Saturday, October 6, 2012
Roster analysis: Tigers-A's
By David Schoenfield
A look as the Division Series rosters for the Tigers and A's:
RHP -- Justin Verlander, Doug Fister, Anibal Sanchez, Max Scherzer, Rick Porcello, Octavio Dotel, Al Alburquerque, Joaquin Benoit, Jose Valverde
LHP -- Phil Coke, Drew Smyly
C -- Alex Avila, Gerald Laird
IF -- Prince Fielder, Miguel Cabrera, Omar Infante, Jhonny Peralta, Ramon Santiago, Danny Worth
OF -- Austin Jackson, Andy Dirks, Quintin Berry, Avisail Garcia, Don Kelly, Delmon Young
The Tigers go with 11 pitches and 14 position players. When looking at the roster, it seems pretty clear the Tigers will go as far as the big guys -- Cabrera, Fielder and Verlander -- will take them.
Outfielder Brennan Boesch was the one surprise omission, but he had lost his starting position late in the season. Expect the Tigers to start Berry in left against right-handers and Garcia in right against left-handers, with Dirks shifting back and forth. The Tigers' bench is pretty useless -- Santiago, Worth and Kelly can't hit and none are stolen-base threats, so are really only around to ... well, I suppose there's a situation Jim Leyland may pinch-run for Fielder, but he's not to going to pull Cabrera late in a game under any circumstances.
The Tigers have only two lefties in the pen. I suspect we'll see some Coke-Josh Reddick matchups, although Reddick didn't have much of a platoon split (.778 OPS versus RHP, .751 versus LHP). The A's do platoon at first base and DH, so it will be interesting to see how those matchups potentially evolve later in the game. If Leyland brings in Coke to face Brandon Moss in the eighth inning, for example, Bob Melvin can counter with Chris Carter. But if that matchup occurs in the seventh inning, maybe Melvin leaves in Moss, knowing he may want Moss to potentially face a righty later in the game.
A potential secret weapon could be Alburquerque, who only recently returned after missing most of the season. He throws 95 with a wipeout slider and can be deadly against right-handers. Benoit gave up 14 home runs, so against an A's team with power he's a dicey proposition if he's the Tigers' main setup guy in front of Valverde.
RHP -- Jarrod Parker, A.J. Griffin, Pat Neshek, Evan Scribner, Ryan Cook, Grant Balfour
LHP -- Tom Milone, Brett Anderson, Travis Blackley, Sean Doolittle, Jerry Blevins, Pedro Figueroa
C -- Derek Norris, George Kottaras
IF -- Chris Carter, Josh Donaldson, Stephen Drew, Brandon Moss, Cliff Pennington, Adam Rosales
OF -- Yoenis Cespedes, Coco Crisp, Josh Reddick, Seth Smith, Jonny Gomes
The A's go with 12 pitches and 13 position players, with the biggest surprise being the inclusion of Anderson, who suffered an oblique strain three weeks ago but declared he's ready to start Game 3. The A's will send Parker and Milone out in the first two games, with Anderson and Griffin projected to starts Games 3 and 4.
With four left-handers in the bullpen, Melvin will certainly be able to match up against Prince Fielder with a southpaw any time he wants, but I suspect Melvin will stick to what worked in the final week when the A's are ahead late: Doolittle, Cook and Balfour in the final three innings. Considering Detroit's bullpen is a little shaky, Melvin shouldn't hesitate to use his best relievers even when down by a run or two. It's also nice to see the inclusion of Neshek, who suffered the tragic loss of his one-day old son earlier in the week.
The Tigers will feature an all-righty rotation, which means you'll see Moss and Smith in the starting lineup, with Carter and Gomes coming off the bench. It will also be interesting to see how Melvin splits up the catching duties. Norris is the nominal starter but Kottaras' lefty bat should see at least a couple starts in the series.
The A's don't really have a good pinch-running option as Jemile Weeks was left off the roster, but they don't really have a glaring lack of speed anyway. Other than the platoons, the one position player Melvin may hit for would be second baseman Pennington.
In all, while Detroit has the superior top five, the A's have much better depth. It's just a question of how much that depth matters in a five-game series.