At 64-57, the Detroit Tigers continue to stumble their way through the 2012 season with only one stretch of dominant baseball on their resume. What’s worse is that the Tigers failed to take advantage of the Royals sweeping the division leading White Sox this past weekend. As a result, the Tigers remain 1.5 games out of first place in the modest AL Central.
With 41 games left on their regular season schedule and a ton of AL Central action on the docket, the Tigers will certainly have their opportunity to make the playoffs for a 2nd consecutive season.
The Tigers get an off day on Monday to figure out how to jump start the engine. In the meantime, I look at the reasons why the Tigers will not only make the playoffs this year, but win the whole stinking thing.
Note: I will follow this up shortly with 7 reasons why the Tigers won’t win it all in 2012. Click here for that story.
- Miguel Cabrera. There simply isn’t another player in baseball that I’d rather have with a bat in his hands and the game on the line than #24. The part that I find funny is that a lot of people are looking at this as some kind of a breakout year. This is nothing new people. At this same point in 2010 he was hitting .340 with 31 homers and 101 RBI’s. Right now he’s at .331 with 31 and 104. I think the local media has been getting all hot and bothered about it to aid in building his MVP case, which I’m ok with. Regardless, this is guy is so good that he is one of a few players across the league that has the ability to put a team on his back and take them the distance.
Prince Fielder. This isn’t a Batman and Robin scenario. This is like Ironman and the Incredible Hulk teaming up in Avengers. Fielder has crossed league lines and performed like he always does, perhaps even ramping it up a few clicks. He’s hitting .309 (his career best is .299) with 22 homers and 88 RBI’s. Together, he and Cabrera form the most ruthless combo of destruction in all of baseball. Come October, if the Tigers are dancing, and with these two in the mix they should be, opposing pitchers will quiver.
- Justin Verlander. One surprising thing that I like is that he isn’t pitching his best baseball right now. He looked to be fighting himself hard in Friday night’s start. Verlander is as competitive as they come. With the finish line nearing expect him to elevate his game in a big way. Furthermore, Verlander hasn’t been quite as special this year as compared to last. The stats aren’t far off but he was on an undeniably magical regular season run in 2011. Come playoff time he wasn’t pitching his best baseball. In 4 postseason starts last year he had a 5.31 ERA and 1.43 WHIP. An argument exists that he ran out of a little steam. This year, with his current trends in mind, he can build up a nice rate of speed and then drop the hammer come playoff time. All in favor say “aye”.
- The law of averages. With the exception of one July hot streak the Tigers have just been plain average. A team with this kind of firepower can’t stay level forever, can they? Most experts had them winning around 95 games before the season’s first pitch. Are the Tigers pulling the ultimate sandbag job? It won’t take much of a run to bury the White Sox and Detroit will have plenty of head-to-head chances to do it.
- Schedule. The Tigers’ last 13 games of the regular season are against the Twins and Royals. In the Sox’ last 13 they get the Angels, Cleveland twice, and the Rays. Advantage: Tigers.
- They’ve been there before. It’s the old Barry Sanders touchdown dance mantra. Act like you’ve been there before, because you have. The Tigers and all of their coaches were in the playoffs just one year ago. Chicago was not. Robin Ventura has never managed during a pennant chase or any other kind of chase for that matter. When the Tigers flew home from Texas after dropping the series-clinching game to the Fightin’ Nelson Cruz’s in the ALCS last year they didn’t hang their heads. They refocused and set course for 2012 right away. They want it, whether their laid back demeanor or so-so play makes it apparent or not, they do.
- Health. Name one key player who is fighting the injury bug right now. Did somebody just say Ryan Raburn? OK, you’re dismissed. The Tigers are healthy. They aren’t as old as they were a year ago either when they were by and large banged up throughout their playoff run. If the Tigers can collectively stay off the trainer’s table then things should start to roll downhill a little bit for this team.