MLB Playoff Picture 2012: Exposing the Weaknesses of Every American League Team
Though the five playoff representatives from the American League should be proud of their accomplishments, each team has debilitating deficiencies that could derail their chance at World Series glory.
Whether it is a questionable starting rotation or an anemic lineup, these were problems that were present in the regular season that will only be magnified in the postseason. Every pitch and each at-bat can signify the difference between going home disappointed and advancing in the playoffs.
For that reason, here's a look at the biggest weakness on each American League team as we head into postseason play.
New York Yankees: Starting Rotation
Though this may be the most obvious weakness among American League teams, a common misnomer is that team ace C.C. Sabathia is a reliable playoff starter.
For his career, the 6'7" left-hander has a record of 7-4 in the postseason, but it is his 4.81 ERA and 1.62 WHIP that truly signify his struggles.
In fact, Sabathia has only performed up to his potential for the entirety of a playoff run once in his career. Unsurprisingly, that brilliance came in 2009 when the Yankees won their most recent World Series.
The horrifying reality of the situation for the Yankees is that 40-year-old Andy Pettitte is the team's most reliable playoff starter. After battling injuries all season, Pettitte is likely to start Game 2 of the ALDS with hit-or-miss right-hander Hiroki Kuroda taking the ball in the following matchup.
While it's easy to argue the merits of each starter as an individual, it's far more difficult to argue in their favor as a unit.
Baltimore Orioles: Starting Rotation
Grim as the prognosis for the Yankees' rotation may be, the Orioles would trade places with the Bronx Bombers in a heartbeat.
Youngsters Chris Tillman and Miguel Gonzalez were revelations and essentially saved Baltimore in the second half of the season.
After struggling early in his career, Tillman looks to be on the verge of living up to his hype, compiling a 9-3 record and 2.93 ERA in 15 starts this season. Meanwhile, Gonzalez was an out-of-nowhere sensation who emerged as a 28-year-old rookie.
Though both pitchers were vital to the Orioles' playoff run, neither has a modicum of playoff experience or a long enough track record to make anyone feel comfortable (assuming the team wins its matchup against the Rangers).
What that exposes is a starting rotation filled with wet-behind-the-ears youthfulness and journeyman veterans.
For a team looking to make its first postseason impact since 1997, the lack of star power in the rotation is disconcerting.
Detroit Tigers: Team Depth
While everyone is more than familiar with Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder and Justin Verlander, there is a nerve-racking dearth of talent surrounding the big-named stars.
Obviously, you cannot discount outfielder Austin Jackson or flamethrower Max Scherzer, whose performances were both vital to the Tigers' comeback in the AL Central.
Nevertheless, there is a steep nosedive when going beyond those five players. Without one or more propelling the team in each game against Oakland, the Tigers could get upset in a series that they are widely considered the favorites.
The series will also come down to whether closer Jose Valverde can get the job done in the postseason. He was no world-beater by any stretch in 2012, but blew just five saves and got the job done even when it was ugly.
Essentially, we know five players that will show up, but have a cavalcade of questions about the remaining guys. When a World Series is the ultimate goal, that's not a great way to begin.
Oakland Athletics: Hitting
There is no polite way to sugar coat this: The Athletics are an anemic offensive club.
The fact that they reached the postseason with a team batting average of .238 and on-base percentage of .310 is nothing short of a testament to the amazing performance Oakland's pitching staff has put on this season.
Though history tells us that pitching is what wins postseason games, the A's are going to need a vastly improved offensive performance to stick around in the playoffs.
Whether that comes from mashing the ball over the fence with a higher regularity or the team acquiring some much-needed plate discipline, it needs to happen and fast.
The Tigers boast a rotation led by Verlander and Scherzer, so it's not going to be easy. But to advance at least to the ALCS, it's necessary to continue this Cinderella run.
Texas Rangers: Starting Rotation
Looking to make it three-consecutive American League championships, the Rangers unquestionably have the offensive firepower to get the job done.
Texas led the MLB with 808 runs in the regular season and finished third in both batting average at .273 and home runs with 200.
Unfortunately, like many of their other AL counterparts, the starting rotation leaves a ton to be desired.
Matt Harrison broke out this season, finishing at a crisp 18-11 with a 3.29 ERA and 1.26 WHIP, but performed poorly in the playoffs last season. And other than Harrison, it's a mixed bag full of hit-or-miss starters that could single-handedly lose any game they pitch.
If either Yu Darvish or Derek Holland takes a leap during the playoffs, the Rangers could skate to another AL crown. However, if it is Harrison alone on an island, Texas won't even get past Baltimore.
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