The 2013 Detroit Tigers are a month away from postseason baseball, an excellent bet to repeat as American League champions and a marquee attraction for Major League Baseball's broadcasting plan down the stretch of the season.
Part of that allure: Star power.
From Justin Verlander to Prince Fielder to Torii Hunter, the current version of the Detroit Tigers are one of the most recognizable groups in recent memory.
When the 2013 season awards are rolled out in early November, they might add some hardware, along with a possible World Series title, to their showcase.
For the first time in the history of the sport, a team could house the league MVP, Cy Young winner and Rookie of the Year. Before you scoff at the notion of the trifecta, consider the claims to the awards by Miguel Cabrera, Max Scherzer and Jose Iglesias, respectively.
First, of course, resides Miguel Cabrera atop the sport and the American League. While a very, very good argument can be made that Mike Trout is baseball's best all-around player, Cabrera is a virtual lock for the league MVP.
Despite the unlikelihood of a Triple Crown repeat, Cabrera has been significantly better in 2013 than 2012. His OPS, OPS-plus, home run, RBI, and strikeout-to-walk numbers are all either superior or in line to surpass the MVP campaign of 2012. Despite the greatness of Mike Trout, it's hard to imagine the same writers who voted Cabrera last season having a change of heart when he's improved.
Furthermore, the notion of giving the award to a player on a winning team fits Cabrera again. While Mike Trout's team is headed for another season without October baseball, Cabrera's Tigers are on the path to the postseason.
On the mound, Scherzer has surpassed 2011 MVP/Cy Young winner Justin Verlander as the current ace of Jim Leyland's staff. While his 19-1 record may hearken back to old-school Cy Young voting and archaic thinking, his peripheral numbers, or, in other words, the numbers that actually matter when valuing individual players, work in his favor as well.
With apologies to Yu Darvish and Chris Sale, the AL Cy Young battle looks to be a two-horse battle between Seattle's Felix Hernandez and Scherzer.
If Scherzer's gaudy win total (19 to 12) was all that separated him from the former Cy Young winner, the possibility of all three awards in the Motor City would be far-fetched. A quick look at the numbers shows a very close battle, with Detroit's star earning the upper hand.
While Felix now leads in Fangraphs' WAR (5.8-5.4) and innings pitched (194.1-183.1), Scherzer is sporting a lower ERA (2.90-3.01) and a higher K/9 rate (9.87-9.26).
With Scherzer two starts behind (29-27), pitching Tuesday and Hernandez leaving Monday's start with back cramps, according to MLB.com, there's an excellent chance that Hernandez's lead in total WAR and innings thrown won't be there by the end of September.
Although wins and losses aren't the deciding factor in Cy Young voting any longer, it's hard to believe the voters won't side with Scherzer if he leads or is tied in WAR, innings, ERA and K/9 along with a seven win advantage on their personal ledgers.
Lastly, the American League Rookie of the Year race is, well, dull.
Using Fangraphs' WAR, the top five this season pale in comparison to their famous National League counterparts: Cleveland's Yan Gomes, Kansas City's David Lough, Iglesias, Seattle's Danny Farquhar and Tampa Bay's Wil Myers.
Meanwhile, the NL features this top five: Miami's Jose Fernandez, Los Angeles' Yasiel Puig, Colorado's Nolan Arenado, New York's Juan Lagares and Los Angeles' Hyun-jin Ryu.
When the Tigers traded for Igesias in July, they were proactively filling a hole left by the impending Jhonny Peralta suspension. Now, through the merits of outstanding defense, an above-average OPS-plus and a lackluster rookie class, they might have the American League Rookie of the Year on their hands.
The 2013 Detroit Tigers are on the path to becoming the most decorated team in baseball history.
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