MLB Playoffs 2012: Key to the Tigers and A's Game

10/6/12 in MLB   |   This_is_Rick   |   265 respect

Now that the silliness of one-game Wild Card's and questionable infield fly rules are out of the way, the real October baseball begins. 

The Oakland A's battle the Detroit Tigers are set to battle in the Motor City this afternoon; with both teams coming into the playoffs on a hot-streak, the series can go either way.
October 5, 2012; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera talks to the media at a press conference for his triple crown before the start of ALDS at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-US PRESSWIRE

Most experts and even the casual fan might sway towards the Tigers—Triple Crown Winner ( Miguel Cabrera) and perennial Cy Young candidate ( Justin Verlander ) leading the argument.

However, the season numbers between these two teams show a different aspect to domination. One that leaves the game a lot closer than you would think.

Th Tigers took the season series on the year 4-3, and the total runs scored showed how close the match up was. In seven games, the total plate-swipe was 77— 40 runs for the Tigers, 37 runs for the A's. Undoubtedly, with both pitching staffs ranking in the top five ERA in the American League, close games would be expected—but, they were not.

The 77 runs scored means that the average run total-per-game was 10. That's not a low number depicting a pitcher's duel by any stretch of the term. 

So, what does this decide in the series?

Pitching will be the key, not the hitting. More to the point, the relief pitching will be the pinnacle factor of the entire outcome. 
October 3, 2012; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Athletics manager Bob Melvin (6) stands on the mound during a pitching change against the Texas Rangers during the third inning at Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-US PRESSWIRE

With run totals from the regular season that massive, each team needs to realize that the starter's performance is important, but the hold after the starter leavers is most important—it will be a timely decision by both managers, to say the least. 

The Oakland A's finished the season with an ERA of 3.50, good enough for second in the league. However, the bullpen blew 14 games this year after the starter left with a lead. In the playoffs, that can never happen. There are only so many games to make up for mistakes. If the A's are going to compete, they will have to do better than their 73-percent save total.

The Tigers were also strong in pitching this year. They finished close to Oakland with a 3.77 ERA, good enough for fourth in the American League. They also outranked Oakland in blown leads after the starter left the game, with the bullpen on losing 11 opportunities.

Without question, you would think that will put the Tigers over the top for the series, but their 71-percent save ratio causes concern—it is less than the A's.

The team that figures out how to use the bullpen, effectively, will be the team with the greatest chance to move on. Detroit and Oakland played to almost an even match this season, and the numbers show that; any little mistake can cost the team a victory—that's the greatest thing about playoff baseball. 

Deciding who will win never works; watching the game is the only thing we can do.

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