Baltimore Breakdown- ALDS Preview: Tigers vs Orioles

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Detroit last went to the World Series in 2012. Baltimore last went to the World Series in 1983.

The Detroit Tigers are coming off of their fourth consecutive American League Central Division title. The Baltimore Orioles are coming off of their first American League East Division title since 1997.

Detroit has the fifth largest payroll at $162,228,527.

Baltimore has the 15th largest payroll,  $107,406,623.

Detroit has three Cy Young award winners and 2 MVP’s.

Baltimore has none.

Yet on October 2, when the first pitch of the series is thrown, it will be in Camden Yards and not Comerica Park.

The Orioles had their best season since the last time they won the division 17 years previously, compiling the second-best record in the American League at 96-66. Led by their All-Star center fielder Adam Jones, Baltimore’s confidence is sky high due to their well-rounded team.

Many fans, analysts and broadcasters will say that the Orioles are only an offensive team and do well because of the ballpark they play in. Well, in that run-friendly park, Baltimore accumulated the seventh-best ERA in baseball with a 3.43 team ERA. Detroit, in one of the biggest parks in the league was 24th in team ERA at 4.01, the worst of any team to make the 2014 postseason.

However, it is true, playing in one of the smallest parks in the majors helps Baltimore’s offense tremendously from top to bottom. Not only do they have the major league leader in home runs, Nelson Cruz with 40, but Baltimore as a team leads the majors with 211 home runs (Detroit was tied for seventh with 155). But this is not just skewed by Cruz. The Orioles boast seven different players on their roster that have double-digit home runs.

Yes, Cruz was the home run champ of 2014, however there is a man on this same roster who in 2013 put Cruz’s current numbers to shame. First baseman Chris Davis hit 53 home runs in 2013 and was the only person standing in the way between Miguel Cabrera and his second consecutive Triple Crown.

However, that power stroke will be missing from the lineup, for at least the ALDS. On September 12, Davis tested positive for amphetamines that were supposedly associated with adderall. Regardless of the validity of that claim, it was Davis’ second violation, resulting in an immediate 25-game suspension.

Davis is not the only big bopper missing from the lineup. Another one of those aforementioned home run hitters is All-Star third baseman Manny Machado, who was lost for the season after injuring his knee on August 11, which required surgery. Machado, who is also a gold-glove third baseman, is regarded as one the best young infielders in all of baseball.

The third big piece missing from the Orioles’ usual lineup is All-Star catcher Matt Wieters. Wieters was hitting over .300 mid-way through May before he got injured and had to go on the 15-day disabled list. He then came back and was the leading catcher in the American League All-Star vote, but more trouble led to a setback and another trip to the doctor. The worst was realized when it was revealed that Wieters needed Tommy John surgery, which ended his 2014 campaign.

While the Orioles’ offense has big names that are banged up, their pitching staff is quite the contrary. The Orioles are littered from top to bottom with no-name, yet effective and evasive pitchers.

Chris Tillman will be toeing the rubber for the O’s in Game 1 one , and he is coming off of his most dominant season in the league. Tillman had a stretch of 20 consecutive starts, from June 5 to September 20 that were all quality starts. Over the past two months, his strikeout-to-walk ratio has been greater than 4.5-1, and for four consecutive months has had an ERA lower than 3.50.

Max Scherzer, the Tigers’ most recent Cy Young Award winner, will face off against the breakout ace for the Orioles. Scherzer was Detroit’s most consistent pitcher for the second consecutive season, rattling off an 18-5 record with a 3.15 ERA. Scherzer had a career-high with 252 strikeouts, the first Tigers starter to eclipse that number since Justin Verlander’s 2011 MVP season.

Those MVP days seemed quite distant for the majority of the 2014 season for Verlander. The former MVP/CY Young had his toughest season since 2008, finishing with a 4.54 ERA. While Verlander struggled for the majority of the season, he was rounding into form as the season finished, and he saved the best for last. Verlander finished the year with an eight-inning, one earned run start, both season-bests.

Verlander will face Wei-Yin Chen in Game 2, who had the best season of his young career. Chen was the Orioles’ leader in wins in the regular season, finishing with a 16-6 record.. After having his ERA sitting over 4.50 after two months, Chen dominated the rest of the way. He had four consecutive months with an ERA under 3.7 and in two of the four saw his ERA sub 3.00.

Much like their starters, the O’s have an underappreciated bullpen highlighted by another pitcher having a career year, closer Zach Britton. Britton successfully saved 37 of 41 chances this year and had another seven holds. His 1.65 ERA is best on the team, and his 0.90 WHIP is second only to set-up man Darren O’Day at 0.89.

Even still, it will be hard to slow down the Detroit Tigers’ potent offense. The Tigers were No. 1 in all of baseball in the regular season, hitting .277 as a team. Detroit also had the most doubles, hits and runs batted in, while ranking second in all of baseball in on-base percentage, slugging percentage and total bases. Not to mention, those numbers came in a pitcher-friendly Comerica Park.

Detroit’s offense is lethal from top to bottom, but the damage is really done in the middle.

Miguel Cabrera, who will fail to win the MVP for the first time since 2011, is the best hitter in baseball and is playing at the highest level of in his 2014 campaign. Cabrera won AL Player of the Month in September, while hitting .379 for the month with eight home runs and 18 RBI’s.

His running mate and partner in crime, Victor Martinez is his protector, and the other part of the best 3-4 combination in the league. Martinez, who finished just behind Jose Altuve for the batting title in the American League, had a career year hitting 32 home runs and 103 RBI’s. He was dominant all season and was also heating up at the end of the year, hitting .350 in August and .378 in September.

While Cabrera and Martinez are arguably the two best hitters in all of baseball, they have not been the secret to the offense’s success this year. Julio Daniel Martinez, more commonly known as J.D., has come from seemingly out of nowhere to have a breakout year. Coming into this season, Martinez had 24 career home runs in over three separate seasons played in the majors. He hit 23 home runs in 2014.

While that quantity is impressive, the quality of what Martinez was able to do was staggering. 13 of Martinez’s 23 home runs came in the seventh inning or later, and eight of those were in the ninth inning.

Martinez is just one of many crucial additions to this Detroit Tigers team. Ian Kinsler had the most RBI’s in his career. David Price had the most strikeouts of his career. Rajai Davis stole more bases in 2014 than the Detroit Tigers did as a team in 2013.

Both teams have reason to be confident. Both teams won their division. Both teams are ready.

Game 1 of the ALDS is at 5:37 p.m. at Camden Yards in Baltimore, on TBS.


Tony Garcia is the host of Tiger Talk for Impact Sports.