And the AL West Champion is....... the Oakland Athletics. Who would have thought that the A's would make the playoffs let alone win the division when the team was 13 games back from the Texas Rangers going in to the month of July. The A's kept swinging away and runs started to get on the scoreboard and the runners left on base started decreasing. Next thing you know the A's are stepping on the gas and never letting off. Since the all star break, Oakland is 51 and 25 and won the last six games of the season to win the AL West. That being said, what will it take for the Oakland A's to be beaten?
1. Put the ball in play: The A's are one of the worst defensive teams in the MLB with 111 errors. Best bet is to keep it away from the right side of the field because Josh Reddick has thrown out 15 runners and in the infield Jemile Weeks gets to almost every ball hit his way. On the left side of the field you have Gomes in the outfield who does not have the best range and 3rd baseman Josh Donaldson will commit an error more than anyone else on the team.
2. Slow down key players on offense: In the last 30 games, Brandon Moss has a .370 batting average in 81 at bats. Half of his hits have been for extra bases and he has driven in 18 runs. However, Moss will strike out alot as he is a free swinger so if pitchers throw around him he will swing and miss. Keeping Coco Crisp off the bases is also a key to victory. Crisp has stolen 39 bases and has only been caught four times. Also, Crisp usually scores on an extra base hit when he is at first base. The last key offensive players are Josh Reddick and Yoenis Cespedes. Both players have a tremendous amount of power and could do alot of damage with one swing of the bat. Cespedes is easy to srike out though becuase he does not have very good plate discipline as he swings at many curveball in the dirt. So strikeout Moss, Cespedes, and Reddick as well as keep Crisp off the bases.
3. Do not give the A's a chance to win the game in the bottom of the ninth inning. They will do it and have done it fourteen times already, the most in the MLB. The A's know how to end a baseball game, so you better have the best closer or have a big lead.
4. Put a left handed pitcher on the mound. The A's are just an average baseball team when a lefy is on the hill. This season, the A's are 30 and 29 against left handed pitchers opposed to their outstanding performance at 64 and 39 vs. right handers. So the opposing team better have some lefties that can throw.
5. Score runs early and fast. The A's have the least amount of runs scored against out of all the playoff teams in the American League with only 614. When the A's starters are on, watch out. But if thy're not, you will have the chance to put runs on the board. After the starter, comes a solid A's bullpen and then onto the closer, Grant Balfour. Balfour has proven himself as one of the besr closers in the MLB and especially since the all star break. He has 24 saves out of 26 opportunities since he was named the closer after Ryan Cook lost the job and Balfour has not blown a save since the all star break. So score runs on the starting pitchers as it will be hard to score on the bullpen.
That being said, the Tigers have the tools to beat the A's with Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder, and Ace Justin Verlander but I say the A's take this series in four games.