By Jason Wojciechowski on October 2, 2013 at 11:00 PM
You can make a case that the Tigers have the edge at six of eight positions on the field.
That's Lyle Spencer with a Detroit-Oakland preview. Let's MC Hammer1:
|Position||A||2013 TAv||Tiger||2013 TAv||Winner|
Roll with me on the lineups -- we could swap Moss to left and Cespedes to DH, but I'm sort of putting together an ideal lineup rather than the one that might be necessitated by a nagging injury.
So that looks pretty even to me! Also I don't know why you would discount DH as a position on the field given that DHes get at least as many at-bats as other positions, but okay.
Does defense or a notion of true talent swap these any? Avila probably moves ahead of Vogt because of the narrow margin of Vogt's 2013 offensive advantage and their respective defensive reputations. Barton probably is not this good and Fielder might not be this bad (though "bad" is relative to his career, not to any objective notions, because .290 is still a good TAv -- as you'll recall, it's scaled to batting average) though query whether his defense evens things out anyway.
Iglesias vs. Lowrie is pure offense-defense. Iglesias punched well above his weight in Boston and hit more like you'd expect (.230 TAv) in Detroit, but is a wizard, maybe literally, in the field. Lowrie ... Lowrie struggles. But gosh can he hit. I'll leave the advantage with Oakland.
Given that Peralta's outfield experience consists of 18 2/3 innings, all this year, I'm willing to say that Cespedes makes up the 2013 hitting gap on defense, so I'd swing that one back to the A's column. Right field is harder -- on the one hand, the hitting gap is bigger. On the other, Reddick will get a steady diet of right-handed pitching in this series. On the original hand, Hunter has been a well-regarded defender in some circles for a while. Back to the oppositional hand, Hunter's defensive metrics this year were terrible (FRAA has him well over -10) and Reddick's were once again sterling. Push? Might be a push. I don't know.
Sum all that up and I see a tale of the tape that's, again, more or less even.
Obviously, this isn't how you actually analyze who's going to win a baseball game or a series or anything else, but even taking the quote on its own terms, I think the supposed Tiger advantage is overstated. The A's may have won in 2013 by scrap and pluck, but that scrap and pluck didn't show up in magic the way it did for the Orioles last year. It showed up in having players who had genuinely good seasons: Donaldson, Moss, Crisp, and Lowrie all had good offensive seasons, especially the latter two relative to their positions. Donaldson and Crisp paired hitting with good defense. Reddick and Cespedes weren't as bad as you think at the bat and at least one of the two, and maybe both, plays good defense.
Maybe most importantly, there's no black hole in the A's lineup. That's not to say the Tigers have one (though Iglesias probably counts) -- the point is just that the A's are as good as the Tigers. You don't have to look that deep to see it. It's not a big mystery how they won 96 games. You don't have to stretch and contort and point to the bullpen as a reason why the A's might win in a short series. They're good. They're a good team.
Break it down, I mean. ↩