Pitching gives Tigers an edge over A's in ALDS

What happens in the regular season between two teams rarely, if ever, dictates what might happen in the postseason.

I remember growing up a Mets fan, feeling extremely confident as they faced the Dodgers in the 1988 National League Championship Series.  The Mets had owned the Dodgers throughout '88, but LA entered the playoffs with an unstoppable pitcher (Orel Hershiser) and a team of destiny.

We know what happened.  The Dodgers won the series in seven games and went on to beat the Oakland A's in the World Series, with Hershiser winning the MVP award.

Go back to last season, when the Tigers fared extremely well against the Rangers in the regular season, winning six of the nine matchups.

It meant nothing in October.

Texas was hot.  Nelson Cruz blew up.  Neftali Feliz became unhittable at the end of games.  The Rangers playoff experience came to the forefront and Texas won the series in six games. 

The 2012 Tigers team won the season series with Oakland, taking four of the seven games.  But will that translate at all to the postseason?

I say no.

That doesn't mean the Tigers can't or won't win the series.  It just means this microcosm of a five-game compact head-to-head series is a totally different beast than a seven-game series stretched out over months.

Detroit is constructed for postseason success, where pitching becomes paramount and experience plays a factor.  Jim Leyland's ability to trot out Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Doug Fister and Anibal Sanchez makes the Tigers an incredibly tough postseason opponent.

Let's look at how Oakland did against those four pitchers this year for a better idea of what we might expect over the next week:

Oakland vs. Verlander

The A's faced Verlander twice this season, losing both times.

The first matchup with the reigning Cy Young winner came on May 13 in Oakland.  Verlander pitched seven innings, allowing two hits and one run, which came on a homer from Seth Smith.  He was removed after the seventh inning after a callus on his thumb began to bleed.  The Tigers won the game 2-1.

On September 19, Verlander threw six innings of shutout baseball against Oakland, striking out five while walking three.  He left the game with a 4-0 lead, which the Tigers protected en route to a 6-2 win.  Verlander's pitch count was high (122), so Leyland pulled him after six.

Oakland vs. Scherzer

On May 10, long before Scherzer flipped the switch, Max entered the game against Oakland with a 1-3 record.  He turned in a stellar performance, pitching into the seventh inning, striking out nine while allowing five hits and two earned runs in a 10-6 Tigers win.  

Scherzer's second outing against Oakland, on September 18, was a short one. He was pulled after two innings due to the fatigue in his shoulder.  In the two innings he pitched, Scherzer allowed two hits and one run while striking out four.  The Tigers ended up winning 12-2.

Oakland vs. Fister

On May 12 in Oakland, Fister entered his head-to-head battle with Brandon McCarthy riding an 11-inning scoreless streak.  The streak was broken in the first on a run-scoring single, the only run Fister surrendered in five innings.  He took the loss in a game the Tigers eventually dropped 3-1, as McCarthy was brilliant through seven, striking out 10.

Oakland vs. Sanchez

Sanchez showed flashes of brilliance during his time with the Tigers this year, but also struggled in games, including his start against the A's on September 20.  A start that began with promise, ended with a sixth-inning collapse, with Oakland scoring four runs to put the game out of reach.  The final line read six hits, six runs allowed, with five walks and eight strikeouts.


In summation, the four pitchers who will start for the Tigers in the playoffs finished the regular season 3-2 against the A's, but as a whole pitched well.

Detroit is built on the foundation of its top-end starting pitchers and playoff experience.  Couple those factors with a schedule that should favor the Tigers and Jim Leyland's team has a significant edge entering the ALDS.

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