 10 points. But, because of Donaldson’s recent success, Cabrera will have to sqaunder a point.
Cabrera 9, Donaldson 1: Total: Tigers 33, A’s 17
Right Field: Josh Reddick vs Andy Dirks
The A’s didn’t realize what they were getting when they traded closer Andrew Bailey for Reddick. They got a great defensive right fielder with a great arm and power.
Reddick has been a huge part of Oakland’s success this year, hitting 32 home runs, gunning down countless runners from right field and doing it all for Oakland. He lumbered through a stretch of 30 at-bats without a hit, but since then, he has been back to his normal self. Now, he’s looking to make a positive impact on his team hitting in the middle of the order.
Andy Dirks, on the other hand, silently pieced together a great season in which he hit .322 and was extremely productive. He doesn’t hit many home runs, but his ability to spark a lineup that isn’t too scary (outside of Cabrera and Fielder) has been crucial to Detroit’s success. Reddick is more well-known and seems like the better player, but this one is tough to call.
Reddick’s productivity and larger sample size is enough to give him the edge, but the A’s have to watch out for Dirks. He is underrated and underhyped, and that could be a problem for Oakland. This will be a matchup to watch.
Reddick 6, Dirks 4: Tigers 37, A’s 23
Center Field: Coco Crisp vs Austin Jackson
Austin Jackson and Coco Crisp both get on a lot of highlight reels for their gloves, and they both get on base. So, what separates these two speedsters?
Well, for starters, Jackson is enjoying a career year, as his batting average finished at .300 this year. He whacked 16 baseballs out of the park, which is great for a speedy leadoff hitter. He scored 103 times, recorded 55 extra-base hits, and posted a fabulous .997 fielding percentage while assisting Cabrera and Fielder to boost a Tigers offense without much depth.
Crisp is great with the glove, and he can help the A’s with the bat, too. He is hitting just .259, but with a .325 on-base percentage. Crisp has a .400 batting average in Oakland’s last three games, showing that he is swinging a hot bat. Crisp is underrated, and he has a chance to really do something special in the playoffs.
Despite Crisp’s success, you have to go with Jackson here. He has been invaluable for the Tigers this year, but Crisp’s recent success is also convincing. So, I’ll give the slight edge here to Jackson.
Jackson 6, Crisp 4: Total: Tigers 43, A’s 27
Left Field: Yoenis Cespedes vs Quintin Berry
Oakland lucked out when they were able to land Yoenis Cespedes this offseason. Now, they have a budding superstar with tons of power and great defense.
Cespedes has been Oakland’s best offensive player, getting on base, racking up extra-base hits, making plays in the field and helping the A’s. He has a .292 batting average and .356 OBP, while homering 23 times despite missing a lot of action. Cespedes can also make plays with the glove, and his speed is concealed. His consistency is also underrated, too. Cespedes has done a great job producing at all times for Oakland.
Berry, on the other hand, is also a rookie who has helped his team. His defense is spectacular, and he is a threat to steal on the base-paths. His batting average is .258, but that doesn’t mean Berry can’t hit. He has a decent .330 OBP, and he may hit in front of Cabrera.
Despite Berry’s success, I have to go with Cespedes. He has much more power, he drives in more runs, and he is a much better player overall. So, Cespedes will take this by a lot.
Cespedes 8, Berry 2: Total: Tigers 45, A’s 35
Justin Verlander, Max Schrezer and Doug Fister form a formidable duo, but you can’t deny the excellence of Oakland’s all-rookie rotation.
Jarrod Parker has pitched like an ace, especially in September and October. He is a 13-game winner with an ERA south of 3.50, while Tommy Milone, Travis Blackley and A.J Griffin are enjoying amazing seasons. Brett Anderson, who commanded his pitches and dominated during a brief span this year, will be back in time for Game 3. He will face the inconsistent Anibal Sanchez, which seems to give Oakland the edge in Game 3.
Verlander is a favorite to win Cy Young, despite Fernando Rodney’s 0.60 ERA. He is known as a pitcher with an arm that can take anything and a guy who can easily go deep into a game. Fister is a decent pitcher, while Schrezer is a strikeout master. All three are experienced, but that doesn’t mean everything.
Parker will oppose Verlander in Game 1, while Milone will likely get the ball in Game 2. It seems like the Tigers would have the edge in these games, but Detroit doesn’t have a good No. 4 pitcher. Oakland has depth in their rotation, and they have Dan Straily and Tyson Ross if needed.
Detroit’s pitching has a better resume, but I’m going to shock you and call this a draw. Oakland’s pitchers have not backed down, and they have rose to the occasion. You have to love that, and you also have to love the depth in Oakland’s rotation. So, Oakland will earn a draw here.
A’s 6, Tigers 4: Total: Tigers 50, A’s 40
Last year, Jose Valverde made a name for himself by converting all of his 49 save opportunities, while locking up a win over the Yankees to send Detroit to the ALCS.
But this year, he’s an erratic closer. And this year, the A’s have an overpowering, dominant bullpen.
Oakland’s trio of Sean Doolittle, Ryan Cook and Grant Balfour have been unstoppable, as they finish off games in the seventh, eighth and ninth inning. Joaquin Benoit, Detroit’s setup man, isn’t all that great, and the Tigers have a poor bullpen.
Cook went through a tough stretch in July and August, but he has found his place working the seventh or eighth inning. Doolittle is a lefty with an overpowering fastball and good stuff, and he’s someone who will strike you out.
And Balfour? He just throws a fastball in the upper 90s with a hard, nasty slider. Oh, and he has mowed down hitters lately, usually by way of the strikeout.
Oakland’s bullpen is inexperienced, but they are talented. With Evan Scribner, he of the nasty breaking ball and decent fastball, Jerry Blevins and others rounding out the bullpen, you can’t go against the A’s.
A’s 9, Tigers 1: Total: Tigers 51, A’s 49
Designated Hitter-Delmon Young vs Jonny Gomes
Delmon Young and Jonny Gomes are both known for hitting home runs and making headlines. So, who is better?
Well, Gomes has decent numbers. He is hitting .262 with 18 homers in 279 at-bats this year, which suggests that he can get on base and send the ball over the fence multiple times. Gomes strikes out a lot, as you can tell from his 37.3 percent strikeout rate. But it’s hard to take your eyes off of this stat: a .377 OBP. That is what propelled Gomes to the top of the order.
Young is hitting .267, but with a terrible .296 OBP. He has 18 homers, just like Gomes, but it took almost 300 more at-bats to do so. Young doesn’t strike out much, but, despite his power, he hasn’t hit many home runs. Young is slow and doesn’t have a great reputation, unlike Gomes, who is admired in Oakland.
Gomes has been great for the A’s, and there’s no reason why he can’t continue his success. So, I’ll give the slight edge here to Gomes and the A’s.
Gomes 6, Young 4: Total: A’s 55, Tigers 55
Both teams are pretty evenly matched, but when it comes to the bench, the A’s steamroll the Tigers.
They are platooning a lot of players, so George Kottaras, Cliff Pennington, Chris Carter and Seth Smith are on the bench. Carter doesn’t get on base often, but he has 16 homers in just over 200 at-bats. Smith has power and hitting ability, too, while Kottaras gets on base and Pennington makes great plays with the glove. Smith, Pennington and Kottaras all have an OBP better than .330, so Oakland’s hitters know how to get on base.
Detroit, on the other hand, has a very depleted bench. Brennan Boesch, who has a .240 batting average and .286 OBP, is the leader of the bench, while Ramon Santiago and Gerald Laird may see action as a pinch-hitter. Neither is very dangerous, and neither is Don Kelly, who has a batting average well under .200. Rookie Avisail Garcia has done well in 47 at-bats, but he won’t get much playing time.
Both teams have capable players on the bench, but Oakland’s bench is much better. They don’t have All-Stars on the bench, but due to the heavy amount of platooning in Oakland, the A’s have a much deeper bench.
A’s 8, Tigers 2: Total: A’s 63, Tigers 57
Despite Detroit gaining a huge edge with Fielder and Cabrera and small advantages with Infante, Avila and Jackson, the Tigers couldn’t fend off the A’s. And I think this is an indicator of what will happen in the series.
Oakland has much better chemistry, they have a better bullpen, they have a deeper team, and they may even have a better team. Detroit has Verlander, Schrezer and Fister in their rotation, but that doesn’t mean that the A’s don’t have talent, either. The A’s can and will match the Tigers, and they are capable of doing just about anything.
I think Oakland will win the series in four games, but it won’t come easy. They seem to be more talented, and if they can stop Fielder and Cabrera, this series is pretty much over. Detroit has a horrible offense outside of their “Big Two,” and the A’s don’t.