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A's: Tigers or Twins, Oh MY!

I can stop being paranoid about jinxing the team by looking ahead. But the truth is that the A's will not have an easy road. Yes, they will avoid the Yankees in the first round, but the alternatives aren't much better. In fact they might be worse.

The Twins and Tigers are battling it out for AL Central supremacy and Detroit has picked it back up recently. Both would be a very, very tough matchup for the sometimes offensively-challenged A's considering that those two teams are currently 1-2 in ERA in the American League (and the only two that have a team sub-4 ERA).

The Twins have Johan Santana and the A's would likely see him twice in a series that went five games. Minnesota also has A's-killers Justin Morneau and Michael Cuddyer. And the Twins still have one of the statistically better bullpens in all of the American League. They also play in that abomination of a stadium that somehow passes for a baseball field.

The only thing that could potentially comfort A's fans is that Santana can only pitch twice and Liriano's season is over. The A's could have a better chance against Silva and Radke and that's really where the team would need to exploit the lack of depth in Minnesota's rotation.

Speaking of depth, Detroit has a ton of depth in their rotation. You've got Kenny Rogers, Jeremy Bonderman and Justin Verlander. That's a scary trio right there. The Tigers have the lowest ERA in the American League at 3.75. And even if you somehow get to their starters, you've got a very large looming figure in Joel Zumaya waiting in the pen. As for the Tigers offense, they're middle of the pack in the American League and I believe that they can be shut down if a pitcher exploits their often overly-aggressive nature. Of course, the two major concerns are Pudge, who seemingly gets better in the postseason and Placido Polanco. Polanco is one of the more underrated offensive players in baseball and he always seems to hit the A's well. He could very well be a difference-maker.

Some key components of the Tigers haven't been to postseason before (Verlander and Bonderman) so they are an unproven commodity, but you never know if one realizes they're the next Sandy Koufax in October.

The truth is that neither one of these tasks will be easy nor enviable. Taking down the two best pitching teams in the AL (and possibly the best hitting team in the Twins) will be quite the reward for an excellent 2006 regular season. The thing is that the Yankees might've been easier in the first round because their starting pitching and bullpen depth isn't nearly as good as either the Tigers or Twins. But their offense is quite clearly in a league of its own (most runs, highest OBP in the AL).

Ultimately, no matter who the A's face it's going to be an uphill climb, but if I had my choice given the Santana factor (and freaking Morneau and Cuddyer), I'd rather face the Tigers in the first round. But that's like choosing whether you want to be hanged, drawn or quartered.