All season long I’ve been thinking about what we need to do. Forget the other guys and just go out and get today’s win. If you’re part of an organization—any organization—that’s what you control anyhow. But as we head towards the American League Championship Series, I need to figure out who to root for in Thursday’s decisive game between the Oakland Athletics and Detroit Tigers. Which would be a better matchup vs the Red Sox? Let’s look at the numbers.
From the top
At the highest level, for the 2013 season, the Red Sox were 3-3 (.500) vs the Athletics and 3-4 (.429) vs the Tigers. They were 2 of the 6 American League teams against which the Red Sox had either break-even or losing records against in 2013 (others: Angels .500, Orioles .421, Rangers .333, and Royals .286).
Over the past 5 seasons the Red Sox have fared much better vs the Tigers, going 22-14 (.611), their 4th best record in that time vs any AL club, 14-5 at Fenway, 8-9 at Comerica Park.
On the other hand, the Red Sox have a tough 19-23 (.452) record vs the Athletics over the same period, especially on the road going 14-8 at Fenway but 5-15 at the Coliseum. Boston’s 5-season history vs Oakland is their worst record vs any AL opponent save for the Rangers (14-29, .326).
2013 against the Athletics
Against Oakland, Boston scored 21 runs and allowed 32, a fact skewed by a lopsided 0-13 loss on April 23 at Fenway.
The Red Sox were 2-1 at Fenway, 1-2 at the Coliseum. Red Sox batters averaged .221 over those games. Only the Royals, Yankees, and White Sox had lower batting averages. Oakland, meanwhile, managed a .225 batting average vs Red Sox pitchers, tying them with the White Sox for the lowest batting average of any of Boston’s AL opponents.
At the plate, Red Sox Mike Napoli stood out with a .389 batting average, going 7-for-18 with a home run, 3 doubles, and 6 RBI for the season. No other Red Sox player hit about .300 vs Oakland this season.
Over the past 3 seasons (minimum 10 games), David Ortiz owns a club best .388 batting average vs the Athletics followed by Dustin Pedroia (.326) and Jacoby Ellsbury (.270).
2013 against the Tigers
Against Detroit, Boston scored 43 runs and allowed 35, a fact somewhat skewed by a lopsided 20-4 win in their last regular season meeting on September 4, though Detroit had a 10-3 win vs Boston on June 22.
The Red Sox were 2-1 at Fenway and 1-3 at Comerica Park. Red Sox batters averaged .310 over those games. Only the Angels hit Tigers pitching better (.320). Boston’s .382 on-base percentage was the highest by any Tigers opponent. Detroit hit Boston pitchers at .282, the 4th best batting average of any of the Red Sox’ AL opponents.
Looking at individual Red Sox batters, Ortiz batted .357 (7th best vs Tigers in 2013 among players with 7+ games), going 10-for-28 with 4 home runs.
6 other Red Sox batted above .300 vs Tigers this year: Stephen Drew and Will Middlebrooks batted .333 going 7-for-21 and 5-for-15, respectively. Shane Victorino and Ellsbury batted .320, both going 8-for-25. Napoli batted .318 going 7-for-22, and Daniel Nava finished at an even .300 going 6-for-20.
Over the past 3 seasons (minimum 10 games), Ortiz owns a club best .378 batting average vs the Tigers followed by Daniel Nava (.278) and Ellsbury (.261).
For all time the Red Sox are 6-10 vs the Athletics in 4 postseason series:
|2003||ALDS||W, 3 games - 2 games|
|1990||ALCS||L, 0 games - 4 games|
|1988||ALCS||L, 0 games - 4 games|
|1975||ALCS||W, 3 games - 1 game|
Despite both club’s long histories, the Red Sox and Tigers have not met in postseason play. Detroit beat the Athletics in the 2012 ALDS (3 games to 2) and swept the Yankees in the ALCS only to be swept by the Giants in the World Series. They lost to the Rangers (4 games to 2) in the 2011 ALCS.
The Tigers are an experienced postseason team, both the players and their manager. They clinched the American League Central Division for the 3rd straight season and advanced to the playoffs for the 15th time in club history. They’ve advanced to the playoffs in 3 straight seasons for the 2nd time in club history (also 1907-1909). Detroit is in the playoffs for the 4th time in manager Jim Leyland’s 8 seasons with the club. It’s his 8th postseason appearance overall over 22 years as a big league manager, during which time he’s gone 40-35.
The Tigers and Red Sox were at the top of most offensive stats throughout the season, but Detroit never the less finished 1st in the AL with a .283 batting average, 1,625 hits, and a .446 on-base percentage, while they were 2nd to the Red Sox with 767 RBI. The .283 average is the highest for the Tigers since the club batted .287 in 2007. On the downside, they grounded into the 2nd most double plays in the AL and left even more men on base (1250, the most in the MLB) than the Red Sox (1212).
Tigers pitchers, meanwhile, finished the season with 1,428 strikeouts, a new MLB record for most in a season, besting the 1,404 strikeouts by the 2003 Cubs. Their 3.61 team ERA was the 3rd best in the league.
Tigers and Red Sox finished the season with a .987 fielding percentage, 4th in the league.
There’s no doubt the Athletics had a great year, but they’re also looking to break some bad habits. First, the accolades: Since May 17 the club went 76-44 (.633), the best winning percentage in all of baseball. Since the All-Star break they have the most home runs (88) and the highest slugging percentage (.451) in the majors. They were 3rd in AL going 30-20 in 1-run games (Boston was 21-21, Detroit 20-26). Except for the Indians, no other 2013 postseason team had a winning record vs Oakland this season. Athletics pitching wracked up a team ERA of 3.56, 2nd in AL to the Royals.
It’s their 2nd straight trip to the postseason (and 7th in the past 14 years) but Oakland has lost 8 of their last 9 postseason series dating back to the 1990 World Series. They’re a staggering 1-10 in potential clinch games over that span.
Athletics finished the season with a .983 fielding percentage, tied for 7th in the league.
What’s your view?
As I said before the start of our ALDS match up with the Rays, stats are a fun part of enjoying baseball but we play the games because no mathematical formula substitutes for real life.
My view is that Red Sox are a statistically better match up vs the Tigers, though Detroit’s power and postseason experience are daunting. The Athletics are capable and hungry and, perhaps, underrated. From what I can gather, the Boston-based sports media seems to feel Oakland is the easier match up, but I’m not convinced. What do you think? Who will you pull for in the final 2013 ALDS spot?
Update: Boston Globe breaks down Athletics and Tigers, too.