I'm sure you can find plenty of ALCSpreviews out there. No need to repeat that stuff. I'll just dash off a few thoughts as the ALCS approaches:
Which member of the A's organization has the highest career OPS against Kenny Rogers?
Teams have styles, and it's often hard to discern teams' true modus operandi just by looking at the common statistics.
The A's style was evident in their series victory over the Twins. I call this style "outnotmistaking".
The Twins made all kinds of mistakes: defensive mistakes, batting approach mistakes, baserunnings mistakes. The A's outnotmistaked the Twins.
The Twins committed five errors. The A's committed one.
The Twins had one costly caught stealing, and another costly runner thrown out at home. The A's did not attempt a stolen base. Nobody was thrown out trying to take an extra base.
The Twins cost themselves several baserunners (mostly named Nick Punto) by sliding into first base. The A's did not slide into first base.
The Twins wasted several opportunities for big innings by giving up an out with a bunt, or falling behind in the count while trying to. The A's had no sacrifices.
The Twins swung at a lot of pitches out of the strike zone. The A's generally swung at strikes, and laid off the balls: few wasted at-bats because of poor pitch selection.
The A's aren't the most talented bunch of players in the history of baseball. They can be defeated. But if they lose this ALCS, it will probably be because the Tigers defeated them, not because the A's defeated themselves.
D'Angelo Jimenez gets too involved in the proceedings.
Mark Ellis was a huge part of the A's "outnotmistaking" style. He set a major league record this year for fielding percentage by a second baseman. Ellis is a solid as they come; he always seems to make the right decision.
How much will the A's lose by having D'Angelo Jimenez at 2B instead of Mark Ellis?
Here are some career stat comparisons at 2B:
Ellis is clearly better in every way. The good news is, Jimenez isn't completely horrible. I'm guessing the dropoff will cost the A's one run, maybe two, over the course of the series. Hopefully, that one run won't be a costly one.
Obviously, Kenny Rogers' career record of 25-4 in Oakland has to be a topic of discussion, if not a source of concern for the A's. But if you look at what the current A's lineup has done against him, you wonder what all the fuss is about.
Here's are the current A's lifetime numbers against Rogers, in OPS order:
Last year, Billy Beane predicted that the playoff winner would be the one who hit the most home runs. Looking over the stats from the A's and the Tigers, if the Tigers can avoid the same type of mistakes the Twins kept making, I think that the most-homer-rule will probably be decisive in this series, as well.
Both teams are good at keeping the ball in the ballpark. The Tigers (160) were 2nd and the A's (162) were 3rd in fewest home runs allowed. The Tigers hit 203, while the A's hit 175.
If the A's have a weakness on the mound, it's that they walk too many batters. However, the Detroit Tigers hardly ever take a walk. They were next-to-last in the AL.
This will be of particular interest in Game 1. Barry Zito makes a living off overaggressive teams who chase his pitches outside the strike zone. If the Tigers don't work the count against Zito, and force him to either throw strikes or walk them, they might be in for a long evening.
Somebody get the A's a new scouting report on Placido Polanco! Look what he's done in his career against the A's starting rotation:
If Polanco comes up in a key situation, we might see Kirk Saarloos, who is the only pitcher on the A's roster who has had any sort of demonstrated success against him. Polanco is only 2-for-13 against Saarloos.
Trivia answer: Billy Beane. He's 1-for-1, with an RBI, for a career OPS of 2.000 against Rogers.