Why the Detroit Tigers Will Run Away with the AL Central
The Detroit Tigers have followed the same script the last two years.
They've gone into the season as heavy favorites to win the American League Central Division, but struggled along the way to make things interesting.
So far, this season is no different.
Although at times they've been the hottest team in baseball—and are threatening for the best record in the AL—the Tigers can't seem to completely shake the Cleveland Indians and runaway with the division.
With 22 games to go, however, the Tigers are 6.5 games up on the Indians and poised to break away from the pack and win the division with ease.
At the end of the regular season, the race won't even be close.
Here are the four reasons the Tigers will eventually run away with the AL Central crown.
Winslow Townson/Getty Images
Despite a dreadful performance against the Boston Red Sox on Wednesday, the Tigers have the best starting rotation in baseball.
With a 3.54 mark, Detroit's starting five have the best ERA in the American League, and with 67 wins, the rotation has the most victories in the major leagues.
Max Scherzer is the ace of the staff this season, boasting a 19-2 record and 2.88 ERA, and despite the recent struggles of Justin Verlander, the 1-2 punch of Scherzer and Verlander will be very difficult for opposing teams down the stretch.
Anibal Sanchez and Doug Fister, who are the Tigers No. 3 and 4 pitchers, would be first or second guys on almost every other team in the league.
Sanchez and Fister each have a 12-7 record and a better than average ERA.
While No. 5 starter Rick Porcello suffers the occasional blowup, he also has his moments of brilliance and will usually keep the Tigers competitive when he's on the mound.
Duane Burleson/Getty Images
The Tigers boast the best top-to-bottom offensive lineup in Major League Baseball.
Detroit is second in runs (5.05 per game), first in batting average (.285) and on-base percentage (.349) and second in slugging (.441).
The Tigers offense has struggled this week, managing only eight runs in their last four games, but their entire body of work this season proves they are among the best in the business.
The biggest pleasant surprise lately has been the emergence of Victor Martinez.
Martinez, who struggled to start the season, has destroyed the ball the past two months, boasting a .390 average in July and a .386 average in August. He's gotten his season average up to .295 and seems to be clicking on all cylinders as the Tigers head into the final stretch.
While Martinez and Miguel Cabrera have paced the Tigers, Omar Infante has given Detroit some stability at the back end of the lineup.
Since returning from a leg injury on August 12, Infante has averaged over .350 with three home runs and 11 RBI. He's helped turn the lineup over, taking some of the burden off the top of the lineup.
Duane Burleson/Getty Images
Miguel Cabrera, even playing at less than 100 percent, is the best hitter in baseball.
Dealing with lingering issues throughout the entire month of August, Cabrera still managed to put up monster numbers with a .356 average, 11 home runs and 31 RBI in the month.
Cabrera missed three games in August and has missed three of the four games in September, but the 30-year-old slugger hates to be taken out of the lineup and will continue to produce down the stretch.
The Tigers are 10-3 without Cabrera in the lineup this season, and given the amount of rest he's had in the last week, the defending Triple Crown winner should come back with a vengeance in the last three weeks of the season and help the Tigers spread themselves from the pack in the AL central.
Not Enough Cleveland Firepower
Leon Halip/Getty Images
Although the Cleveland Indians have put up much better of a fight than anyone expected when the season began, the Tigers will distance themselves from the Indians down the stretch simply because Cleveland doesn't have enough offense prowess.
The Indians are 74-65 and sit 6.5 games back in the division, but the team is seventh in the major leagues in runs scored, 16th in team batting average and 11th in on-base percentage and slugging.
The Indians haven't shown the ability to win consistently in the last several weeks, going 4-6 in their last 10 games, and losing 16 of their last 29.
The Indians don't have a single hitter that's batting over .300 this season, compared to the four that the Tigers have at the moment, and not a single Indians player has more than 17 home runs or 76 RBI.
Cleveland has a soft schedule down the stretch, but because they don't have anybody that can carry the team on their back and are inconsistent at best, they won't gain ground on the Tigers and will fall even further back in the division.