TIGERS: If Detroit needs the ball knocked out of the park, well, Sean Casey isn't going to do it. Not too often, anyway. But he'll put the ball in play, he'll give the Tigers good at-bats and he'll get some hits and drive in some runs -- to the tune of .353, with four RBIs, in the four-game Division Series win over the Yankees. Plus, he's just a darn good guy.
ATHLETICS: Fun-loving, hard-playing Nick Swisher is kind of an all-or-nothing slugger, a versatile defender who smashed 35 home runs in the regular season. He also struck out 152 times, hitting only .254. Still, Swisher will take a walk if one's thrown his way. He had 97 of them, explaining his .372 on-base percentage.
TIGERS:Placido Polanco is probably best suited to the No. 2 hole in the lineup, but he'll work at leadoff, too, if the Tigers need him there. He has next to no power and he's not particularly speedy, but he doesn't strike out much (27 times in '06) and he hit .412 in the four games against the Yanks.
ATHLETICS: This is the shakiest part of the Oakland defense after Mark Ellis broke a finger in the ALDS. D'Angelo Jimenez, who has had a journeyman's eight-year career, replaces him. He isn't much of a hitter but he does make contact, and his walk-to-strikeout ratio is very good. The A's are looking at either Keith Ginter or minor leaguer Mark Kiger as a backup.
TIGERS:Brandon Inge was one of the few Tigers to struggle in the ALDS. A former catcher, he has some power (a career-high 27 homers in '06), but he strikes out too much, doesn't take walks and hit only .253 during the regular season. He did even worse against the Yanks in the ALDS -- a miserable .133 (2 for 15).
ATHLETICS: Injuries to various body parts killed Eric Chavez at the plate this year -- it was in most ways the worst season of his career -- but his glovework remains among the best in the business. He hit only .200 in the ALDS, but he still can pop it out of the park, as evidenced by his homer in Game 3 off Brad Radke.
TIGERS: He's one of the better-hitting shortstops in the league, but Carlos Guillen (.571 in the ALDS, with a homer and three doubles) has had his troubles in the field. He tied Felipe Lopez of the Nationals for most errors by a SS this season, with 28. Still, .320 during the season, a .400 on-base average ... that's worth a couple of bad throws.
ATHLETICS: The surprise star of the ALDS sweep of the Twins, Marco Scutaro (.333, a team-best six RBIs against Minnesota), is no fluke. He's powerful enough to drive the ball into the gaps, and he's a steady defender, too, with pretty good range. He may not make people forget about the injured Bobby Crosby, but people shouldn't forget Scutaro, either.
TIGERS:Pudge Rodriguez doesn't possess the power he once did, and he didn't have a particularly good ALDS against the Yanks (.231, one double). But he's still a good hitter, and the way he handles the Tigers' young pitching staff -- and keeps opponents honest on the basepaths -- makes him one of the best catchers in baseball.
ATHLETICS:Jason Kendall is something of a baseball oddity -- c'mon, a catcher leading off? -- but he's tailor-made for the A's. He hits some (.295), he doesn't strike out (54 all year) and he gets on base (53 walks and a .367 on-base percentage). He has no power (only one homer all year) and he had an awful ALDS (.214), but he works.