Jun 19, 2014; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers left fielder Rajai Davis (left to right) right fielder J.D. Martinez (28) and center fielder Austin Jackson (14) celebrate after the game against the Kansas City Royals at Comerica Park. Detroit won 2-1. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
By now it’s clear a new reality has settled on Tigers baseball. And fans have had time to adjust to it. No 105 wins. No cakewalks to the Central Division title. No sweat free summer. But there are still scores of reasons to watch the Tigers. Here are some.
*If the season ended today the Tigers would still be in the playoffs, as a Division winner
*After finishing a stretch in which they went 9-20, it’s shocking yet comforting that the above is true.
*Two weeks ago the Royals season was wheezing along. One hot streak and they moved into first. The hot streak Royals are unlikely the Royals henceforth.
*For the rest of the Central see the Royals.
*Despite all of the howling about the offense, the Tigers are still quite productive by league standards. Detroit is fourth in runs per game and second in OPS.
*The rotation has been a mess. But the main culprits in its decline are Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer, two of the last three Cy Young winners. Scherzer just seems a case of slight regression. No reported injuries and his stuff remains strong. This isn’t Jeremy Bonderman in 2008. Verlander’s issues appear more problematic, but he is still capable of reaching 97 and, although an offseason injury may be a factor in his struggles, he will not continue to allow five plus runs a game. Fix his mechanics and command, two things that he could straighten out in a hurry, and Verlander should be effective again, maybe just not as dominant. But once again this isn’t Bonderman 2.0. Good but not great is good enough.
*No matter what happens the Tigers will hang in the thick of the chase for a playoff spot. Division. Wild Card. Who cares.The Tigers are just too talented and the rest of the American League just too pedestrian for the Tigers not to. Those who followed the Tigers from 1989-2005 can appreciate the significance of meaningful baseball in the fall.
*Dombrowski has a history of trying to improve the team midseason, and he usually succeeds.
* The time to cut and run on aging, ineffective veterans draws ever closer. One of the toughest jobs managers and GMs face is when to cut ties with a veteran struggling. Torii Hunter and Joe Nathan have been given the extra time former great players are usually given to stave off Father Time. Either they improve or they lose playing time—or worse.
*The last time the Tigers had two prospects in the majors showing real hitting potential who are 22-years old or younger was….? I went back more than thirty years and couldn’t find any duos comparable to Nick Castellanos and Eugenio Suarez, two position players with strong batting records in the minors starting for the Tigers in the same year. Trammell and Whitaker, 19 and 20 respectively, may be the last. Neither may prove to be long-term answers. But not to be overwhelmed in the majors at such a tender age bodes well.
*Cabrera is still worth the price of admission.
*So is Victor.