The Detroit Tigers currently sit as the eighth-best team in the American League, ten games behind Texas and with only a 30.2% chance of making the playoffs (http://espn.go.com/mlb/standings/_/group/5) as of September 12, 2012. However, they have one of the best chances in American League of reaching the World Series.
In the offseason, after losing DH Victor Martinez to a season-ending torn anterior cruciate ligament, 83-year-old owner Mike Ilitch, feeling the pressure of father time and a desire to win another championship, opened the team’s coffers for the largest contract in franchise history.
While still facing an uphill battle for division supremacy in the middle of the summer, the Tigers dealt some of their highest-rated prospects to the Miami Marlins for two more critical pieces. With less than three weeks remaining in the regular season, and still trailing in both their division and the wild-card standings, the Tigers are finally ready to begin their march toward another World Series appearance.
Here are the top five reasons why.
With sixteen games remaining, the Tigers trails division-leader Chicago by two games in the standings and other than a three-game series against the Oakland Athletics beginning September 12th, they face no playoff contenders for the remainder of the season.
Ten of their final 16 games are at home in Comerica Park, where their record this season is a spiffy 43-28 (.605 winning percentage).
The White Sox, however, face a much more challenging final three weeks of baseball.
Justin Verlander, the Detroit ace and arguably the best and most dominant pitcher in major league baseball, gives the Tigers a clear advantage anytime he takes the mound. Despite his recent struggles (at least by Verlander-standards) he remains capable of carrying a team deep into the regular season and beyond.
With 15 game winner Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello following him in the rotation and a strong bullpen anchored by the flashy Jose Valverde and Octavio Dotel, a standout reliever for last year’s World Champion Cardinals, the Tigers have the pitching experience to thrive down the stretch.
When the Tigers stunned the baseball world and gave Prince Fielder 214 million reasons to come to Detroit, he instantly gave the Tigers the most dynamic middle-of-the-order in baseball. Teamed with Miguel Cabrera, arguably the best overall hitter in baseball, they create a force to be reckoned with for pitchers and opposing teams. If one, or both, catch a hot streak the last three weeks, Detroit could be unstoppable.
The Chicago White Sox have led the American League Central through much of the season, but have been playing around .500 baseball since the beginning of August, signaling they may be running out of gas. A team with a rookie manager (Robin Ventura), offensive players that strike out way too much (Dunn) and pitchers who have never pitched successfully this deep into the season (Chris Sale, Addison Reed) could spell trouble for the south-side team.
All of the things that could propel the Tigers to overtake the White Sox in the final month of the season are all things that make them extremely dangerous in October in a short series. The Rangers, Yankees and Rays may be better overall teams, but none of them can match the tools of the Tigers—not the dominant, flame-throwing reliever AND two dynamic sluggers—which can overtake a short series and send the Tigers to the World Series.
Detroit still has an uphill climb, but Jim Leyland’s club has a legitimate chance to make history in 2012.