The Detroit Tigers have been one of baseball's biggest disappointments almost halfway through the season. Although no one would have thought they would disappoint to this extent thus far, the Tigers are far from out of the race.
Yea, I understand that the race isn't even half over yet, but some experts have been giving up on this team that, at times this season, looked as if there were no fight in them. They have looked like a defeated ball club night in and night out.
Nevertheless, this team will turn things around and the past three weeks have been a good indication of that.
There are many reasons that this team should not and will not be written off at this point in the season and I will point out that winning the division is not nearly out of the question with these reasons.
The Past Three Weeks
Although the team hasn't made up much ground in the standings, the Tigers have won five out of the last seven series and have a record of 14-9 since June 8. This may not seem like an astounding feat, but with the way the season was going, this is a huge step for Detroit.
Prior to winning the series against the Cincinnati Reds on June 10, the Tigers hadn't won a series since May 27—a two week drought. Even more miserable, before their series victory on May 27 against Minnesota, they hadn't won a series, let alone two games in a row, since April 18.
These early season numbers have been very alarming for the Tigers, seeing as they were the early season favorite to win the Central Division and possibly the American League.
The bats have also perked up a bit lately and the pitching has been more impressive since losing the series at Pittsburgh just a week ago.
There's no doubt that the team has started to play better in the past three weeks, but there is no way that they have reached their full potential and the second half of the season will prove that.
The Upcoming Week
I know that one week can't make up for a whole season of disappointment, but the upcoming week looks to be in the Tigers' favor.
They play two division foes: Minnesota and Kansas City. Both of these teams are behind the Tigers in the division standings and look to be the permanent cellar teams in the Central Division in 2012. Detroit has played well against these teams this season, going 3-2 against Minnesota and 4-1 against Kansas City thus far.
With a 7-3 record combined against these two division rivals, the Tigers look to improve on that record this week with a four-game series against the Twins followed by a three-game series against the Royals.
This is a very winnable week for the Tigers, and if they could win even five out of seven games, they have a chance to go into the all-star break with a winning record and a second-place position in the division.
The Hot Bats
There is no way around it, the Tigers bats have been heating up as of late and could be the key for Detroit the rest of the way.
Detroit has scored more than five runs in six out of the past seven games, a feat that seemed impossible for the first two months of the season. The Tigers seemed to be an underachieving offensive team that lacked any sense of urgency with the bat.
They were struggling to hit and it was becoming an issue for the team that looked to be the best offensive team in the league prior to the season.
Granted, a year ago today the Tigers were 44-39 and having no trouble scoring runs, but the team this year has more potential to be great than last year's team.
The Tigers have five guys hovering around the .300 mark in batting average and that is a good sign for the ball club. Andy Dirks is one of those guys and he has been on the DL for over a month. Once he comes back, they will have more bats than they will know what to do with, a problem any team would kill to have. The Tigers will hit, and when they do, they could be the most dangerous team in the MLB.
MVP, Cy Young and all around great guy. He has what it takes to give Detroit a win every fifth day. You won't find a more dominant starting pitcher in all of baseball when he's on his game.
There is no doubt that Justin Verlander is the Tigers' MVP even though his numbers haven't been Verlander-like as much this year as they were last season.
Let's not get things mixed up, Verlander has been great this season so far with an 8-5 record and a 2.69 ERA. He's also leading the American League in strikeouts as well with 121 in 123.2 innings.
These numbers are great, but Verlander has not looked quite like himself since his no-hit bid on May 18 against Pittsburgh. He took a no-hitter into the ninth inning with one out and he surrendered a weak single into center field, ending his historic night with one hit. Since that electric night, Verlander has allowed an earned run in every start and has given up three or more earned runs three times.
For an average starter, these numbers would be great, but Verlander would be the first to tell you that he hasn't pitched up to his standards lately. Verlander is the guy that the Tigers want to see on the mound and when he is, there is a pretty good chance he will get the W.
Look for Verlander to improve his record in the second half of the season and if I were a betting man, I would bet that he would approach 20 wins by the end of the season.
Who Will Win the AL Central?
Weak Central Division
Coupled with the fact that it's only halfway through the season, the Central Division's lack of strength has been well-documented.
The Chicago White Sox are in the lead right now with a record of 42-37 with the Indians just one and a half games back with a record of 40-38. The Tigers are a close third place with a record of 39-40 and it has seemingly been a three-team race so far.
Although the top two teams have a winning record, this is the weakest division in the American League. In fact, the division-leading White Sox would find themselves over five games behind if they were in either the American League East or American League West. This just proves that this division is up for grabs and with the top two teams failing to pull away, the Tigers have more than a fighting chance to win the Central Division in 2012.
It is far too early to write this potent Tigers' team off for the 2012 season and the second half will prove that Detroit is for real. This might be a bold prediction given the disappointing start of the season, but the Tigers will win the Central Division in 2012 by at least four games.