Athletics vs. Tigers 2012 ALDS: Series Preview

Ed Zurga - Getty Images

The Oakland Athletics will face off against the Detroit Tigers in the ALDS starting Saturday.

The ALDS match up between the AL West champion Oakland Athletics and AL Central champion Detroit Tigers is a study in contrasts. The teams took extremely different paths, but somehow ended up head-to-head in the American League Division Series.

The Tigers made an enormous splash in free agency last winter, signing All-Star first baseman Prince Fielder and stretching their Opening Day payroll to $133 million. The A's traded off veterans Gio Gonzalez and Trevor Cahill for prospects and contracted their payroll to around $53 million, their lowest since 2008.

The Tigers are led by some of the biggest stars in the game in 2011 Cy Young Award winner and MVP Justin Verlander and 2012 prospective MVP and Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera. The Athletics gave more at-bats to some guy named Josh Reddick than anyone else and their rotation is a high school yearbook of fresh-faced rookies. Their lone All-Star Game representative was rookie relief pitcher Ryan Cook.

The Tigers were expected to be World Series contenders coming into the season. And although they got off to a bit of a slow start, hovering around .500 into the middle of July, they ultimately made good on their potential and beat the White Sox by three games. After trading away the top two-fifths of their rotation in the winter, the A's were expected to cultivate their young players, like rookie free-agent signing Yoenis Cespedes, and be ready for a postseason push a few years down the line. They were 13 games behind the Texas Rangers at the end of June, but made a legendary comeback to overcome the Rangers on the last day of the season.

The Tigers earned their division title on the backs of their superstars. If you have enough future Hall of Famers, it doesn't matter if you give over 1,000 at-bats to Brennan Boesch and Delmon Young. The A's, on the other hand, assembled a team of cast-offs, failed prospects and unproven youngsters to beat out the two-time defending American League champion Rangers.

These teams followed distinctly different narratives this season, but both had the same happy ending: a division title and a shot at the World Series.

Projected starting pitchers (courtesy of Bless You Boys and Athletics Nation)

Tigers A's
Game 1 Justin Verlander Jarrod Parker
Game 2 Doug Fister Brett Anderson
Game 3 Anibal Sanchez Tom Millone
Game 4 (if necessary) Max Scherzer A.J. Griffin
Game 5 (if necessary) Justin Verlander Jarrod Parker

All games will be broadcast on TBS.

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