American League Divisional Series (ALDS) Preview
By Jared Peterman
Detroit Tigers vs Baltimore Orioles
The Tigers won their fourth straight AL Central crown to find themselves in the ALDS vs the Baltimore Orioles who ran away with the AL East division, winning their first division title since 1997. Both teams feature a high powered offense and their offseason additions to bolster the bats have paid off. Orioles’ OF, Nelson Cruz, signed in the offseason, led baseball with 40HRs, which powered Baltimore to lead the MLB in HRs as a team with 211. OF Nick Markakis makes his postseason debut in year nine of his career, batting leadoff for the Orioles will have to be a main contributor to their success as well as superstar, Adam Jones. Detroit gambled in the offseason by trading slugging 1B Prince Fielder for 2B Ian Kinsler, and the dividends have paid off as Kinsler has provided stability at the top of the lineup, hitting in front of Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez. Martinez has been the MVP of the offense in 2014 as he hit .335AVG with 32HR and 103RBI while only striking out 42 times.
Baltimore’s Achilles heel entering the postseason seems to be the starting pitching as they have no “ace,” but the staff posted top of the line numbers since the All-star break, providing encouragement entering the series. Chris Tillman will take the ball in Game 1, with the order of the rest of the rotation unknown, but you can expect to see Wei-Yin Chen, Bud Norris, and Miguel Gonzalez. Meanwhile, Detroit faces no issue in the starting pitching rotation as they will line Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander, trade deadline addition David Price, and Rick Porcello throughout the postseason. The aces are aligned for Detroit, but the bullpen has been a major issue all season as they were worst in the MLB with a .270BAA and 27th in ERA at 4.29. Baltimore made a key addition at the trade deadline to bolster the already impressive bullpen when acquiring left-handed pitcher Andrew Miller from the Boston Red Sox. Expect Miller, Darren O’Day, and Zach Britton to shut opponents down in the later innings. With Baltimore’s starting pitching being unpredictable, I expect Detroit to advance to the ALCS in the maximum five games.
Prediction: Detroit in 5 Games
Kansas City Royals vs Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim won their first AL West division title since 2009 and ran away with the best record in baseball at a 98-64 mark. The Angels, top seed in the AL, had the luxury of watching their opponent in the wild card game on Monday night, as they saw the Kansas City Royals come back and win an extra inning affair to vault into the ALDS showdown. Los Angeles features the highest scoring offense in baseball this season, simply powered by MVP candidate, Mike Trout along with legendary 1B Albert Pujols. The offense didn’t only lead baseball in scoring but it also ranked top ten in H, HRs, RBI, AVG, OBP, SLG, and OPS, a pretty impressive resume for the best team in the 2014 season. Kansas City will have an uphill battle to take down the Angels as their offense finished last in HRs in the MLB, though the offense showed it can score runs in the wild card game as they defeated Oakland, 9-8 in extra innings. 1B Eric Hosmer had an encouraging postseason debut, as he will be relied on to produce runs for the Royals as well as OF Alex Gordon. Base running played a major role in the wild card game for Kansas City and they will probably look to continue that trend against the Angels for an advantage.
The Angels bats made the noise this season while the pitching staff flew under the radar and posted a 3.62ERA as starters with the fourth best BAA (.239) in baseball. Los Angeles may have lost their ace, Garrett Richards, but found clarity to fill the rotation with Matt Shoemaker who will take the ball in Game 2. Veterans Jered Weaver and CJ Wilson will round out the rotation for the Angels in the ALDS as Weaver had a stellar season and Wilson is known for great postseason performances during his tenure in Texas. The Royals also had a solid pitching rotation this season as they posted a 3.60ERA as a staff behind ace James Shields and rookie sensation, Yordano Ventura. Ventura and Shields will pitch in Game 2 and 3, while former Angel, Jason Vargas, will start Game 1 for Kansas City, with Jeremy Guthrie in line for Game 4. The Angels in-season moves to rebuild the bullpen paid off in the second half of the season as they acquired Jason Grilli, Joe Thatcher, and closer Huston Street. Kansas City’s bullpen has been headlined by Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis, and Greg Holland, all relievers sporting ERAs under 1.50. The Angel’s complete team dynamic provides too much support to pick against them facing an unexperienced Royals team with power problems.
Prediction: Angels in 4 Games