The odds of the Tigers actually failing to win the AL Central or failing to make the playoffs are tiny – despite the unpleasantness of an extra-inning loss to the mediocre Twins. If the Tigers lose their remaining five games and the Indians and Rangers run the table, the Tigers would find themselves in a “game 163″ against Texas for the second wild-card spot (provided the Rays also won 5 of their remaining 6). That’s the worst that could happen, and it looks awfully unlikely.
Unfortunately, it also looks pretty unlikely that the Tigers catch Oakland for second best record in the American League – for that honor the Tigers trail by 3 with 5 games to go. So long as Oakland wins 2 of the 5, it’s impossible – Oakland won the season series against the Tigers 4 games to 3. The Tigers can’t tie Oakland in wins and get to start the ALDS at home. What we’d have to see is the A’s either win zero games with the Tigers winning at least 4 or the A’s win 1 games while the Tigers win all 5. If we assume that both teams have a roughly 50-50 chance to win any individual game, there’s about a 3.1% chance that the A’s will lose all 5 and a 3.1% chance that the Tigers win all 5. There’s a 15.6% chance that the A’s lose 4 of 5 or that the Tigers win 4 of 5. Combine those and we get approximately a 1% chance overall that the Tigers wind up with a better record than the A’s do. Not as small as their chances of missing the postseason, but tiny.
So… everybody continue planning to meet Oakland in the ALDS and give up hope of starting the series at home. That much is just about etched in stone – with both teams more or less free to adjust their rotations as they see fit to get the guy they want starting game 1. You’d imagine that it would be Bartolo Colon for Oakland whose 17-6 record and 2.64 ERA look good enough to put him in the Cy Young race. I imagine a prime topic of discussion here and elsewhere will be who the Tigers pick for that honor – and I honestly don’t have a clue. Verlander has been the Tigers 3rd best starter this season, by the numbers, but Jim Leyland is not a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately kind of manager. By the numbers, the Tigers best starter has been Anibal Sanchez – even if the 3 weeks he missed keeps him out of serious Cy Young contention – due to his success in keeping the ball in the yard. All 3 (including Scherzer) have been very good on the road this season – the team as a whole has an ERA a third of a run higher at home – so the fact that the ALDS game 1 starter could pitch twice on the road won’t be a relevant concern. The reason that the Tigers have won so many more games at home is solely due to the weak road offense.