Well, we’re within shouting distance of the playoffs now. There may be a bit of discouragement floating around an otherwise content Detroit Tigers fanbase, what with injuries to Miguel Cabrera and Jose Iglesias and with yesterday’s extra innings loss to the Minnesota Twins, but there’s still a good chance that this team, with the best collection of talent since the ’84 Tigers, can win the 2013 World Series. Why? Ten reasons worth (in no particular order):
1) Miguel Cabrera at 65% is still better than 90% of the major leagues – The Best Hitter of our Generation built upon last year’s Triple Crown season up until a myriad of small injuries began to take their toll. He is the near-unanimous choice for AL MVP (and voters would be wise to compare this season to Josh Hamilton‘s 2010 MVP season, where he basically missed all of September for a team that would go on to the World Series. And yes, I’m aware that Mike Trout and Chris Davis are unparalleled in their superiority, though both will finish their seasons this weekend…), and his blend of power, patience, and skill is nearly unmatched in the majors now that Albert Pujols is on the decline. One can easily imagine him sucking it up and destroying playoff pitching.
2) The pitching staff is unreal – look at it this way: Justin Verlander, 2011 Cy Young and MVP, is having a down year. His worst since 2008, really. How bad is he? Man, he’s got a 3.56 ERA, good for 18th in the AL, 205 K’s (fifth), and a 1.33 WHIP (25th). He has been the Tigers playoff ace in 2006, 2011, and 2012. This guy could possibly be the Tigers’ third starter this postseason. Third. When looking at a Game 1 starter, the Tigers have to choose between Cy Young candidates Max Scherzer and Anibal Sanchez. Doug Fister, who would be a Number 1 on two-thirds of the teams in the league, has to be the fourth starter, with Rick Porcello coming out of the bullpen. Aside from the Phillies (Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee) and the Giants (Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, Tim Lincecum) I can’t think of any team in recent memory as stacked with starting pitching as these Tigers.
3) Deceptively good bullpen – Joaquin Benoit has been everything we hoped for and more as a closer, Drew Smyly looks like a multi-inning stud, Bruce Rondon (9.42 K/9) and Jose Veras (8.66) throw gas, and when Al Alburquerque is “on” he’s nearly unhittable. There’s also Darin Downs as a LOOGY (.222 avg vs. left-handers) and Rick Porcello filling in as a long-reliever or a high-leverage pitcher. There’s a potential depth here that Tiger teams of the past haven’t had, and if used correctly, these guys serve as a sneaky-good collection of relievers that can come in and help quell a fire.
4) Prince Fielder and Victor Martinez have come around as viable power threats – Since his divorce became public, Fielder has been grinding away and raising his average, looking more like the coveted 4-hitter he was prior to this season. And Martinez? He’s gone on a second-half tear, hitting .366 with patience and power, looking like the coveted 4-hitter he was prior to last season. With both of them driving in runners and showing pop with Cabrera struggling (again, his “struggling” would still be most players “great years”), one has to feel much better about the Tigers’ offense going forward.
5) Jhonny Peralta returns – Say what you want about the guy, that he’s a cheater or worse, but when he’s in the Tigers lineup he adds yet another power dimension. Having the possibility of him coming off the bench to fill in at shortstop, third base, and potentially left field gives the Tigers incredible depth, allowing for more lineup possibilities and better ways to approach an opposing team’s pitching.
6) Omar Infante playing out of his mind – Playing for a new contract (which I completely take back what I’ve said previously about letting him walk – RESIGN THIS DUDE), Infante has been on a tear since August, stepping up in clutch situations and showing a fantastic chemistry with defensive wizard-genius Jose Iglesias. With his hitting abilities later in the order one has to wonder where the relief against this lineup is.
7) Someone has to pull a 2012 Playoff Delmon Young – After bungling away the regular season as a sham of a left fielder, Young caught fire in the playoffs, parlaying his 2012 ALCS MVP into a shiny new deal with the Phillies. Based on no real factual evidence, it just feels like a member of this squad can achieve that nearly out-of-nowhere dominant performance. Can you imagine Andy Dirks or Alex Avila (both of who have been hitting much better of late) turning it on inexplicably to help lead the Tigers’ offense? No? Use your imagination!
8) Home Field Advantage – The All Star game finally pays dividends for the Tigers with an American League win this season, giving the junior circuit home-field advantage for the first time since 2009. With a home record of 51-30, being able to play at Comerica Park to start a World Series would give the Tigers an edge they may not relinquish.
9) No Gene Lamont – Seriously, losing him as third base coach was addition by subtraction. I’ve never seen a more inept coach when sending or holding runners from third base. It defied logic.
10) They’re due – Again, based on no factual evidence, this team just seems due to win, from the aggressive “Win NOW” mandate from the top of the regime on down to the 1-8 combined World Series records from ’06 and ’12, this team just seems like they have to have some good fortune coming their way.
Do you agree? Think the Tigers can win it all this postseason? If so, make sure to take advantage now and grab World Series tickets before they come too pricey. And if they don’t make it? Well, at least you’ll get your money back.