With the start of the American League Division Series now upon us, here’s how I see the Orioles and Tigers stacking up in their first-ever postseason meeting …
Skinny: The Orioles led the major leagues with 211 home runs, but the Tigers ranked only behind the Los Angeles Angels in runs and finished first in average and second in on-base percentage and slugging percentage in all of baseball.
Skinny: Comparing defense isn’t close as the Tigers have above-average fielders at second base (Ian Kinsler) and catcher (Alex Avila) and average or below-average defenders everywhere else while the Orioles ranked third in the AL in defensive efficiency.
Skinny: This category isn’t nearly as lopsided as the casual observer will tell you as the Orioles sported a better starter ERA (3.61 to 3.89) this season, but you can’t ignore a staff with the three most-recent Cy Young Award winners in a short series.
Skinny: The Orioles’ 3.10 bullpen ERA is dramatically better than Detroit’s 4.29 mark as manager Buck Showalter has a slew of options in the late innings while Tigers skipper Brad Ausmus holds his breath with 39-year-old closer Joe Nathan on the hill.
Skinny: The status of outfielder Rajai Davis will dramatically impact this phase, but the Orioles stole fewer bases than any club in the majors and the Tigers also have Kinsler and Andrew Romine as threats on the bases.
Skinny: You might be inclined to go with the Tigers in this department considering they have more postseason experience, but how can you not be impressed with the Orioles enduring everything they did this season on the way to winning 96 games?
Skinny: The rookie skipper Ausmus was always respected as having a great baseball mind in his playing days, but Showalter has the experience and the better bullpen, the area in which a manager manipulates a game the most.
Unsung hero – Darren O’Day
Skinny: When you look at how right-handed heavy the Detroit lineup is, the Orioles will need a strong series from the submariner and a 1.70 ERA in 2014 suggests O’Day is more than ready.
Prediction – Orioles in five games
Skinny: The Tigers have the advantage with their offense and starting pitching, but those gaps aren’t as dramatic as the Orioles’ edge on defense and in the bullpen. Those two factors will be the difference in what should be a very competitive and entertaining series.