Miguel Cabrera's pursuit of the first Triple Crown since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967 has overshadowed his team's pennant chase. With Cabrera leading the way, the Detroit Tigers are a team the other American League contenders are hoping to avoid.
The Tigers made it to the AL Championship Series last season before falling to the Texas Rangers, who are back again looking for their third straight trip to the World Series. If Cabrera has his way, the run will end at two.
As it stands now, with two days remaining in the regular season, "Miggy" leads all three Triple Crown categories. They aren't insurmountable leads, however, as he leads fellow MVP candidate Mike Trout by just four average points and Rangers star Josh Hamilton by one home run.
The most amazing thing about Cabrera's season has been his remarkable consistency, a trait that bodes well for Detroit's playoff hopes. He hasn't hit worse than .298 in any month and has hit at least seven homers every month besides May.
At first, Cabrera's greatness didn't translate to team success. On June 1, the Tigers were four games below .500 and six games behind the Chicago White Sox for the AL Central lead.
Considering the amount of hype they received heading into the season after adding Prince Fielder in the offseason to create the best power-hitting duo in the big leagues, the Tigers were one of the biggest disappointments at that point.
They have slowly worked their way back up the standings, finally clinching the division title and a playoff berth with a victory on Monday. Those early struggles are nothing but a distant memory at this point.
The Tigers will enter the postseason as one of the hottest teams in baseball after winning seven of their last 10 games, a mark matched by only the Oakland Athletics among playoff teams.
Detroit certainly has a roster good enough to cause a lot of problems for opponents, starting with Cabrera and Fielder in the middle of the lineup. Having two proven superstar run-producers to lean on is a rare luxury.
The lineup goes far beyond those two sluggers, though. The Tigers have also received a resurgent season from leadoff man Austin Jackson. Players like Andy Dirks and midseason acquisition Omar Infante would fall into the unsung-hero category. Both are capable of coming up with big hits.
Then there's Justin Verlander. Having a dominant ace like last year's Cy Young and MVP winner leading the rotation is a huge advantage, especially in the shorter Division Series.
He's joined in the Tigers rotation by Doug Fister, who's been on quite a roll of his own lately, and the underrated Anibal Sanchez. Max Scherzer had also been making progress in his attempt to return from a shoulder injury, according to Jason Beck of MLB.com.
When you add it all up, the Tigers are going to be a tough out once the playoffs start. They have a plethora of different players who can make a huge impact and the star power in Cabrera to carry them when other players are struggling.
Winning the Triple Crown would be a tremendous individual accomplishment for Cabrera, but he needs to keep his eye on the real prize, the World Series trophy.