In 2011 it was a run to the ALCS that fell short, leaving Detroit Tigers fans saying “There’s always next year.”
In 2012 it was a run to the World Series resulting in a sweep, yet again leaving fans saying, “There’s always next year.”
And to some extent, they are right. But now it is next year. And as the 2013 season winds down and the playoffs approach, the Tigers are pretty much locked in for an ALDS rematch with the Athletics, barring, of course, a collapse by the Red Sox and an epic surge by either Detroit or Oakland.
There are some fans who say “World Series or bust.” And some fans are saying “We’ll bust in the World Series.”
Which one is right? Well, they’re both right, to some extent. The former is more correct. This has to be the year. They’ve been so close, and it will be a huge disappointment if they don’t win a title this October.
The other, however could be correct, too. Just because this team is playing exceptionally well, and just because they’ve been so close the last two seasons, doesn’t mean they’ll win it all.
This team could easily get to the World Series and collapse like their last two appearances (1-8). That is, if the Tigers can even make it to the World Series.
Oakland will be no joke, as Detroit saw last year, as they almost let a 2-0 lead evaporate into early elimination (granted, there is no Jose Valverde to contribute to that this year).
Oakland has the fourth-highest run total in the AL in 2013, owns the fourth spot for most home runs, and the second-best team ERA. That can’t go without mentioning, though, that the Tigers rank second, fifth and third, respectively.
Meaning, while the Tigers own the best batting average and the most strikeouts, the A’s are right behind them in different aspects of the game.
And Oakland isn’t the only road block. There’s Boston, home of the MLB’s best record, and most of the stats’ top spots. And oh yeah, they’re pretty good in October (two World Series titles since 2004).
Rounding out the list of road blocks are Texas and Tampa Bay holding the top two Wild Card spots, and a flurry of other eligible teams in Cleveland, Baltimore, Kansas City and New York.
The point is, just because the Tigers have come so close the last two years, certainly does not mean that they’re just going to win it this year. It’s not that simple.
However, that does not mean they aren’t fully capable. They’re no doubt one of the best teams in baseball. Stats-wise, as previously mentioned, they have one of the best hitting lineups in baseball.
Guys like Miguel Cabrera (who unfortunately for all baseball fans will fall just short of a historical second-straight Triple Crown), Omar Infante, Victor Martinez and Torii Hunter pull the weight of the batting average, while Cabrera, Hunter and Fielder contribute to the RBI category.
Despite a “terrible” year from Justin Verlander, as some would say, the pitching rotation has been quite dominant. Max Scherzer’s 20 wins, Anibal Sanchez’s team-best ERA of 2.51 and consistency starting to emerge, have been able to compensate for Verlander’s down, but not “terrible” year.
With Jhonny Peralta returning from suspension for the last series of the year – in left field!? – and reliever Bruce Rondon finally starting to show some life, the Tigers can certainly make a push.
Expect this team to push it to the limit, and quite possibly make a run at the much-awaited glory of 1984, but do not – DO NOT – expect anything to be handed to them.