Detroit Tigers: Your Favorite Second-Place Team

Miguel Cabrera celebrates with teammates after hitting a fifth inning home run against the Baltimore Orioles. Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
Miguel Cabrera celebrates with teammates after hitting a fifth inning home run against the Baltimore Orioles. Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports /

The Detroit Tigers have been surging as of late and the club’s resurgence since May 8th has been well-documented.

Since that day, the  Detroit Tigers have gone 48-36, good for one of the better records in the American League, and have surged into second place behind the Chicago White Sox.

How Did We Get Here?

I ask myself this question every time I check the standings, which, as of late, has been quite often. The Detroit Tigers have been creeping up the rankings, picking off teams as they keep winning. The key lies in being better than the sum of their parts.

The Tigers sent a lone player to Colorado for the All Star Game this year-Gregory Soto. Soto is a great player but one pitcher who tosses one inning per game cannot make a team drastically better. The simple fact is, the Detroit Tigers are not loaded with stars. The team’s payroll is 23rd in the Major Leagues, and that includes Miguel Cabrera’s behemoth contract. There is young talent but many expected the results to not show up until at least next season. Instead, the team has come together and played its best baseball in recent years.

Players like Akil Baddoo, Kyle Funkhouser, Derek Hill, and Jose Cisnero have all had breakout seasons. Robbie Grossman, Miguel Cabrera, and Jonathon Schoop have been strong veteran presences in the clubhouse.

The team had a decision after the abysmal month of April: accept its losing ways and dwell at the bottom of the Major Leagues once again, or turn things around and inject life into the franchise for years to come. Thankfully, the squad chose the second option and the city has shown its support,   resulting in a 40% increase in ratings. The coaching staff has played a large part in the resurgence.

Pitching Coach Chris Fetter’s work has been highly regarded as one of the best in the league and he has schooled the young arms into being more efficient and effective starters. This Tigers team has made baseball in Detroit come alive again.

When Was the Last Time We Were Here?

The Detroit Tigers have not been in second place in the month of August since 2014. Seven Years. Let that sink in. Brad Ausmus was the manager. Steven Moya saw playing time. Joe Nathan saved 35 games. There have been many ups and downs since then, particularly a lot of downs. The team has finished near the bottom of the League for the past five years, which has led to the drafting of Casey Mize, Tarik Skubal, Spencer Torkelson, Riley Greene, and Jackson Jobe.

The organization and its fans have felt pain reminiscent of the early 2000s. The Tigers bottomed out in 2019, going 47-114, good for worst in the Majors.

Only 1.5 million fans showed up to the park that year, 3rd  lowest in the American League. The organization was in a sad state. Fast forward to this year, the Tigers are seeing some of their biggest crowds in years and there is a buzz around the organization.

Is It Sustainable?

Yes. The Tigers have proved they are capable of playing winning baseball over the last three months, going over .500 in each month. They are 7-3 thus far in August and have a chance to separate themselves from Cleveland with a three-game weekend series starting this evening.

If they can take 2 out of 3, the Tigers would be in a good position to ride the wave the rest of the season. The biggest concern for the club is that injuries take over but that storm has been weathered time and time again. The recent losses of Derek Hill and Akil Baddoo will surely hurt the team but true winning teams must have a “next man up” mentality. The young pitching staff continues to progress and there is increasing optimism about their futures. If the bullpen can continue making strides, this team will be dangerous and could play spoiler to a lot of teams in the stretch run.

Final Take

The Detroit Tigers will finish over .500 this season. This team plays must-watch baseball and has been one of the most fun teams in baseball over the past few months (in my biased opinion).

There is a youth movement in the organization that rivals anyone else’s and they all seem to be getting ready at the same time. Al Avila, just months after the fanbase was calling for his head, has created what might just be a perfect storm for the organization.

If you aren’t excited about Detroit Baseball, you might just be crazy.