With the 2012 postseason underway, Alex Remington takes a look at the statistics that might make a difference in each of the four first-round series. First up is the ALDS featuring the AL West champion Oakland A's against the AL Central champion Detroit Tigers. The first two games will be held at Comerica Park and the first pitch of Game 1 is scheduled for 6:07 ET on Saturday night.
.761 The Oakland A's team OPS with two outs, second-best in baseball behind only the Rockies — and better than their overall team OPS of .714. For some reason, the Athletics are much better with their backs against the wall than they are with no outs on the board.
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.581 The Tigers' OPS in a pitcher's count, best in baseball. That doesn't look too good until you realize that the average team had a .514 OPS. The Tigers were better than any other team at managing to salvage a bad count. In the playoffs, that will come in handy.
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.793 The OPS that the Oakland A's got from their outfielders, third-best in the American League behind the Rangers and Angels. Center fielder Coco Crisp, right fielder Josh Reddick, and backup outfielder Brandon Moss were all former members of the Boston Red Sox, who got only a .715 OPS from their outfielders. Of course, Oakland's other outfielder was the spectacular Cuban defector Yoenis Cespedes, whom they signed to a four-year, $36 million contract in the offseason, which looked like a risk then but brilliant now. Once again, Billy Beane seems to have known something the rest of us didn't.
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3.79 The Tigers' bullpen ERA, 18th in baseball and second-worst of any playoff team. Last year, closer Jose Valverde converted all 49 of his save opportunities without blowing a single one; this year, he blew the first chance he got and blew another four later in the year, finishing with a 3.78 ERA. The pen was particularly awful in September: a 5.02 ERA for Valverde, a 4.82 ERA for Brayan Villarreal, a 6.23 ERA for Joaquin Benoit, a 6.35 ERA for Phil Coke, a 7.88 ERA for Octavio Dotel.
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5 The number of rookies in the Athletics rotation at the end of the season, which — as far as Rob Neyer knows — is the most in history for a playoff team. The team got some great innings from Bartolo Colon before he got busted, but at a certain point, the rotation completely turned over. And, wouldn't you know it, they have one of the best bullpens (2.94 ERA, second-best in the AL) and rotations (3.80 ERA, third-best in the AL) around. Brett Anderson will take Travis Blackley's spot on the roster and Dan Strailey is back in Arizona, so don't start thinking of any Fab Five-type nicknames.
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1.085 Miguel Cabrera's OPS in the seventh inning and later, best in baseball. Cabrera is sort of the Stan Musial to Albert Pujols' Ted Williams. They're similar players, hitting for average and power with better contact skills than most of their slugger contemporaries. Until the last couple of years, Cabrera was in the shadow of Phat Albert. But the Cabrera may now have surpassed his older contemporary. Of course, Albert has never won a Triple Crown, which both Miguel and Ted Williams have to their name.
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9 The number of players that the Athletics have in the AL top 40 for pitches per plate appearance. Going back more than a decade to the Moneyball era, the A's earned a reputation for valuing walks and homers above all else, emphasizing to their young players the virtues of patience over aggressiveness. Looks like they still do.
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10 The number of World Series that the Tigers have participated in, in their long history, winning in 1935, 1945, 1968, and 1984, and losing in 1907-1909, 1934, 1940 and 2006. Verlander is the only member of the Tiger rotation who pitched in the last one, and he didn't have a good series, coughing up 10 runs (seven of them earned) in 11 innings, losing twice as the 83-win Cardinals won the World Series. The Tigers spent a boatload of money on Prince Fielder in the offseason because 83-year old owner Mike Ilitch wants to win the World Series now. The Tigers will feel an urgency to finish old business.
75.4 percent The percentage of baserunners that the Athletics strand, tied with the Braves for third-best in baseball. You can't live right forever, and strand rate is typically as much random chance as skill, but you might as well take advantage of what Lady Luck gives you. That is a big reason why a finesse team like the Athletics — with the fourth-lowest strikeout rate in the majors, just 7.0 strikeouts per nine innings from its pitching staff — has been able to have such success on the mound. Their terrific defense (which is third in the majors in UZR per 150 games) is another reason.
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100.3 The speed of Justin Verlander's fastest fastball on his last start of the year, September 29 against the Minnesota Twins. Clearly, he isn't feeling tired. The reigning AL MVP likely won't get a chance to repeat his award, but he's been nearly as good this year as last year, and he's pretty clearly the best pitcher in baseball. When the Tigers have to win a game, they'll put the ball in his hands. You have to like their chances.
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