Detroit Tigers: 5 Advantages the Tigers Have Over the Chicago White Sox
The Detroit Tigers are currently in a heated battle for the AL Central title.
Even though this was about the time last year where the Tigers ran away with the division, it doesn't look like that will be happening during 2012.
The White Sox are playing great baseball at this point, and they have no intention of relinquishing the one-and-a-half game lead they currently hold over Detroit.
While there is no doubt that this fight may well go down to the final week of the season, there are specific advantages that the Tigers currently have over the rival White Sox.
It is Detroit's job to recognize and thrive on these specific advantages.
Here are five of those advantages.
Better 3-4 Punch
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No disrespect to Adam Dunn and Paul Konerko, but there is absolutely no doubt that Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder are the best three and four hitters in all of baseball.
Cabrera and Fielder have a combined .321 batting average, with 192 RBI, 52 home runs, 111 walks and 126 strikeouts.
While they have put up decent numbers this season, Dunn and Konerko still fall short of matching the work of Detroit's dynamic duo.
They have a combined .262 batting average, with 140 RBI, 55 home runs, 134 walks and a whopping 233 strikeouts.
Cabrera and Fielder add a dimension to the Tigers that most other teams cannot fathom.
However, these two cannot be expected to simply carry the Tigers to a division championship; other players need to step up as well.
Better Starting Pitching
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Even though both rotations are incredibly similar in numbers, Detroit has the advantage when it comes to starting pitching.
Let's take a look at both team's main three starters: Verlander, Fister and Scherzer for Detroit and Peavy, Floyd and Sale for Chicago.
Here are how the numbers play out for each team's top three starters:
Detroit: 3.39 ERA, 454 strikeouts, 118 BB, 435.4 innings pitched.
Chicago: 3.43 ERA, 398 strikeouts, 119 BB, 446.1 innings pitched.
Due to the fact that these numbers are very comparable, it is important to look at everything.
First of all, there is no doubt that Justin Verlander is arguably the best pitcher in baseball today. Every time he takes the mound there is another chance for a no-hitter.
Doug Fister was showing improvement as of late until he was shelled for seven runs in Detroit's 7-5 loss to Baltimore on Sunday. However, there is no doubt that Fister will improve as the pressure mounts.
Max Scherzer is the dark horse of this rotation. He has the ability to get 10 or more strikeouts a game, but he can also fall very short and give up too many hits and runs. When Scherzer is focused, he is one of the best pitchers in the game.
Based on their current numbers and recent experiences, the edge has to go to Detroit's starting pitching.
However, there is no doubt that Chicago has great pitching and will battle until the end.
Better Offensive Outfield
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Even though it may be hard to recognize, the Detroit Tigers have one of the best outfields in baseball.
However, some of them have not lived up to their enormous potential.
They are led by Austin Jackson, who boasts an impressive 1.000 fielding percentage. Let's not forget he also holds a .308 batting average and may be in the running, if not leading, the AL Comeback Player of the Year award.
Other members of the Tigers outfield include the speedy Quintin Berry, a rejuvenated Andy Dirks and the power-hitting Brennan Boesch.
Even though Berry's numbers have gone down significantly since he was brought up to Detroit months ago, he is still a running threat on the basepaths and an above-average defender.
Dirks, who has spent a lot of the season on the DL, is back and contributing in a big way. He is hitting .330 and patrols the green of Comerica Park very efficiently.
The one player who really needs to turn it on is Brennan Boesch. He has not gotten a hit in his last six games, which must be troublesome to a team that is fighting for the division.
In my opinion, Brennan Boesch may be the X-factor for Detroit in their hopes to take the AL Central from the White Sox. On paper, this outfield is better than that of Chicago's, but now they have to play like it.
More Favorable Schedule
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One of the more positive advantages is that Detroit has a more favorable schedule in the final months of the season.
On the other side, Chicago will play 18 games against teams with losing records. However, they will have to play both the Los Angeles Angels and the surging Tampa Bay Rays in the final two weeks of the season.
Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of the schedule is that there are only seven games where both the Tigers and White Sox square off against each other; Detroit has only three home games and Chicago will have four.
The AL Central may come down to these seven games, which occur at the end of August and the middle of September.
Both teams will be hyped up for these critical games.
More Fan Support
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While I have never been to U.S. Cellular Field, I can only look at the numbers, comments and experiences that accompany the Detroit Tigers.
Currently, the Detroit Tigers rank seventh in attendance in all of Major League Baseball with an average of 37,863 fans per game.
However, the White Sox only rank 24th and average 24,432 fans per game.
It is hard to argue with the numbers here. Even though the White Sox are playing great baseball and are currently leading the AL Central, they are still behind Detroit in fan attendance by 13,431 fans per game. Why are Chicagoans not coming to watch their team try to win a division?
Secondly, people who play in Detroit say there is something different about Tiger fans. Anibal Sanchez, who was recently acquired from Miami, pitched his first game in Comerica Park on August 3.
He was taken out in the seventh inning after giving up eight hits, no earned runs and five strikeouts. As he was leaving the field, Sanchez was given a standing ovation from Tigers fans and had this to say to the local media about the feeling.
"That was really amazing, really amazing...I don’t have any comparison for that. When I throw my (no-hit) game in 2006, it’s not even like that. It’s a lot of people, a lot of fans, and a standing ovation is incredible. I feel like it’s something really new for me...It definitely feels like home...The best people, it feels amazing. I don’t have exactly words to express that, but the thing is amazing."
Finally, a game at Comerica Park is unlike any other. Fans are actively involved in every pitch, no matter the score. Tigers fans never give up on their team, and it is rare to see fans leaving early from any game, whether it be a guaranteed win or loss in the ninth inning.
There is a distinct passion for Detroit sports in Michigan, but there is something different about the Motor City Kitties. Emotions run high when it comes to the Tigers, and fans, whether local or national, are more devoted and supported than most.
Detroit will be looking to this fan support for a distinct advantage as they head into the final months of the regular season.