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Ideal opponent: Baltimore Orioles
The Tigers have the best batting average since the All-Star break by a wide margin. The second-place Dodgers (.274 AVG) are closer to the 11th-place Giants (.259 AVG) than they are to the first-place Tigers (.291 AVG).
They can hit against anyone, but they should really be able to hit against a struggling pitching staff.
Enter Baltimore, which has a .748 OPS against for the season.
To help put that number in context, an average batter facing the Baltimore Orioles is going to look like Alex Rios—minus the 37 stolen bases, because Matt Wieters is quite good. Rios has 16 home runs and 48 extra base hits on the season for a batting average of .277 and an OPS of .748.
That's an average hitter against the Orioles, mind you, and Miguel Cabrera is no average hitter. Between the reigning AL MVP, the struggling-but-still-good Prince Fielder and the resurgent Alex Avila and Victor Martinez, the Tigers should have a couple of field days against Chris Tillman and Miguel Gonzalez.
Also, the Tigers are terrible at keeping opposing base runners under wraps. They have only caught 18 percent of the 147 runners attempting to steal against them. But fortunately, the Orioles barely even try to steal bases anymore.
Nate McLouth ran like a madman in the first half of the season, compiling 24 stolen bases before the All-Star break. That's more bases than the entire team has stolen since then. Led by McLouth's six steals, the Orioles have stolen just 22 bases in the second half of the season, and have actually been caught stealing nine times.
Not only will the Tigers prey on Baltimore's weaknesses, but it seems like the Orioles wouldn't even attempt to return the favor. A five- or seven-games series against Baltimore would almost be a free pass into the next round for Detroit.
And before you go screaming that Baltimore is 4-2 against Detroit this season, allow me to point out that two of those wins were against Rick Porcello—who won't be starting in the playoffs—and another was entirely thanks to Jose Valverde, who won't be pitching again in the majors.
In two starts against the Orioles this season, Max Scherzer has a line of 14.0 IP, 10 H, 4 ER, 4 BB, 20 K. Both Anibal Sanchez and Doug Fister are among the top 10 American League pitchers this season, and neither of them has faced the Orioles yet.
Also, all six of those games were played prior to the 20th of June, back when the Orioles were arguably at their best. Sometimes head-to-head regular season records are useful, but this one is worthless.