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2014 ALDS Preview & Predictions

By Andrew Perna

The Kansas City Royals set the playoff field in the American League on Tuesday night with a dramatic extra-inning victory over the Oakland Athletics. The division series kick off on Thursday with the Royals traveling to Los Angeles to take on the Angels and the Baltimore Orioles hosting the Detroit Tigers.

Tigers vs. Orioles

The Orioles will host this series because they were six wins better than the Tigers over the course of the regular season. Detroit won five of the six games the two clubs played in 2014, but all six of the contests came within the first seven weeks of the season. The Tigers will have to win at least one game at Camden Yards to advance to the ALCS, but all the stats are in their favor.

Detroit had stiffer competition in the AL Central, having held off the Royals, who remain alive, while Baltimore ran away with the AL East. That's not necessarily a knock on Buck Showalter's club, the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox had down years and Baltimore was the class of the division. The Tigers, meanwhile, traded for David Price at the deadline and still nearly coughed up the division title down the stretch.

The Tigers bested the Orioles in OPS (.757 to .734), runs per game (4.7 to 4.4), quality starts (90 to 78) and strikeouts per nine innings (7.70 to 7.23) this season. Baltimore's pitching staff had the better ERA (3.43 to 4.01) by a wide margin.

It's no secret that pitching has become the name of the game and in a five-game series who you throw out on the mound is vital. The Tigers will trot out Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander, David Price and Rick Porcello over the first four games, while Showalter has only committed to starting Chris Tillman in the series opener.

Baltimore is expected to use some combination of Wei-Yin Chen, Bud Norris and Miguel Gonzalez over the remainder of the ALDS.

For the first time in Major League history, a team will start the three AL Cy Young winners from the past three seasons over the first three games of a series. Scherzer, Verlander and Price are the reason why it will be hard for the Orioles, who have had a great season, to reach the next level.

Even Porcello, Detroit's "weakest" postseason starter has the numbers in his favor. The right-hander started twice against the Orioles this season, recording a 1.42 ERA and 0.79 WHIP in 12.2 innings (both victories).

Prediction: Tigers in 4

 

Royals vs. Angels

The Royals are easily the best story of the 2014 postseason. Not only did they end a postseason drought that lasted nearly three decades, but they also rallied multiple times against the Athletics in the Wild Card game to ensure a longer playoff appearance.

Kansas City faces an entirely different beast in the Angels, who ran away from the Athletics in the AL West thanks to a strong second-half and Oakland's stumbles. Los Angeles finished the regular season with 98 wins, most in all of baseball. At 52-29, they also had the best home mark in the sport. The two clubs faced off six times, just as the Tigers-Orioles, but this matchup was much less one-sided. Each team won three times with all the contests coming before the All-Star break.

The Angels were much better offensively in the regular season, posting a better OPS (.728 to .690), hitting more home runs (155 to a MLB-low 95) and averaging more runs per game (4.8 to 4.0). The only real offensive advantage the Royals have is once they get on base. Kansas City led baseball with 153 stolen bases and flashed that skill against Oakland on Tuesday night. Los Angeles swiped just 81 bags in 2014.

Ned Yost enjoyed a slightly better pitching staff in terms of ERA (3.51 to 3.58), but Mike Scioscia's group was better at recording strikeouts (8.15 per nine to 7.25). Both starting rotations are significant question marks entering the series and while the Royals might have the edge in the bullpen, the Angels simply have too good a lineup not to end KC's magical run.

Predictions: Angels in 4

 

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MLB Rankings For End Of 2014 Regular Season

By RealGM Staff Report

The Opsera is a statistic RealGM Executive Editor Chris Reina created in order to objectively rank teams by how well they hit (OPS) and pitch (ERA). 

In order to determine the Opsera rating for each, we take their OPS, multiply that number by 10 to move the decimal point over one place to the right and then subtract their ERA from that number.  

All statistics are through the end of the 2014 regular season.

Rankings from last week are in parenthesizes.

(1) Washington Nationals – 4.11

(2) Los Angeles Dodgers – 3.98

(3) Baltimore Orioles – 3.91

(4) Pittsburgh Pirates – 3.87

(5) Oakland Athletics – 3.78

(6) Los Angeles Angels – 3.70

(7) Seattle Mariners – 3.59

(8) Detroit Tigers – 3.56

(9) Cleveland Indians – 3.50

(10) San Francisco Giants – 3.49

(11) Milwaukee Brewers – 3.41

(T12) St. Louis Cardinals – 3.39

-- Kansas City Royals – 3.39

(14) Toronto Blue Jays – 3.36

(15) Tampa Bay Rays – 3.28

(16) Atlanta Braves – 3.27

(17) New York Mets – 3.24

(18) Miami Marlins – 3.16

(19) New York Yankees – 3.12

(20) San Diego Padres – 3.07

(21) Cincinnati Reds – 3.02

(22) Chicago Cubs – 2.93

(23) Colorado Rockies – 2.88

(24) Philadelphia Phillies – 2.86

(25) Boston Red Sox – 2.83

(26) Houston Astros – 2.81

(27) Chicago White Sox – 2.79

(28) Minnesota Twins – 2.56

(29) Arizona Diamondbacks – 2.52

(30) Texas Rangers – 2.40

 

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Grading The Deal: Tigers Land Price From Rays, Mariners Get Involved

By Andrew Perna

The Detroit Tigers, in a literal arms race with the Oakland Athletics for American League supremacy, have acquired David Price in a three-team deal with the Tampa Bay Rays and Seattle Mariners.

As it got closer to Thursday afternoon’s deadline, the Rays became more serious about moving Price, who can become a free agent after the 2015 season. For the Tigers, adding Price to their rotation helps them compete now while also giving them a potential replacement for Max Scherzer, who will hit the open market this winter.

The Mariners will receive Austin Jackson from the Tigers, while Tampa Bay’s return for their ace was Nick Franklin (Seattle), Drew Smyly (Detroit) and shortstop prospect Willy Adames (Detroit).

Franklin didn’t appear to have a future in Seattle following the blockbuster signing of Robinson Cano this past winter and adding Jackson to help grease the wheels for Detroit and Tampa Bay is a nice yield. Franklin hasn’t hit well at the Major League level in 2014, but his Triple-A numbers (.294/.392/.455) have been very promising.

Despite adding Cano, the Mariners have struggled offensively. Only three teams have scored fewer runs this season and they rank second-to-last in OPS (.668).

Grade for Mariners: B+

Jackson is under team control through the 2016 season and his .727 OPS will help Seattle even though it’s the second lowest of his career. Two seasons ago he had a .856 OPS, while also hitting 16 home runs, and his glove will fit nicely in the Mariners’ outfield as well.

Detroit adds Price, a certifiable No. 1, to a rotation that already includes Scherzer, Justin Verlander and Anibal Sanchez. Rick Porcello, now the team’s fifth starter, has a 3.25 ERA this season. The price for the left-hander -- pun intended -- was their starting center fielder, previous fifth starter and a shortstop prospect that recently drew raves.

Just 18, Adames was one of the best prospects in a shallow Detroit farm system and the youngest everyday player in the Midwest League. There is time for the Rays to nurture him into something greater than expected, but he is not yet among the game’s top-level prospects.

The Tigers clearly felt as though adding Price made sense after the Athletics dealt for Lester earlier in the day. There are teams with more wins, but Detroit is considered the main threat to Oakland in the American League postseason. The four-man rotations that could be featured in the ALCS would be epic.

Grade for Detroit: A

Detroit didn’t get Price for a song-and-dance, but the cost wasn’t overwhelming either. Jackson has regressed since 2012 and Adames isn’t a guarantee to develop into a Major League player. Smyly, 25, has been very good already with only 35 starts to his name, but the chance to add a former Cy Young winner for approximately 40 starts was a great one.

When reports surfaced that the Rays would deal Price before the deadline it was assumed that teams were starting to impress them with packages unlike anything they had seen in the preceding weeks. The expectation was that Tampa Bay would get at least two Grade A prospects for the soon-to-be 29-year-old; instead the haul included no such players.

Franklin and Smyly give the Rays the ability to see the fruits of Price's value immediately, but the relative uncertainty surrounding Adames makes the deal a risky one. Did the market for a Cy Young winner dry up a bit because of all the starters that either changed hands or were reportedly made available? What would Andrew Friedman have been offered this winter if he had held onto Price just a little bit longer? Did Tampa Bay wait too long?

Grade for Rays: C-

While Smyly and Franklin are no longer prospects, there is potential growth there. Ben Zobrist's name was mentioned in rumors this week and while he wasn't traded, Joel Sherman of the New York Post tweeted that the Rays see Franklin as a future utility player in the Zobrist mold -- strong bat with the ability to play a handful of positions.

Smyly has a 3.46 ERA, 1.219 WHIP and 262 strikeouts (81 walks) in 275.2 Major League innings since debuting in 2012. Pitching out of the bullpen last year, the left-hander had a 2.37 ERA and averaged 9.6 strikeouts per nine innings. He's still getting comfortable as a starter.

The haul isn't a bad one, but you assumed the Rays would get more for a veteran with a 3.18 ERA, 1.142 WHIP and a 3.45 K/BB ratio over seven seasons.



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