Jason O. Watson/Getty Images
The opposition in the 2012 MLB playoffs are not that imposing. While you do not want to discredit or overlook any playoff team, there is no team that really scares you.
Coming into the season, the Texas Rangers looked like the team to beat, and for the first half of the season, they were. In the second half, they have fallen apart. They allowed the Oakland Athletics to catch and pass them for the AL West crown.
The Rangers led the A’s by 13 games on June 30. They even had a five-game lead with nine to go, but their poor second half doomed them. After leading the AL with a blistering .280 team average before the All-Star break, they fell to the middle of the pack in the second half.
Their pitching followed their batting woes, as it also dropped in the second half of the season. This led to their playing one game under .500 from September on. They do still have a talented team, but the weight of the disappointing end to this season, combined with falling short in the World Series in 2011, will add even more pressure on them.
Oakland is a team that has you wondering how they do it. They come in as one of the hottest teams in baseball, but their roster is not impressive. They do not have any player with a .300 average. As a team, they rank 28th in batting average.
They do two things well. For starters, they are one of the most efficient teams at scoring. You would think, with their low batting average, that they would also be bad at scoring runs. In fact, they are 15th in runs scored. While not great, it does show that once they get players on base, they are able to get them in to score.
Their biggest weapon is the home run. Since the All-Star break, the A's have led the league in homers. Nine players have at least 11 home runs for the team. They also lead the AL in strikeouts, so they are very much a feast-or-famine team. Detroit is second in the league for strikeouts thrown.
Many of Oakland's pitchers are getting their first extended stay in the major leagues. While they have shown promise, it is hard to imagine all of them excelling under the pressure of the playoffs. While they keep winning without the gaudy stats, it is difficult to see them continuing.
New York Yankees
The New York Yankees could be a good matchup. They operate much like Oakland. Although they do hit for a much better average than the A’s, they are also a home-run-or-strike-out team. On the pitching side, their starters have been shaky, as they have allowed over four runs a game.
The Baltimore Orioles are a mystery team. They do not really do anything well except win. They have only scored seven more wins than they have given up. Again, they are a home-run-or-strike-out team.
Having so many free-swinging teams works right into Detroit’s strength. They give up the third fewest home runs and strike out the second most batters. They should be able to use this strength to exploit these teams’ weaknesses.
In the end, things line up very well for the Tigers to make a return to the World Series. Their strong finish to the 2012 season will carry over into the playoffs. Better at bats and great pitching will help them make a World Series run that should make the Detroit faithful proud.
PJ Sapienza is a featured columnist covering the Detroit Red Wings as well as many other sports.
You can follow him on Twitter.
Detroit Lions: The Real Reason for Their Bad Start
Michigan State Football: Why This is Their Most Important Season Ever
Which Red Wings Forwards Will Make the Team
8 Blue-Line Options for the Red Wings