During the regular season, the Tigers' team ERA beat its FIP by 52 points, easily the biggest gap in the league. Don't take that as a sign that Detroit got lucky and is due for a swift regression, though; rather, it's an indication of just how good their defense was all year long. According to the Hardball Times, the Tigers had the best group of gloves in the AL courtesy of an absolutely unbelievable infield, and that's not the sort of thing that tends to fluctuate over time. Defense is a team strength of theirs, and it's a big reason why the pitching staff was able to look so good against New York.
If Oakland wants to break through against a talented group of arms, they'll need to do it with power, because they're not going to string together too many hits against this defense, or too many walks against these pitchers. It can't just be Frank Thomas going deep four or five times, either, because that won't be enough. Fortunately for them, Detroit's a little vulnerable, as their outfield hasn't been very good and both Eric Chavez and Nick Swisher are fairly extreme flyball hitters. They'll need to hit the gaps if they want to score enough to keep this a series, as the Tiger lineup isn't going to roll over and play dead like Minnesota's did. Oakland's rotation isn't nearly as good as the Twins made it out to be, and I expect them to have some trouble against a more potent collection of bats.
What does this mean? Nothing, really. I went 0-4 in predicting the ALDS/NLDS outcomes, and these series are too short to analyze in a conventional fashion. I might as well just decide on a winner because "they wear funnier pants," and who's to say that's wrong? It probably holds just as much water as all the other stuff I wrote.
This is what it boils down to - people enjoy the playoffs because of their sheer unpredictability. The best teams will win the most games during the regular season, but come October, all bets are off. Sure, probability still comes into play - repeat the ALDS ten times and New York probably beats Detroit in six or seven of them - but each individual series is so short that anything truly can and will happen. Superstars like Alex Rodriguez can fall asleep while guys like Marco Scutaro take center stage. It's just like with flipping a coin; do it a thousand times and you can pretty accurately predict how many heads you'll get, but do it once and you can't do any better than 50/50. Nobody knows who's going to survive in the playoffs, and that's what makes this time of year so magical.
Who's going to win the ALCS? I don't have a clue. I don't know if we'll ever be able to predict October with any degree of confidence, and I don't know that we'd want to. All I know is that I'm looking forward to this series more than any other in a long long time, and can't wait to tune into Game 1 with at least several dozen other viewers across the country. This is going to be a fun week.
Update: Although I should add that having the League Championship and World Series televised on FOX will undoubtedly lead to my week falling short of its maximum enjoyment potential. Mind you, ESPN isn't all that great itself, but at least they have Jon Miller, who I can tolerate. FOX doesn't have a single person who doesn't drive me batshit crazy. Sometimes I go to bed wondering why God punished us by limiting Vin Scully to local broadcasts, because there just isn't anything close to resembling a national equivalent. Parents with children who want to grow up to be commentators, raise them well, because at this point the present is a lost cause, and you're our only hope for the future.