Paul Wezner, Executive Editor
The Tigers up-and-down season has been well documented, and the frustration many fans have had is somewhat justified, given the struggles at times this team has had, especially in the bullpen. However, when you get into the postseason, outstanding starting pitching can give you a clear leg up with an early lead and star hitters coming through with big hits to put runs on the board. The Tigers have a clear advantage in starting pitching, and probably have a slight edge in offensive productivity, as most observers would rather take the Tigers top trio (Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez, J.D. Martinez) than Baltimore's (Adam Jones, Nelson Cruz, Steve Pearce). Through the first seven innings of these games, I expect the Tigers to be out in front in at least three of them, and probably four of them. But in the late innings, you still need a bullpen to put a team away, and the Orioles won't go quietly. The Tigers will be in position to win this series, but the bullpen that has been shaky all year long and will eventually let them down with the pressure on, losing to Baltimore 3-2 in a five-game set.
Mark Anderson, Director of Scouting
This is going to be a helluva series, one befitting the drama of the playoffs first night in Kansas City. Undoubtedly the most fascinating part of this series will be the intersection of two teams that are polar opposites. One team offers a high-end bullpen, the other a scary sight that belongs closer to Halloween. One team offers a rotation littered with front-end type, the other is more of a patchwork of arms that you hope will last six innings and keep you in the game. The teams are vastly different animals on a collision course in the ALDS; a collision course that will see the Tigers lean heavily on their cast of dominating starters and the two superstar bats adorning the third and fourth spots in their lineup. The Tigers are going to need every bit of Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez during this series, and they are going to need interimittent contributions from guys like Ian Kinsler, JD Martinez, Torii Hunter, and Nick Castellanos. If they can get that, they should be able to ride the horses into the 7th and 8th innings consistently enough to get by with a shaky bullpen. The Tigers didn't perform as expected during the regular season, and there is a belief among some that they will be able to turn it on when the lights are the brightest. If that is the case, and Scherzer, Price, and Verlander can be the three aces most would have expect, then the Tigers will take this series in four games.
James Chipman, Senior Lakeland Correspondent
Much like their bumpy road to an AL Central title, the Detroit Tigers road through the ALDS will be anything but smooth. Regardless, when all is said and done I see the Tigers advancing to the ALCS for a fourth consecutive season after a decisive game five victory. The Tigers rotation must pitch effectively and deep into games to protect their Achilles heel -- that sketchy bullpen. On the flip side, It's imperative that the Tigers lineup puts up runs early and often to avoid Baltimore's filthy bullpen. The O's will be without three of their biggest stars: Chris Davis (suspension), Matt Wieters (Tommy John surgery) and Manny Machado (knee). Despite their absence Baltimore's lineup is no cake walk; limiting the damage from Nelson Cruz, Steve Pearce and Adam Jones will be paramount for the Tigers. I fully expect a hard fought, exciting five game series From these two teams.
Neil Weinberg, Senior Analyst
Predicting any short series correctly is almost always an accident. There is rarely a time in which any team is enough of a favorite to actually feel confident, so with a very small degree of certainty, I'll take the Orioles in 5. I've said on a few occasions over the last week or so that I'd rather have the Tigers roster for 162 games, but in the postseason, with a lower run environment and potential for big swings based on a small number of decisions and chances, I'll give a little boost to the club with the better defense, base running, bullpen, and manager, which is certainly the Orioles. The Tigers have the better offense and better starting pitching, but starting pitching matters less in the postseason because you can run your relievers into the ground due to the extra off days and nearing finishing line. Buck Showalter can go to his pen in the 5th or 6th inning and erase the pitching difference quite quickly. The Orioles are also less likely to give away outs on the bases and are much less likely to give away runs on defense. When the overall quality of the clubs is so close, I'll lean toward the team with the better tactical manager, defense, and pen. It's narrow though. I'd say I'm probably 52/48 in favor of Baltimore, largely because home field advantage in baseball offers a couple points in your favor, but it wouldn't be shocking at all to see either team advance.
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