THE ALCS features
two of the three teams in the league that were most adept at run prevention
during the season. Oakland and Detroit were first and third, respectively, in
ERA and had comparably strong strikeout rates, strikeout-to-walk ratios and
home run rates. The category in which the Tigers hold an important edge over
the A's is their ability to catch the ball; Detroit led the league in defensive
efficiency, or the rate at which the team turned balls in play into outs.
Oakland ranked seventh.
The two clubs had
nearly identical offensive output: The Tigers had a .268 equivalent average
(EqA), which takes into consideration such variables as home ballpark. The A's
finished at .267. How the two lineups went about putting up those numbers is
where they diverge--and where the series will be decided. Detroit hitters swing
early and often, and when they make contact, the ball goes a long way. The
Tigers were fifth in the AL in slugging and total bases, and third in home run
rate; however, they were only 12th in OBP and 13th in walks. Oakland, on the
other hand, was among the most disciplined teams, finishing seventh in OBP and
second in walks; the A's were also second in the majors with 3.88 pitches per
The goal of both
staffs is the same: Get the hitters out of their comfort zones. For Oakland
that means staying away from the middle of the plate in the count and letting
Detroit batters swing their way into pitchers' counts. The Tigers struck out
more than all but one AL team ( Cleveland); they can be handled. Detroit
pitchers will want to make the A's put the ball in play and thus take advantage
of their superior defense. For all their patience the Oakland hitters are not
very dangerous when they do swing (13th in batting average and slugging).
Overall it's an
evenly matched series, but Oakland's bullpen depth and edge in making the
opposing pitcher work will be the difference in a seven-game series. The
Baseball Prospectus forecast: A's in seven.