By BOB DUTTON
The Kansas City Star
This might surprise you. The Tigers have the big-name boppers in Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder, but they outscored the As by just 13 runs over the full season. And the As actually hit more homers (195-163). Still, how do you pick against the lineup with the first Triple Crown winner (Cabrera) in 45 years? Advantage: Tigers.
This isnt close. The Tigers might be the worst fielding team in the league, and their stationary infield could be a decisive factor in close games. The one exception is center fielder Austin Jackson, who is a superb fly-catcher. The As are average, maybe a little better than average, which means a lot better than the Tigers. Advantage: As.
The Tigers have Justin Verlander, who is in line for two starts, but the overall numbers between the two rotations are remarkably even. Tigers starters compiled a 3.76 ERA while limiting opponents to a .260 average; the As finished at 3.80 and .264. Still Verlander. Advantage: Tigers.
Only Tampa Bay had a better bullpen among AL team than the As in terms of ERA and opponents batting average. The As relief corps, like every other aspect of the club, also finished on a roll, while Tigers closer José Valverde had an ERA over 4.00 until the seasons final week. Advantage: As.
The As enter the postseason after a remarkable late-season roll that saw them win the AL West by sweeping a three-game series from Texas. But the Tigers were three games behind Chicago in the AL Central as late as Sept. 18. The As are an uplifting story. The Tigers have Cabrera, Fielder and Verlander. Take the latter. Tigers in five.
Three reasons the As will win
1. If they put the ball in play. Do that, and the Tigers defense will take care of the rest. Thats a big if. The As struck out more than any other team in the majors.
2. Balanced lineup. The As platoon more than any team still playing and offer a left-right matchup in the middle with Josh Reddick and Yoenis Cespedes. Makes it hard for opponents to get desired late-inning matchups.
3. Late power. Manager Bob Melvin has three power arms to hold late leads in Sean Doolittle, Ryan Cook and Grant Balfour.
Three reasons the Tigers will win
1. Third baseman Miguel Cabrera. Whens the last time a Triple Crown winner didnt play in the World Series? Answer: 1947 when Boston outfielder Ted Williams won it. (Use that; amaze your friends.)
2. Right-hander Justin Verlander. Hes in line for two starts. He led the majors in strikeouts, and hes facing a team that led the majors in striking out. Oh, and hes Justin Verlander.
3. First baseman Prince Fielder. Heres the list of AL players who batted at least .300 with an on-base percentage of at least .400 and a slugging percentage of at least .500: Prince Fielder.