OAKLAND — Josh Donaldson mimics Miguel Cabrera whenever he can, and he has no problem copping to it.
Donaldson spent a couple of days each week over the offseason studying tape of Detroit's star in the batter's box, trying to pick up on anything he could apply to his own hitting for Oakland.
Indeed, Donaldson learned a thing or two that worked on the way to a breakout season: .301 batting average, 24 home runs, 93 RBIs in 158 games for the AL West champion Athletics.
"JD's the MVP of our team and Miguel Cabrera is the MVP of baseball," A's first baseman Brandon Moss said.
These two talented third basemen will face off in the playoffs for the second straight October starting with Game 1 of the AL division series Friday night.
One is a household name, 2012 Triple Crown winner and widely considered the best hitter in baseball. The other is more anonymous up-and-comer whose spectacular September in his first full major league season earned him AL player of the month honors.
Cabrera is making $21 million this season, Donaldson a mere $492,500.
"I've watched his videos a lot as far as a hitter," Donaldson said. "He's a highly talented hitter, and I really appreciate the way he goes about hitting and I try to learn from him at what he's doing. I feel he's one of the best hitters in the game that goes to right field, and what's helped me be able to take it to the next level this year is the ability to be able to hit it to right field. Watching him over the course of time has definitely helped me."
Cabrera was pleased to hear that Donaldson had studied his tape.
"Oh, that's great. That's awesome," Cabrera said. "He's a great player. He's one of the reasons the Oakland A's are in the playoffs. He brings a lot of energy to their ballclub. I think you'll see he can change the game with his bat but his glove, too."
And to think Donaldson had prepared to play catcher until he was called upon to fill in at third when Scott Sizemore went down with a season-ending knee injury at the start of spring training 2012.
Aside from much focus at third base, the rematch of last fall's first-round series takes on a far different look this time around. Cabrera, Prince Fielder and the Tigers have something to prove after being swept by San Francisco in last year's World Series, while the A's were hardly a surprise division champion this time and know how close they were to beating the Tigers and reaching the ALCS.
Max Scherzer (21-3) gets the ball opposite Oakland 18-game winner Bartolo Colon for the opener. Tigers manager Jim Leyland is going with Justin Verlander in Saturday's Game 2 against rookie Sonny Gray.
Verlander beat the A's in Games 1 and 5 last year.
That's still plenty fresh for both sides, but so is the A's late August visit to Comerica Park in which they took three of four on Detroit's home field.