The real playoffs of the 2014 MLB season begins with the ALDS and game 1 between the Detroit Tigers, the more experienced and favorites in this match-up, and the Baltimore Orioles, who actually have the better record despite not possessing the same kind of star power on their team.
The Tigers are counting on their experience, their batting (2nd in runs, 1st in batting average, 2nd in getting on base, 2nd in slugging), and the combination of the last three Cy Young winners in the American League: Max Scherzer, who gets the honor of starting the playoffs for the Tigers, Justin Verlander, who didn’t have the best of seasons, and David Price. The Orioles have a good, but less feared starting trio: Chris Tillman who’ll pitch in game 1, followed likely by Wei-Yin Chen and Miguel Gonzalez.
While the starting pitchers look like they’ll give the Tigers a big advantage, the Orioles are counting on their bullpen to give them an edge. Zach Britton usually comes on to do the work in the ninth inning, preceded by Tommy Hunter, Andrew Miller and Darren O’Day. The Orioles have the 7th best ERA in the majors (3.43) and are 10th best in allowed batting average, keeping teams on a .244. For the Tigers, their marquee names in the bullpen are Joba Chamberlain and Joe Nathan. Chamberlain has a 3.57 ERA and Nathan has seven blown saves this season with a 4.81 ERA.
In short? The Tigers will like to make this go away quickly, the Orioles are counting on later innings to make their mark. One thing worth remembering about the Orioles: Despite the Tigers being such a dangerous hitting team, almost one-through-nine when it comes to their lineup, the Orioles have more home runs this season than anyone else with 211. Scherzer hasn’t faced the Orioles since June 2013, meaning he needs to do a lot of homework going into this game.
Weak spots for pitchers and what they’re up against? Scherzer loves to use the changeup (20.9% of his pitchers). The Orioles are slugging just a .212 on at-bats ending with a changeup, the worst in Baseball. However, his fastball goes to the upper third of the zone or higher on 31.5% of the time. The Orioles are the best team in baseball against high fastballs, slugging a .450 this season. The Tigers themselves are hitting just .230 against high fastballs.
Chris Tillman will probably go for changeups to try and finish two-strike situations as well. The Tigers are excellent against curverballs in that situation, hitting a .241, second in baseball. Their changeup success is a lot lower, hitting just a .165 in that situation. Tillman throws a lot more curveballs compared to changeups, but might change his tactic going into this game. He’ll also probably stick to the high fastball, which he throws on 40% of his pitches.
The two teams have met six times this season, both series happening before the All-Star break. The Tigers have won five of those six game. Tillman pitched in their only win (3-1) back in April, allowing just one run in 8.1 innings while striking out five batters.