Lindbergh: The A’s and Tigers’ super-rotation rivalry

From SABR member Ben Lindbergh at on August 7, 2014:

There’s a new rivalry brewing in baseball. Unlike most cases of animus or intense competition between teams, it’s not based on being in the same division or geographical region. It’s built, instead, on strong starting rotations and playoff pitching, and while it doesn’t have the history of Yankees–Red Sox, it’s as engrossing right now as any feud other than Dodgers-Giants and Diamondbacks–disobedient batters’ bodies. I’m referring, of course, to the escalating long-distance battle between two of baseball’s best teams: the Detroit Tigers and the Oakland A’s.

According to FanGraphs’ playoff odds, the Tigers and A’s are the most likely World Series winners in the American League, with 17.3 percent and 14.4 percent championship probabilities, respectively. (Most of the difference stems from Detroit’s easier path past the wild-card game.) The A’s and Tigers met in the ALDS in both 2012 and 2013; both times, the series went to five games, and both times, Detroit’s Justin Verlander ended Oakland’s season with a dominant, scoreless start. It’s possible they’ll meet in the ALDS for the third consecutive season, but more likely that they’ll match up in the ALCS with the pennant on the line.

Given the odds that these clubs are on another October collision course, it’s tempting to view the rotation rearming that each did on deadline day as a literal arms race, with A’s GM Billy Beane striking first by adding Jon Lester and Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski countering later the same day by grabbing a lefty ace of his own in David Price. Beane’s post-Price-trade text to Dombrowski and A’s closer Sean Doolittle’s Twitter smack talk (a reference to Verlander’s comments earlier in the month about Oakland’s trade for Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel) seemed to support that interpretation.

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Originally published: August 7, 2014. Last Updated: August 7, 2014.