The Tigers are a club built around their starting pitching and middle of order hitting. During the first three games of the series, the Tigers will probably send three former Cy Young Award winners in David Price, Max Scherzer, and Justin Verlander. Along with their big three, the Tigers have Rick Porcello, who was very good and consistent throughout the regular season. Price and Scherzer represent the best duo of starters in the playoffs as both starters have ERAs under 3.30, over 225 strikeouts, and 220 innings. Even though Justin Verlander is not the same pitcher that won the MVP, he has pitched 15.1 innings while only allowing 2 runs in his last two starts. Although the Tigers do not have a great bullpen, Verlander, Scherzer, and Price are three of the most reliable starting pitchers in the league and have the strength to go the distance.
On offense, the Tigers can be extremely streaky as they heavily rely on their 3-4 hitters Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez. Fortunately, the duo are two of the best hitters in the game. This season, Victor Martinez is a legitimate MVP candidate as he is hitting .335 with 35 home runs, 103 RBI, and an OBP of .409. Victor Martinez would have won the MVP if he played an actually position on the field. Luckily, this will not be an issue in the ALDS as he will be able to DH every game. Along with Martinez, Miguel Cabrera has put forth another great season in the middle of the order. Although Cabrera has been dealing with injuries throughout the season, he still hit .313 with 25 home runs, 109 RBI, and 101 runs. Cabrera has been a great postseason player in the past and there is no need to doubt his future success this postseason. Besides Cabrera and Victor Martinez, the Tigers have many other complementary players that can lead them to a championship, such as JD Martinez, Ian Kinsler, and Torii Hunter. If the extra players continue to hit against top pitching, the Tigers will have a legitimate chance at winning the AL Pennant ad World Series.
The achilles heel of the Tigers this season and last postseason was the bullpen. The Tigers tried to improve their bullpen by signing Joe Nathan and trading for Joakim Soria at the deadline, but they did not succeed. It is unlikely to change this offseason because Joe Nathan has never been a great postseason closer. Outside of Nathan, Al Alburquerque, Joba Chamberlain, and Phil Coke are not world beaters. In the postseason, a good bullpen is vital and will probably cause for the eventual demise of the Detroit Tigers.
The Orioles are a team built for the regular season, but they want to silence their doubters this postseason. Many believe that the Orioles will not win the World Series because they do not have a legitimate ace or top starters in their rotation. This season, the Orioles starting five, Chris Tillman, Wei-Yin Chen, Miguel Gonzalez, Kevin Gausman, and Bud Norris, represented the most consistent rotation in the league. This year, all five starters had an ERA under 3.65 and 20 starts. The closest thing that the Orioles have to an ace is Chris Tillman, who posted a 3.34 ERA with 207 innings, 150 strikeouts, and 13 wins. Tillman and rookie Kevin Gausman will need to lead the pitching staff because they have the best arms in the bullpen. If the Orioles are unable to make it out of the first round, it will because their starting pitching was unable to match the great starters from the Tigers. Due to the great bullpen, Buck Showalter will ask his starters to only pitch 6-7 innings before turning the game over to their bullpen.
Similar to the Orioles pitching staff, the Orioles’ lineup is incredibly deep, but possesses a lot more talent and explosiveness. Although Cruz hit 40 home runs and knocked in 108 RBI, the best hitter in the lineup is Adam Jones. Jones has posted another great season, .281 with 29 home runs, 88 runs, and 96 RBI, and should receive a few MVP votes. As I mentioned before, Cruz was able to undergo a renaissance after the 50 game suspension for PED. Cruz showed that his prior success was not due to the drugs as he batted .271 while leading the league in home runs. Besides for the big hitters at 3-4, the Orioles have Nick Markakais, JJ Hardy, and breakout star Steve Pearce. The periphery players will likely decide the winner of this series. The Orioles have been a home run team throughout the regular season and will need to continue hitting the long balls in order to win. Although the Tigers pitchers are great and through extraordinarily hard, they have tendencies to allow too many home runs.
While the starting pitching and the lineup have been good, the most dominant part of the team has easily been their bullpen. Although Andrew Miller, Zach Britton, and Darren O’Day are not household names, they have been three of the best relievers in baseball. They have been great because they each have ERA under 1.75, WHIP under 0.90, and have pitched in at least 68 games. Although the Orioles do not have great starting pitching, Showalter will likely take out their starters after 6 or 7 innings and give the ball to their bullpen. If Showalter can take a lead into the 7 inning, they will likely win every game this postseason. The Orioles do not have an advantage in starting pitching or maybe hitting, their bullpen may be the key to winning this series.
Prediction – Tigers win in 5 games
Although the Orioles have great home run hitters and a fabulous bullpen, I cannot predict against the Tigers because their pitching is too good. In the first three games of the series, the Tigers will be starting the last three Cy Young winners, Scherzer, Price, and Verlander. The Tigers will likely win two of those games due to their great pitching. Although their do not have great arms in the bullpen, each pitcher can go the distance. Even if the Tigers face a 1-2 deficient heading into game 4, they can turn to their workhorses Scherzer in game 4 on three days rest and Price in game 5 with 4 days rest. The series will be extremely close, but the Tigers have been in the postseason each of the past five years and I expect their experience to lead them over the O’s.