With Tigers season in flux, the AL Central comes to the rescue


Less than a week ago, things looked pretty bleak for the Tigers.  They were mauled by the Mets and Giants, with only a gem by Justin Verlander and a late-inning rally last Sunday standing in the way of a six game losing streak.

Their trip out west to Los Angeles started bleak with Verlander losing a classic to Dan Haren and a lackluster team effort in rookie Charlie Furbush’s starting debut, only to win see them win the finale on a late inning Miguel Cabrera home run to avoid the sweep.

But, thanks to the schedule making gods, the Kansas City Royals and their inept rotation offered a mini-vacation before the break.  Granted, the Tigers haven’t rolled over the Royals in the first two game–and Jose Valverde’s performances likely caused Jim Leyland to switch back to Marlboro Reds from Lights–but they won behind a good effort from Max Scherzer in game one and a so-so effort by Rick Porcello in game two.  Two guys who need to continue pitching at that level for the Tigers to have a shot.

To start with this series in Kansas City, the Tigers have an enormously AL Central heavy schedule from here on out.  They’re 17-7 against the AL Central so far this year, by far the best of any of the teams intra-division.

They still have 50 games left against the AL Central.  If they play at the clip they’ve been playing against the AL Central and LOSE all their other 22 games…they’ll still finish over .500, at 83-79.

The Tigers match up with the AL Central very well.  The Tigers hitters struggle with very good to elite level pitching, which is alarmingly barren from the AL Central.  The only elite pitcher is on the Tigers.  Other than Justin Verlander, the AL Central only offers a couple of very good starters (Justin Masterson and maybe Phil Humber) and a collection of above average to average guys (Scott Baker, John Danks, Mark Buerhle, Carl Pavano, Josh Tomlin, Jake Peavy, Fransisco Liriano, etc.).  These are guys that the Tigers offense have and should continue to pound.

As for the Tigers starters, they’ve had their trouble overall but they’ve held up very well against the AL Central.  The Twins, White Sox and Royals don’t strike out much, but Rick Porcello and Brad Penny are among the tops in the AL at inducing ground balls which you’d expect would lead to good numbers against these teams.  They do.  Penny and Porcello are a combined 7-1 with a 3.00 ERA against those three teams.

Not to be outdone, the Tigers power arms (Verlander and Max Scherzer) are 8-0 combined against all AL Central teams with a 2.5ish ERA.  Verlander alone is 4-0 with a 1.125 ERA.

While it ultimately may not mean much, 24 games  is a pretty good sample size to say that the Tigers match up will the mediocre teams of the AL Central.  When you add to that fact that they won’t again see the two best teams in the AL (the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees) all signs point to the fact that the Tigers should end their string of second half collapses this year.

However, should and will are two completely different words.  You have logic on one side of the equation and history on the other–meaning we’ll have a fun second half to see which wins out.