The Red Sox scored 5.27 runs per game this year, easily best in baseball. The Tigers were second with 4.91 after cooling off in September. Oakland was next in the American League, and the Tigers limited them to 3 runs per game in the ALDS. The Red Sox were sixth in home runs, but first in slugging percentage by leading the league in doubles. The Tigers' pitching can slow down the Red Sox like they tamed the A's. Let's look at the lineup and understand the challenge that lies ahead.
Jacoby Ellsbury will lead off. He produced a .298 batting average with a .355 on-base percentage and a .426 slugging percentage which makes him a top five center fielder. He missed three weeks in September with a foot injury and returned for the final three games of the regular season. He was 9 for 18 in the ALDS with four steals, so he appears healthy now. Keeping him off the bases, especially to start an inning, will be important. And he is left-handed, making the challenge even harder for the Tigers' all right-handed staff.
Shave Victorino bats second. He has historically switch-hit, though an injury kept him to the right side for a while this year. That is for the best, as historically he is better when facing a lefty. If he is batting left handed against the Tigers' starters, be encouraged. This year he hit .294 / .351 / .451 with excellent defense in right field, good enough for first place among right fielders in fWAR. He also steals over 20 bases a year.
Dustin Pedroia bats third. He is right handed which should take the edge off his .301 / .372 / .415 line for the season. But like Ellsbury, he is a top five second baseman, so he is trouble. He also steals about 20 bases a year.
David Ortiz bats cleanup as the designated hitter. His .309 / .395 / .564 triple slash line is his usual performance. Though I find that odd, since he is 37 years old. Big Papi was in decline in 2008 and 2009 but has resurrected his dominance. His strikeout rate which was in the high teens had climbed above 20%, but for three years now has been a career-best below 15%. But more contact has not resulted in a sacrifice of power, with 30 home runs again this year. Ortiz hits much better against righties, which is to his benefit in this series.
Mike Napoli hits fifth and plays first base. His necrotic hip did not slow him down as he hit .259 / .360 / .482 this year in line with expectations. His lower batting average is balanced by a high walk rate and 20 to 30 home runs a year. He did strikeout 32% of the time this year, versus 21% for Austin Jackson. And he is right handed, though with a weak platoon split, so the Tigers' starters should have an advantage here.
Jonny Gomes and Daniel Nava share left field. Gomes is an 11 year veteran with much more success against southpaws. Nava is a switch hitter with much better results from the left side. Expect to see mostly Nava and his .303 / .385 / .445 bat, though his weak defense and lack of speed renders him an average ballplayer.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia and David Ross share catching duties, with Salty getting most of the starts. Salty is a switch hitter with far better performance from the left side, an impressive .294 / .350 / .523 for 2013. David Ross has a .237 / .323 / .441 line as a right-handed hitter. And raise your hand if you knew that David Ross is a veteran of 12 major league seasons. Salty does strikeout in nearly 30% of his plate appearances, playing into the Tigers' strength.
Stephen Drew and Xander Bogaerts share shortstop. Drew hits from the left side and had his best season since 2010 hitting .253 / .333 / .443, while Bogaerts is the 20 year old phenom with only 50 career plate appearances. Together they provided Boston with enough confidence discard Jose Iglesias.
Will Middlebrooks bats last when David Ross is on the bench, and may be the only weak link in the lineup. Middlebrooks excelled in the minors and in his 2012 debut, but cooled off this year to .227 / .271 / .425. His 26% strikeout rate should hinder his performance against the staff with the most strikeouts in history. If he struggles, Xander Bogaerts may start instead.
Mike Carp is a strong bat off the bench, hitting .296 / .362 / .524 from the left side. He too has a high strikeout rate of 28%, and his 2013 season was atypical, but is a pinch hitter to be feared. At least he has historically hit right-handers a little worse than lefties.
Quintin Berry pinch runs, and we all know what he can do. The Red Sox steal bases and are rarely caught. The Tigers were working on preventing the running game in September, and this practice may pay off in spades.
While the A's were a good offense, the Red Sox are even better. They are the best test for the Tigers' pitching staff, and therefore the best opponent against which to demonstrate true dominance.