By Jason Wojciechowski on July 18, 2011 at 11:40 PM
(I haven't done these before, but as I've been reading through the backlogs of certain team blogs, especially the late, great Process Report, I've realized that there might be something to be said about these games before they're actually played. The format here will be structured, as the recaps are, not loosey-goosey and flowing all over the place, but that structure will be a work-in-progress for a while, I'm sure, again as the recaps were.
Enough throat clearing.)
The A's head to Detroit for two games, each at 4:05 Pacific.
Tuesday's game features right-hander Rick Porcello for the Tigers. Porcello is still just 22, but he's also still not that great, as he's allowed 56 runs in just 96 innings, a figure that's about 20% higher than the AL run-scoring environment this year. That isn't all on Porcello, as the Tigers have been one of the bottom teams in the league in terms of turning batted balls into outs.
Porcello doesn't throw hard, with both of his fastballs coming in right around 90 mph. The two-seamer is his main pitch, as you probably know, and he goes to it 40% of the time, regardless of handedness. He also throws a slider in the low- to mid-80s and a change in the 78-82 range. His pitch selection splits are what you might expect: sliders to righties with almost no changeups and changes to lefties (though he does throw a slider to the lefties about 9% of the time). The whiff rates on his off-speed pitches are over 10%, but batters shouldn't expect Porcello to go overboard with those pitches on strikeout counts, as even on 0-2 and 1-2, Porcello mixes his pitches.
Unfortunately, there does not appear to be an announced starter yet for Wednesday. Even more unfortunately, Justin Verlander pitched Friday, putting him on turn to start Wednesday. The less said about Verlander's arsenal and its likelihood of shutting down the A's, the better.
If the A's can get into the middle part of the bullpen (Al Albuquerque, our friend David Purcey, Lester Oliveros, Adam Wilk), there is hay to be made. Albuquerque and Purcey, in particular, have their control issues, which can lead to both free base-runners and favorable counts.
Much of the lineup for Detroit has been fairly stable of late:
- Andy Dirks, CF
- Brennan Boesch, LF
- Magglio Ordonez, RF
- Miguel Cabrera, 1B
- Victor Martinez, DH
- Jhonny Peralta, SS
- Carlos Guillen, 2B
- Alex Avila, C
- Don Kelly / Brandon Inge, 3B
Brandon Inge is the designated third baseman against lefties, but he also gets starts against righties. We may also see Casper Wells in the outfield. Austin Jackson, of course, is the usual center-fielder, but he's been out with a wrist injury, so who knows if he'll play.
There is some weakness at the top and bottom of this lineup that should result in some two-out innings for the boppers in the middle when the 9th through 2nd hitters come up before them. The Ordonez-Cabrera-Martinez trio is very solid, however, with PECOTA projecting each to post a .348+ OBP, and with Cabrera, of course, being one of the premier hitters in the entire game. The Peralta-Guillen-Avila trio forms a nice secondary attack, none of them being of the quality of the middle-of-the-order hitters, but none representing OBP-sinks, either (projected .320+ OBP for each, with SLG in the high-.300s -- and yes, that's not terrible, because, in case you forgot, it ain't 2002 anymore).
I would not count on Guillermo Moscoso's magic continuing much longer, and as mediocre as Rick Porcello is, I could see the Tigers bludgeoning the A's to death on Tuesday, knocking Moscoso's trademark fly-balls for homers and doubles en route to an 8-4 win that's never actually that close.
Wednesday, of course, is impossible to predict without knowing Detroit's starter. Brandon McCarthy takes the hill for Oakland, and I have every confidence in his "is that Trevor Cahill?" routine, getting weak contact early in counts, never walking anybody, and generally getting enough strikeouts to survive. If Justin Verlander pitches, though, that won't be enough, and the A's will lose by 3-1. I'm not sure who the other option is, though. Phil Coke? He's not bad, but I'm comfortable predicting a 5-3 win against him. Either way, the Tigers will get their runs all at once.
(These predictions, obviously, aren't met to be taken as gospel. Someday, perhaps, I will set myself up to run simulations for these previews. For now, though, the scores are less an actual prediction and more a sense of what I think the general shape of the game will be -- lots of runs or few? Close or not? See-saw battle or wire-to-wire victory? Etc.)