Now that the Detroit Tigers look like a lock to win the AL Central (with a 97.3% chance of making the playoffs, according to ESPN), it’s time to ponder how they might fare in the postseason. While it would be fair to say that they aren’t exactly the favorite to win it all, I am confident that they have what it takes to capture the Commissioner’s Trophy in October. Here are five reasons why:
1. Justin Verlander.
He’s all but guaranteed to be named the AL Cy Young Award winner, and he has a realistic shot at being voted the AL MVP as well. He leads the league in a number of statistical categories, including strikeouts, wins, innings pitched, ERA, and WHIP. He’s also thrown a no-hitter this season. Verlander has won each of his last nine starts, giving up one earned run or less in five of those outings.
2. The rest of Detroit’s pitching staff.
These guys are better than they are given credit for. New acquisition Doug Fister (from Seattle) has a 4-1 record as a starter since joining the Tigers. He has an ERA of 3.17 and has walked just 35 batters all year (and only three since becoming a Tiger). Max Scherzer has a respectable 4.33 ERA and 14 wins. He possesses a deadly fastball, and he has won three of his last four decisions. Looking at middle relievers, Al Alburquerque has a 2.19 ERA, and both Joaquin Benoit and Daniel Schlereth have ERAs below 4.00. And then of course, Jose Valverde has been the most successful closer in baseball this season, with an incredible 41 saves in 41 opportunities, and a 2.54 ERA.
3. Miguel Cabrera.
He probably won’t be the AL MVP, but he deserves to at least be in the conversation. His .328 batting average is third in the American League. He has 26 home runs and 93 RBI, both of which put him in the AL’s top ten. Cabrera has been walked 92 times, which is second in the AL. He’s also ranked number two in both OPS and OBP.
4. The rest of Detroit’s batters.
Victor Martinez is batting .324. Jhonny Peralta is batting .305 with 18 home runs. Alex Avila is batting .299 with 17 home runs. Ryan Raburn has 18 home runs. Austin Jackson has 20 stolen bases and is batting .440 in September. Wilson Betemit is batting .290 as a Tiger, and Delmon Young is batting .300 since joining Detroit. You’re in pretty good shape when one of the weakest hitters in your lineup is former batting champion Magglio Ordonez.
5. Jim Leyland.
Yeah, he gets a lot of grief from Tigers fans, but he’s really an excellent manager. He’s taken teams to the World Series twice (winning once), has been named Manager of the Year three times, and has probably forgotten more about baseball than most major league managers will ever know. Mark my words: There will come a time in the not-too-distant-future when Tigers fans will look back at the Leyland era with the same fondness that they look back on the Sparky Anderson era today.