Friday, June 12, 2009

Tigers Politely Staying Near The Rest Of The AL Central Pack

The rest of their division is sleeping, and the Tigers aren't wandering off.

The AL Central, I thought, was going to be a nip-and-tuck, close shave the whole way. A three, maybe four team battle.

The Indians looked like the team to beat. Tells you how much I know.

The Twins are always hovering, thanks to that damned Metrodome.

The White Sox are defending champs, and they have handled the Tigers in recent years.

The Royals, to me, looked improved--a good pitch, no-hit team but pitching is the name of the game, right?

The Tigers?

I had them around 90 wins--which didn't endear me as a very smart man to a lot of folks.

The pitching, they said, was supposed to be awful. The bullpen would be positively heinous.

Hold up, I countered. They play 162 games on the field, not on paper, for a reason.

Things aren't always what they seem, I reminded the doubters.

I whiffed on the Indians, but I've pegged the Tigers pretty good. So far.

But the Detroiters aren't getting off scott-free here.

This division, it's turning out, is so for the taking that you can practically see the GET OUT OF JAIL FREE card lying on the ground and the Tigers stepping right over it. No team is playing particularly well. This is evident in the won/loss records, which show only Detroit playing on the north side of .500.

Oh, if the Tigers could only hit with any consistency! This race would be over with by now.

Curtis Granderson, the fleet centerfielder who has been dared mentioned in the same sentence as the words "potential MVP", is slamming home runs at a career-high pace but is hitting a very pedestrian .259.

Magglio Ordonez, The Incredible Shrinking Man, is a cleanup hitter performing like Eddie Brinkman.

Marcus Thames, strong as a bull, has been injured most of the season. Same with deft switch-hitter Carlos Guillen.

Placido Polanco, no stranger to batting averages that resemble weights of offensive linemen, is muddling along in the .250s.

The catcher, Gerald Laird, has already authored slumps of 0-for-18 and 2-for-27. You need a microscope to find the BA of his backup, Dane Sardinha.

Only Miguel Cabrera, whose name you don't dare NOT mention as an MVP candidate, has been a consistent threat all season.

But the Tigers can pitch, to the tune of the best ERA in the American League, and that's why they're pulling away ever so slightly in the AL Central.

The chance is still being missed, however.

The Tigers could be walking away with this thing, making a mockery of the divisional race, if they had gotten their act together offensively by now.

It's a peak-and-valley sort of attack. But mostly valley, and that's why the Tigers have relied so much on their pitching to give themselves chances to win.

The Royals, who sprinted out of the gate because of starting pitching, are in their familiar last place position because the hitting stayed moribund while the pitching cooled off.

The Tigers have been better offensively than Kansas City, but not much. And they'll need to improve, lest they put too much pressure on their arms.

"The big boys have got to get it going," manager Jim Leyland said last weekend. "I'm starting to get a little worried."

It's nice to worry from the perch of first place. But the Tigers could be so far afield from the rest of the bunch that they'd have little to worry about, period.

The AL Central is snoozing, and the Tigers are sticking around. How nice of them.


Blogger Michael David said...

I'd like to see Granderson back at the leadoff spot. I think he's most comfortable there. Inge has been touch and go, but a nice improvement from the last two years. Clete Thomas is always a welcome face in the lineup, too.

11:36 AM  

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