American League Championship Series
Detroit: The Tigers’ three consecutive wins against the Yankees and the subsequent emotional high should put a new spring in the Tigers’ step.
As far as pitching goes, Kenny Rogers absolutely dominates against Oakland. While he has not fared so well in past postseasons, game three of the ALCS against Randy Johnson removed any of those past demons.
Detroit has a solid starting pitcher every day with Rogers, Justin Verlander, Jeremy Bonderman and Nate Robertson. With these guys, the Tigers also boast the lowest team ERA in all of baseball, with a 3.60 during the 2006 regular season.
In the bullpen, Detroit finished with a 3.55 collective ERA. Anchored by Jamie Walker, Todd Jones and Joel Zumaya’s superb 1.94 ERA, they are fine replacements deep into any game.
Offensively, this team has pep that Oakland sometime lacks. At the end of 2006, the Tigers scored 51 more runs than the A’s and hit .274 as opposed to Oakland’s .260. This feat was made possible with contributions from Placido Polanco, Carlos Guillen and Ivan Rodriguez.
At the plate, the Tigers have shown tendencies to be rather impatient, with 1,133 strikeouts – the second most in the AL in 2006.
Oakland: Like Detroit, the A’s have a wide range of versatility as far as starting pitching, especially with flamethrower Rich Harden as an option for a late-series start. Essentially, the Tigers will face a dominant ace any given night, with former Cy Young winner Barry Zito with the ball in game one, fellow Cy Young winner Esteban Loaiza in game two and Danny Haren up for game three.
In the bullpen, the A’s posted a 3.62 ERA, with closer Huston Street pitching in the fourth-lowest team ERA at 3.31 in the regular season to keep down the team’s overall 4.21 ERA.
Beating out the Tigers offensively, the A’s pitched selectively and used a Moneyball strategy to rake in a .340 on-base percentage in 2006, compared to Detroit’s .329. In the second half, during the Tigers’ descent and Oakland’s hot streak, the A’s had the better batting average with .279, as opposed to the Tigers’ .274.
To counterbalance Detroit’s own confidence, no one in baseball is flying higher than the A’s, whose upset over Minnesota rewrote history. If all else fails, home field advantage in game seven will be key.
Winner: From top to bottom, this is quite possibly the best matchup possible in the AL, as both teams look very similar on paper. Which is why my pick is the A’s in six games, with patience – and if they can carry over their dominant Cy Young-caliber pitching from the first round.