With the Red Sox winning a 2-1 squeaker and a 20-4 laugher against the Tigers at Fenway Park over the past two nights and the atmosphere feeling for all the world like playoff baseball one can’t help but look forward to a potential postseason matchup between these two division leaders. If that were to happen, who gets the edge in a Sox, Tigers postseason series? Let’s break it down and see what shakes out.
The Tigers obviously have some big bangers in Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder. Cabrera leads the majors with a .355 average, 130 RBI and a sick 1.121 OBP. Fielder has been less of a threat with 21 dingers and .269 average but the Tigers overall are leading the majors with a .285 team batting average.
With a .274 average, the Red Sox are second in majors in team batting average right behind the Detroit. The Sox are are second again to the Tigers in runs scored at 700 to Detroit’s 703. In one important way the Tigers have a distinct edge. They make contact. Thanks in part to Mike Napoli‘s 167 Ks and Jarrod Saltalamcchia’s 128 punch outs, the Red Sox are seventh in the majors at 1,118 Ks to Detroit’s 27th position with only 922.?
Edge: Tigers (slight)
This is a deceiving statistic. While the Tigers are seventh in the bigs with a team .988 fielding percentage (64 errors), the Red Sox are 15th but only two percentage points behind at .986, tied with five other teams. Let’s take a look up the middle where fielding strength counts.
Salty and Alex Avila are similar catchers, Avila one position up from Salty with a .994 fielding percentage. Both backstops can’t throw runners out. They rank among the league’s poorest catchers when it comes to throwing runners out.
Stephen Drew is among the league’s best fielding shortstops, clocking in at the fifth position with a .986 fielding percentage. Before being suspended for PEDs, Tigers shortstop Jhonny Peralta, who will be eligible to return in the playoffs, led the league with a .991 fielding percentage and was hitting .305. His replacement, Jose Iglesias, is no slouch.
Austin Jackson edges Jacoby Ellsbury by one percentage point (.992) but has done so on 84 less chances. Both have a flair for spectacular catch and use speed as a weapon. On a hunch and in crunch, I’d take Ells.
Edge: Red Sox (slight)
This is another sleight of hand statistic that the Tigers lead. Essentially based on the strength of Max Scherzer‘s incredible season, the Tigers are second in the AL in ERA (3.60) while Boston is 5th (3.74). Even so, Justin Verlander is having a very off year for him (12-10, 3.59 ERA). If this persists into the playoffs the Tigers could get bounced early.
How the two pitching staffs stack up:
Red Sox (minus Peavey, likely to be in the starting rotation in the playoffs)
The Wild Card: Base Stealing and the will to win
This one statistic alone tips the scale heavily in the Red Sox favor. If Boston can get men on base they’ll run wild on the Tigers and if the Tigers get men on base they’ll stay there.
The Red Sox have stolen 107 bases during the 2013 season and are getting better at it. When Shane Victorino stole his 18th last night against the Tigers it was the 24th consecutive stolen base for the Sox without being thrown out. Detroit is dead last in the AL at 32.
The Red Sox have also proven time and again this season that they will not give in, winning 22 games in their last at bat.
Edge: Sox in a big, bad way
So who wins a Red Sox vs. Tigers postseason series? The statistics show that the teams are evenly matched with the exception of Boston’s clear base stealing edge and late game heroics. If Boston continues to keep the pressure on during September and convincingly wins the AL East while remaining healthy, getting an effective Buchholz back, keep Jake Peavey in the starting rotation and move Dempster to the pen, they could be tough not only on the Tigers but could go deep into the playoffs.