Playoffs to be Determined By Pitching

After beating their respective American League Divisional Series foes, the Detroit Tigers and Oakland Athletics are set to lock up with the American League pennant at stake. The winner advances to the World Series, but before fans advance to baseball’s ultimate award, they must appreciate the most important aspect of the game on display during this series: good pitching. Over the past decade, the Tigers and the A’s have implemented two different philosophies with their organizations. Unfortunately for Tiger fans, the team has had high draft picks for many years, and they have opted to select young, talent-laden high school players. The Oakland A’s, on the other hand, with an anemic payroll, have had to find ingenious methods of putting together a competitive team. One way is drafting college players whom other teams deem unworthy but in their estimation are “major league ready”. Tiger management has structured its lineup on a versatile set of baseball principles: speed, power, small-ball, and the stereotypical roles of individual spots in a line-up. The A’s, on the other hand, are a product of ingenuity and an obsession with on-base percentage. With an unconventional lineup that has Jason Kendall, a slow-running catcher, batting in the lead-off spot that is usually occupied by speed demons, the A’s were able to finish in the middle of the pack among other teams in terms of runs scored (the team ended up with 771 runs, 16th out of 30). At face value, the teams meeting in the ALCS are complete opposites. Both have attained success based on different baseball paradigms: the Tigers with the conventional rhetoric and the A’s with new age statistical analysis. But the one facet that both teams share is great starting pitching. Even in this regard, the teams differ, but each of their staffs seem to simply get the job done. And if we learn one thing from this year’s playoffs, it is this: pitching is the single common denominator to winning. It is what separates the strong from the weak and the Tigers from the Yankees. So from now on, don’t be fooled by flashy offensive lineups…just remember the Tigers and A’s, who have managed to defeat the teams they “shouldn’t have” and are now playing for a spot in the World Series.