The Detroit Tigers Have Legitimate World Series Hopes
In the waning years of the Detroit Tigers’ AL Central dominance, the contrast between perception and reality has grown more clear, as desperation has become heightened.
Currently, Detroit sits in third place, at 32-30, following an eight game losing streak that has propelled the Tigers headlong into mediocrity, and face first into third place.
However, the difference between what this team appears to be, and what it can be, are two vastly different things.
Ask any number of Detroit faithful, and they will tell you that this is the end of a successful, yet disappointing run, which should result in a fire-sale, or the end of Brad Ausmus’ equally disappointing tenure as manager.
The reality is, this team is lucky. Despite that eight game run of heartbreaking futility, Detroit is just 3 1/2 games out of first place in their division. A division where no team, not even the defending American League champions, have been able to run away from a team that has largely been without Alex Avila, their starting catcher, Justin Verlander, one of their most prominent pitchers, Victor Martinez, the 2014 AL MVP runner-up, and Bruce Rondon, a promising, if not oft-injured reliever.
The Tigers’ chances at a playoff run are even better in the Wild Card race, where they sit just 1 1/2 games out of hosting the crucial one game playoff. Beyond that, they sit just half of a game behind the Blue Jays, even though Toronto has won 10 games in a row, and is second in the AL East.
This speaks prominently to Detroit’s chances at a World Series run if they can, in fact, make it to the playoffs. As it stands, the Tigers, at full health, are beyond capable of beating any American League division leader, or even one of those second place teams.
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And, while the regular season has been a showcase for the Tigers weaknesses, the playoffs would set the stage for the reigning AL Central champions to showcase their strengths.
Unlike Tigers teams of years past, this team relies heavily on speed and defense to win games, a model which helped AL Central rival, Kansas City, reach game seven of the 2014 World Series.
Under Brad Ausmus, in 2015, Detroit ranks first in the American League in fielding percentage (.988) and fewest errors allowed (28) as well as second in stolen bases (47). Anchored up the middle by Ian Kinsler, Anthony Gose, and Jose Iglesias, the Tigers would have the best defensive unit of any American League playoff team.
Detroit is just as potent on the offensive end, as well. The Tigers are first in the American League in hits (571), batting average (.274), on-base percentage (.335), and second in OPS (.746). Detroit boasts an unparalleled middle of the order that features Kinsler, Miguel Cabrera, the afore mentioned Martinez, Yoenis Cespedes, and J.D. Martinez.
However, there is no question that the Tigers are far from flawless. Dave Dombrowski has supplied Brad Ausmus with another putrid bullpen, and starting pitching woes unlike the Tigers have seen in some time. But, as Kansas City proved to the baseball world, speed and defense can fix a lot of mistakes. And against the likes of the Yankees, Astros, Rangers, Rays or Blue Jays, Detroit can make a run behind the strength of those two tentpoles.
That is, of course, if they can survive the regular season.