The regular season is over. And you know what that means: the postseason is here.
For the Oakland A’s and Detroit Tigers, there was no drama down the stretch. Oakland mustered a 21-9 record over their final 30 games (MLB-best) on the strength of an .834 team OPS. Their .846 OPS over the last 30 days is baseball’s second-best mark. You get the point: Lots and lots of offense.
Detroit’s path to the finish line consisted of a few more losses (16-14) and bruises despite locking up the American League Central with a few days to spare. Miguel Cabrera literally limped the finish line, sporting a pretty sizable injury report. Max Scherzer’s dominance leaked just a bit (3.75 ERA over his last six starts).
The good news: Justin Verlander was Justin Verlander in September (2.67 ERA). Prince Fielder has found his power swing (five home runs over final 30 days). And better yet, Alex Avila produced a .338 average over the final 30 days of the regular season. The phrase “a pleasant surprise” fits in well here.
Those are just some of the notable headlines, which leads us to my next point: The point of this article is not to circle the obvious possible deciding factors. For one, they’re obvious. The casual observer could come to the conclusion that Cabrera’s beat-up body is a big factor. A similar script could be written about Yoenis Cespedes’s health. Along with these two, there are a bunch more.
So, let’s take a ride off the tracks, and dive into some of the less obvious factors that could decide this best-of-five set.