ALCS Scouting Report

October 10, 2006|By CHICAGO TRIBUNE

STARTING PITCHING

The Detroit Tigers were best known this season for the sheer power of rookie Justin Verlander and fellow right-hander Jeremy Bonderman, but left-handers Kenny Rogers and Nate Robertson provided an effective change of pace. Rogers has a 21-7 lifetime record against Oakland. Athletics left-hander Barry Zito, probably pitching his final season for Oakland, beat the Minnesota Twins' Cy Young Award favorite Johan Santana in the AL Division Series. Carlos Guillen, Brandon Inge, Magglio Ordonez and Craig Monroe are batting a combined .143 lifetime (14-for-98) against Zito.

Edge: Tigers

RELIEF PITCHING

Both teams have exceptionally strong bullpens, but they're set up differently. Detroit has stuck with its 1-2 punch of Joel Zumaya and closer Todd Jones, with Jones as the closer even though Zumaya throws harder and has better stuff. Oakland closer Huston Street didn't allow a run in four games against the Tigers while surrendering only one hit and striking out seven. Setup man Justin Duchscherer has one of the league's best curves, but he was tagged for nine hits in four appearances against the Tigers.

Edge: Even

HITTING

Oakland ranked second to last in AL team batting average but found a way to manufacture enough runs. Leadoff hitter Jason Kendall (11) and Milton Bradley (10) are the only Oakland players with double-digit stolen base totals. Frank Thomas is the A's only pure power hitter. Detroit has three players who struck out 126 times or more, but manager Jim Leyland hasn't been afraid to juggle the lineup to maximize the Tigers' strengths. The Tigers don't run much, but Leyland has three capable hit-and-run batters in Ivan Rodriguez, Guillen and Placido Polanco.

Edge: Even

FIELDING

Inge and Oakland third baseman Eric Chavez are two of the best at their position, as are center fielders Mark Kotsay and speedy Curtis Granderson. Oakland's middle infield will be put to the test after the loss of second baseman Mark Ellis, with D'Angelo Jimenez likely to fill in for him. Marco Scutaro has capably replaced shortstop Bobby Crosby, but the Tigers' tandem of shortstop Guillen and second baseman Polanco is steady.

Edge: Tigers

MANAGER

Leyland knows how and when to push the right buttons, and he was the perfect leader to steer the Tigers in the right direction after their late-season skid. Ken Macha appears to have grown into his job since pinch-hitting Adam Melhuse for Jermaine Dye in the ninth inning of Game 5 of the 2003 American League Division Series against the Boston Red Sox (Melhuse took a called third strike, and the A's went on to lose).

Edge: Tigers

Prediction

Tigers in six games

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