Everyone knows about the Tigers' tough rotation. Max Scherzer, David Price, Rick Porcello, and Justin Verlander is a tough challenge for any offense. It's probably no consolation that things could be worse. Anibal Sanchez suffered an injury in the second half of the season and won't be starting in the postseason. All in all it probably isn't surprising that the Tigers' rotation has the highest Fangraphs WAR in baseball.
But if you look at the second half of the season you may notice something surprising. The Tigers' rotation has the second highest WAR in baseball. But their rotation has an ERA of 3.97 to the Orioles' rotation ERA of 2.98. Part of the problem is the defense. According to UZR, the Orioles have the second best defense in the league while the Tigers have the fourth worst. Due to the recent injury to Rajai Davis, the Tigers have been forced to
field an outfield of J.D. Martinez, Ezequiel Carrera, and Torii Hunter. Hunter and Carrera have worse than a -20 UZR/150 while J.D. Martinez has a UZR/150 of -9. None have even average range. It probably shouldn't come as any surprise that the Orioles are outperforming their FIP while the Tigers are underperforming.
That's why the Tigers' real four-headed monster is Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez, J.D. Martinez, and Hunter. These four hitters have been the heart of the second highest scoring offense in the AL. The Tigers scored 53 more runs than the Orioles this season and these four guys are to blame. When you look at the Tigers' offense they have these four powerful sluggers, four average bats in Davis, Ian Kinsler, Alex Avila, and Nick Castellanos, and not much else. Find a way to stop those four powerful bats and the Tigers are in trouble.
It's even more crucial when you look at how Price, Scherzer, and Porcello do with run support. Scherzer went 16-2 with five no-decisions when his team scored three runs or more but only 2-3 with four no-decisions when his team scored two runs or fewer. Porcello went 14-3 with three no-decisions when his team scored three runs or more but only 1-9 with one no-decision when his team scored two runs or fewer. With better run support he could have flirted with 20 wins. Price went 11-4 with six no-decisions when his team scored three or more but only 3-8 with one no-decision when his team scored two runs or fewer. If you let these three pitchers get a large lead, then they're probably going to beat you.
But it's going to be awfully hard to stop these four batters. None of these four are left-handed. In fact, the best left-handed hitter that the Tigers have is Avila. There's probably no point in having Brian Matusz on the roster against these guys. They hit right-handed pitching hard and are even better against lefties.
It's hard to find any weaknesses. Victor Martinez and Miguel Cabrera are two of the best batters in the game. It doesn't matter what type of pitcher they're up against -- they either hit them hard or harder. J.D. Martinez struggles against finesse and groundball type pitchers, but Hunter does worse against power pitchers. All in all, they're a tough matchup for any rotation.
But the Orioles have had a pretty strong rotation themselves and a potential bullpen of Brad Brach, Andrew Miller, Darren O'Day, and Zach Britton is going to be tough to beat. Right-handed hitters are only hitting .191/.266/.277 against Brach. That doesn't look bad compared to their .163/.252/.248 line against O'Day and .176/.263/.293 line against Britton. And those look pretty good compared to Miller's .144/.248/.205 line against righties. And Kevin Gausman has allowed only a .263/.302/.360 line against righties --- as a starter. How effective can he be as a reliever? If the O's starters are able to go five innings, then the Tigers are going to be in for a tough matchup against this bullpen.
Stopping the Tigers' four-headed monster is going to be tough. But this Orioles' bullpen is built to make right-handed batters cry. The winner of this matchup is likely going to go on to the ALCS.