Opinion

Breaking down the AL first-round series

A’S-TIGERS

Offense

This might surprise you. The Tigers have the big-name boppers in Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder, but they outscored the A’s by just 13 runs over the full season. And the A’s 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.

Defense

This isn’t 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 A’s are average, maybe a little better than average, which means a lot better than the Tigers.

Advantage: A’s.

Starting pitching

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 A’s finished at 3.80 and .264. StillVerlander.

Advantage: Tigers.

Bullpen

Only Tampa Bay had a better bullpen among AL team than the A’s in terms of ERA and opponents’ batting average. The A’s 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 season’s final week.

Advantage: A’s.

Bottom line

The A’s 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 A’s are an uplifting story. The Tigers have Cabrera, Fielder and Verlander. Take the latter.

Tigers in five.

Three reasons the A’s will win

1. If they put the ball in play. Do that, and the Tigers’ defense will take care of the rest. That’s a big “if.” The A’s struck out more than any other team in the majors.

2. Balanced lineup. The A’s 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. When’s the last time a Triple Crown winner didn’t play in the World Series? Answer: 1947 when Boston outfielder Ted Williams won it. (Use that; amaze your friends.)

2. Right-hander Justin Verlander. He’s in line for two starts. He led the majors in strikeouts, and he’s facing a team that led the majors in striking out. Oh, and he’s Justin Verlander.

3. First baseman Prince Fielder. Here’s 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.

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