Much has been made of the Tigers’ “inconsistent” play as of late, as well as the fact that they aren’t in first place in a “weak” division.
This is all irrelevant. Or, unwarranted rather. The Tigers have, if not the best, then one of the best records in the league since the end of June.
The division is another thing entirely. Yes, the Tigers sit two games out of first place Chicago, but on the year, Detroit has a 7-5 record against the Sox. That’s tied for the most wins the Tigers have against any other club this year. The other two teams the Tigers have seven wins against are Minnesota and Kansas City, which Detroit is a combined 14-6 against. Which brings us to this point, of the 40 games left, twenty six of them are against those teams. Six more of those scheduled games are against the Angels, who Detroit has won three of the four meetings with this year.
So add it all up, and the Tigers, if all goes as it has been going, should end up with the division title. This would in turn remove them from the wildcard-playoff-shtick.
I say shtick for this reason. There has been talk, even pieces were written about it, that the Tigers are the best positioned team for a one-game playoff in a wild-card situation. And while it’s great that, obviously, Justin Verlander gives the Tigers amazing odds in a one-game scenario, I really don’t want to see that happen. I want to see the Tigers win the division and bypass the whole thing completely. You see, if Verlander wins the one-game playoff, then he’s probably unavailable for game one of the division series. He probably won’t be ready until game four or five if necessary. And while I have complete and utter faith in Doug Fister in game one, it seems like the better move is to use Verlander in the first game. You get the momentum going for not only the series, but the playoffs as a whole (This is assuming he wins, which he will). Not to mention everyone feeds off the fact that they won game one and stand a good chance to win game two.
One other thing here, isn’t it refreshing that the wild card is wide open? There is no more of this “whoever doesn’t win the AL East between the Red Sox and Yankees will automatically take the wild card berth.” It’s wide open. Oakland could win it. The Rays and Orioles are in it. The Angels aren’t out of it completely. Then there’s the loser of the AL Central race (cough, cough Chicago cough, cough) as well.
A couple more logs for the fire-
One, the division is much better than people thought. Hence why the Tigers are not in first place, yet. I’ll begrudgingly admit that the White Sox are somewhat relevant contenders. (The planning of this part of the post made this area looked jam packed with info when Cleveland was still somewhere near treading water. They’re obviously not. They have sunk fast and are out of it. Hence this paragraph is on the smaller side of things.)
So that’s that. Moving on. This is eerily similar to last year. I know the Tigers have been a bit melancholy with their state of play as of late, but it’s starting to feel like last season. You know the part where they went on the ridiculous run to clinch their division before any other contender could even think about taking their bottles of champagne out of the fridge.
And we get to the biggest log of them all, Miguel Cabrera. The MVP. See, I agree with Jim Leyland. Cabrera might lose out on the award for the most valuable player because of Mike Trout’s whole “wonder boy” factor. Trout has been good, no one is denying that. We’ve seen the impact he’s made. He came up a bit after opening the year in the minors and immediately made the Angels visibly better. Albert Pujols started to hit like himself and the rest culminates to where we are now.
But here’s the case for Cabrera.
First off, last year he had a pretty good season, relatively speaking – he hit 30 bombs, drove in 105 runs. He hit .344 and led the league in that regard. He also led the league with a .448 OBP. There is also the fact that he had an astronomical nineteen more walks then strikeouts. All of that was in 161 games played.
Well this year he’s played 121 and has one more homerun and one less RBI. His offensive numbers are good from an entire season’s standpoint, but he still has at least 30-40 games left in him to do more.
The almost decisive argument between the two has been defense. Trout has a stellar .343 batting average and steals a lot of bases, but other than that he hasn’t done anything that should warrant anything more than a Silver Slugger offensively.
It’s all about the glove, and the general perception is that Cabrera isn’t a great defender.
Miggy leads all American League third baseman in games started, games played, complete games, innings played in the field and putouts.
I know that all those numbers are due to the fact that one, Cabrera is the Tigers’ best bet at the hot corner (duh), and that they need his bat in the lineup, so he’s always in the game. And (pauses to catch breath) he gets more defensive opportunities in the infield than Trout, or any other outfielder does. But the point is that he gets it done. He also doesn’t lead the AL in errors, that distinction goes to Brett Lawrie, and has the third highest fielding percentage among third baseman with 90 games played this year. Stats like fielding percentage, slugging percentage, things like that generally get thrown out in this day-and-age thanks to all the wonderful advanced stats, but these things are still relevant. Somewhat at least.
No more “wonder boy” talk show fodder, barring a late season collapse or injury, chalk up the MVP to the Tigers’ third baseman.
The last imaginary hater to quell here is the one yelling about the Tigers lack of pitching depth.
The two areas that are generally questioned are the other starters behind Verlander and the bullpen.
First off is the rotation. Max Scherzer seems to have put himself past the Jekyll-Hyde-AJ-Burnett comparisons. He’s right there with his teammate, Verlander, in the wins category. He leads the league with a monstrous 11.389 strikeouts per nine innings. And also sits one-two with the reigning Cy Young winner in terms of strikeout leaders in the American League.
We also have Doug Fister, who, if you’ll kindly revert your memory to last season’s eerily similar stretch run, posted a can’t-be-stated-enough 8-1 record with 57 strikeouts to five walks in 11 starts. Barring the ugly start against the Orioles, which was partly due to an injury, Fister was putting up numbers that were not too far off from those of last year.
And last is the bullpen and crowd pleaser (only for Detroit fans, looks innocently dumbfounded , I’m not sure why other fan’s don’t like him) Jose Valverde. I’m bypassing Phil Coke, Joaquin Benoit, Brayan Villarreal and friends because everyone knows they’re elite setup men. No point in making other teams and fans feel bad because their bullpens aren’t nearly as good.
Back to Papa Grande.
The general consensus is that he hasn’t been as good this year. Which is partly true, but not really. He has experienced the tiniest of declines, but I think people are getting too caught up on the fact that he was perfect last year. No one is perfect twice in a row, and the fact remains that Valverde gets the job done better than most.
The man is a workhorse. He gets the job done for his team. He’s tied for second among all relief pitchers in terms of appearances in which he is pitching on zero days’ rest. The leader there is one Joel Peralta, who, I’ll remind you, is not a closer. Thus Valverde is tied for the lead among all closers in appearances pitching on no days’ rest.
Overall a 23-27 record of saves converted isn’t all that bad. I’m sure 9 out of 10 managers would kill to have a closer who converts 85 percent of his saves.
The Tigers have pitching. Put it to bed.
So if I passed kindergarten math, the Tigers have been consistently good, they will make the playoffs, they have this year’s MVP and they have tremendous pitching depth. So that adds up to… (thinks intently) the kindergarten comment being irrelevant.
The Tigers are good. Get used to it haters.