By no means do the Detroit Tigers have the American League Central locked up, as opposed to last month when they, um, did.
With just a half game lead over the Minnesota Twins, they may not even be the odds-on-favorite to win the division. But a Wednesday night win over the Chicago White Sox wraps up a series win over their division opponents, setting the Pale Hose six games back in the division and tumbling the magic number for the Tigers to make the playoffs down to five, with one-and-a-half weeks left in the season.
So there's a high probability this team makes the playoffs, even if it's the Wild Card. But even Wild Card teams have sported MVP candidates, although it's tough to separate an MVP candidate on this team since the entire lineup is consistently productive, as is the pitching staff.
But for the sake of arguments, let's go down the lineup of regulars and examine who has the best argument — not necessarily the best in the league, simply the best out of all Tigers — to be the American League MVP.
Placido Polanco? Great average, pretty good defense and a solid 2-hitter. It's also worth noting his shoulder injury coincided with the Tigers' lead shrinking.
Carlos Guillen? He's the only Detroit regular hitting at least .300. His on-base is nearly .400, his OPS is over .900 and he may wind up scoring 100 runs this season.
Curtis Granderson? He's the tablesetter. The leadoff hitter. He's got speed and defense. However, he strikes out more than Richie Sexson (Spit take.) Yep, he leads the AL in whiffs.
Ivan Rodriguez? The power numbers are gone (as is the pudge), as noted by his team rank in home runs (8th). At this stage in his career he's nothing but hustle and grit. He'll swing away or bunt, and can even steal a base on occasion (8 for 11 on attempts). Most of all, he calls a great game behind the plate with a young pitcher on the mound.
Magglio Ordonez? He's arguably the best overall hitter on the team, leading his teammates in hits and RBI. Plus you can't say no to that 'fro.
Craig Monroe? He's come into his own this year as the role of "clutch hitter." He's had a few big late-inning, game-winning shots against teams like the White Sox and Yankees. Also his 26 homers leads the team. His defense is adequate, he's by no means a great baserunner, but without his heroics this team would have lost a couple big games and would be in second place.
Brandon Inge? Wow. It's hard to go down to the 9-hitter and ask if he's the MVP. He has one fewer home run than Monroe (25) and makes a lot of errors at third base, but he has also made some absolutely amazing stops on balls that may have gone for doubles.
Through those seven everyday players, barely one person stands out. So let's look at the pitching to see if we can find an MVP:
Kenny Rogers? Well, those anger management classes worked. He currently has a 16-6 record, which would be his fewest amount of losses in a full season since 1999. The strikeout numbers are down, but so are the hits, walks, and ERA.
Jeremy Bonderman? He is without a doubt the oldest 23-year-old on the face of the planet. In his fourth full season, he's broke personal bests in innings, strikeouts, ERA, and win-loss record (13-8).
Nate Robertson? Sort of the forgotten starter on the staff. Despite his ERA being below 4.00, his run support is pathetic and his record shows it (13-12). He leads his team in losses yet has more quality starts than anyone else (19).
Justin Verlander? Okay, who the hell thought this man would win 10 games this year? Well, he has 16, going on 17. His ERA is the best among fellow starters (3.63) and ought to win Rookie of the Year.
And now we look to the bullpen:
Joel Zumaya? Anyone who throws a 102 mph fastball and — oh yeah — strikes out well over 10 per 9 innings is quite the setup man.
Todd Jones? He was a little shaky earlier this year, but he's saved 36 of 40. He doesn't strike out much, but he's walked only 9 batters all year. Nine. In over 57 innings. That's control.
Jason Grilli? But of course.
The point of this whole exercise is to show that while everyone has tried to find an MVP candidate for every good team — Derek Jeter (Yankees), David Ortiz (Red Sox), Jermaine Dye (White Sox), Justin Morneau (Twins), and Frank Thomas (A's) — few names have been thrown into the ring from the Tigers. Strike that, NO players have been mentioned. It's because the lineup lacks that one great batter you can pitch around. Plus, each of the four regular starters are carbon copies of one another.
But with the season Detroit is having, someone needs some MVP buzz. And all it takes is one person to begin the hype, so let's give it a shot here:
Kenny Rogers for MVP.Powered by Sidelines