Lining Up the Lineups: Tigers vs. Orioles

In the second of the two-part series previewing the Baltimore vs. Detroit ALDS matchup, we look at the position players. Each lineup features a few peak performers and a few question marks, leaving the two clubs relatively close in offensive productivity. But while they may be equal in run production, they’re quite different when it comes to their contribution to run prevention.

To read part one on the pitching staffs, follow the link below:
Stacking Up the Staffs: Orioles vs. Tigers

The Offense

2014 Baltimore Offense and Productivity

2014 Detroit Offense and Productivity

The Orioles have had a very solid offense this year, but are missing a number of key contributors in the ALDS. Focusing on what they do have, they got plenty of production from their outfield in particular, which starts with the name most synonymous to the Orioles, and that’s Adam Jones. Their star centerfielder led the club in WAR, in addition to getting the most plate appearances, belting 29 home runs and hitting .281. He was supported offensively by a late spring signing in Nelson Cruz, whose power swing fit nicely in the middle of the order and belted 40 home runs for the O’s.

The power productivity from Cruz was needed in part due to a huge step back for Chris Davis, who a year after lighting the baseball world on fire was still blasting home runs, but couldn’t do much as far as contact, hitting .196 while striking out 173 times before he was suspended for 25 games for amphetamine use, a suspension that will carry through the ALDS.

In addition to not having Davis, the club also lost third baseman Manny Machado (knee) and catcher Matt Wieters (elbow) for the season, leaving them trying to identify stopgap solutions.

The Orioles of course aren’t the only team with injury issues, as the Tigers lost shortstop Jose Iglesias for the season in spring due to shin fractures, and Andy Dirks to a myriad of injuries that he could never recover from. In addition, the club might be without Rajai Davis, who suffered a grade one pelvis strain this past weekend. This would open up a huge hole for the club in center field, as the team traded Opening Day starting center fielder Austin Jackson as a part of the deal to land David Price.

Among those that are playing, it should come as no surprise that the high octane offense (that finished 2nd in wOBA) is powered by Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez. Cabrera had what would be considered a down year for him, still had a wOBA of .384, and unlike last season, appears to be hitting his stride in September after being named AL Player of the Month, hitting .379 with 18 extra base hits, including eight home runs, after hitting only 17 in the first five months. V-Mart meanwhile is in the midst of a career year at age 35, hitting .335 (runner-up for the AL batting title) while hitting 32 home runs and leading the club in OPS.

While both offenses have their own stars, each offense also had a welcome surprise to the season that ended up being a major contributor. For the Tigers, it was left fielder J.D. Martinez, who was signed to a minor league contract in March after being released by the Astros. Martinez went on to be nearly a 4-win player, with a better isolated slugging rate than both V-Mart and Cabrera (.238). The O’s had their own surprise too, as journeyman power hitter Steve Pearce caught on in Baltimore at age 31 and turned in a monster season, with 21 homers and a .556 slugging percentage in 102 games. Each has been an unexpected key player in the team’s 2014 success, and will be pivotal to their postseason.

Defense and Baserunning

2014 Baltimore Defense and Baserunning

2014 Detroit Defense and Baserunning

When examining the two clubs base running abilities, there isn’t truly much that separates them. The Tigers for the most part have been average on the base paths. With the increased focus by Tigers manager Brad Ausmus on taking extra bases, the team did steal 106 bases, with 36 of those coming from Davis. But they were also caught 41 times, good for just a 72% success rate, and when you take Davis out of the equation, that falls to 70. The O’s meanwhile weren’t nearly as aggressive swiping 44 bags and being caught 20 times.

So, it’s unlikely the game will swing on the base paths. But close games can often hinge on defense, and the two teams were dramatically different on the field. Baltimore’s collective UZR/150 of 10.9 was the best in baseball, and the defense was credited with saving 49 runs, the equivalent of almost five wins over the course of the season. Jones, and stellar shortstop J.J. Hardy were the biggest reasons for their defensive success, but they also avoided having many players that were huge negatives in the field, with their only notable negatives in defensive runs saved coming behind the plate, a notoriously tough position to judge defensively, anyway.

As good as Baltimore is defensively, the Tigers are equally bad. Only two clubs were worse defensively by UZR/150, and the Tigers -65 in defensive runs saved essentially means defense cost the Tigers six or seven wins. Ian Kinsler was a plus defender, saving approximately 20 runs, but many others were drags on the defense, including the entire outfield as well as rookie third baseman Nick Castellanos, who cost the Tigers approximately 30 runs over the year, which is equivalent to how bad Cabrera was a third base last season.

Tigs Town Top Stories