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Detroit Tigers Right to Choose David Price, Pitching Upgrades in Baseball’s Literal Arms Race

August 1st, 2014 at 9:57 AM
By Max DeMara

It used to be that chicks dug the long ball, but could that phrase be shifting? Might chicks finally be forced to dig the heater? If the Oakland Athletics and Detroit Tigers are any indication, that answer is a certain yes.

Both Oakland and Detroit gave up pieces from their lineup to upgrade their pitching staff with elite arms. Yoenis Cespedes and Austin Jackson were a few players capable of hitting the long ball and driving in runs, but each were eventually traded for pitching.

Isn't that a risky proposition for the Tigers, a team which leads the league in batting average yet routinely fails to plate enough meaningful runs to win lately? Won't the A's miss Cespedes thumping in the middle of their order even after turning to Jon Lester?

In the short term, that could be true, but as most baseball savants know, pitching always wins in the playoffs. Dave Dombrowski, a veteran of many such baseball wars, knows that as well. While acknowledging that teams have to get to the postseason first, Dombrowski believes having the pitching can drive winning. "Against good pitching, offense is tough to come by, and that's what you face against good clubs," he said.

Now, with David Price, the Tigers have that additional guy. Adding Price to the mix with Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander, Anibal Sanchez and Rick Porcello gives Detroit a formidable rotation down the stretch. In the playoffs, given the proven track record of Verlander and Scherzer, having Price will only figure to help more. Even though his playoff numbers are shaky (5.06 ERA, 1-4 record),  pitching with a complete team like Detroit could turn that around in a hurry.

How far can pitching take a team in the postseason? Ask the Boston Red Sox, who struggled through the 2013 ALCS with a horrible team batting average, yet won in the end thanks to their solid starting pitching and bullpen. Ask the Athletics, who had the Tigers on the brink of elimination only to watch Scherzer wiggle out of major trouble in game four's eighth inning and Verlander pitch like the postseason ace he remains in a winner-take-all game five.

Hitting comes and goes, but shaky pitching will always get a team eliminated quickly in the playoffs, while solid pitching can help prolong the run of even the worst offensive team. Who would have thought the Tigers, with heavy-hitting Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez and Prince Fielder, would be eliminated by the Red Sox, who couldn't score a lick.

"Getting the opportunity to add a guy like Price doesn't come along very often, he's that good," Dombrowski said. "I think it gives us a better chance to win." Additionally, Dombrowski noted confidence in choosing Joakim Soria to help a struggling bullpen along.

Is there a new arms race brewing between the Tigers, Athletics and Angels? Even if it seems obvious, Dombrowski will never admit it himself. "They got good clubs, but we're built to try and go for it," he said regarding the slew of moves each team made leading up to the trade deadline.

Any more, going for it starts with literally arming yourself with the weaponry needed to have plenty of October battles. In Price, the Tigers got the most capable, electric arm on the market.

Long ball, schmong-ball.

Max DeMara is the editor of @tigers_101. Follow the site there on Twitter, or like it on Facebook to connect with him.

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Tags: Anibal Sanchez, Austin Jackson, Baseball, Dave Dombrowski, David Price, Detroit, Detroit Tigers, Jon Lester, Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, MLB, Oakland Athletics, Yoenis Cespedes

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