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Why the Detroit Tigers Don't Deserve to Make the Playoffs

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Why the Detroit Tigers Don't Deserve to Make the Playoffs
(Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

If there was one manager in baseball who should be rewarded for what he's done this season, Jim Leyland is that guy.

He has piloted this Detroit Tigers team, who had no business making the playoffs, to the top of the American League Central standings for much of the 2009 season.

This team's pride and joy lies in the pitching staff, where a dominant trio of Justin Verlander, Edwin Jackson, and Rick Porcello have single-handedly won this team several games.

However, on the other end of the spectrum lies the Tigers' offense, which has been all but invisible throughout much of the season. Only Miguel Cabrera has a batting average over .300 this season, with Magglio Ordonez coming alive as of late just short at .297.

Curtis Granderson, the team's leadoff hitter, is in the midst of his worst offensive season since 2006. With a current average of just .251, Granderson is striking out at a rate of nearly once every four at-bats, which is rarely associated with any leadoff hitter in professional baseball.

Many believe that Granderson is not a leadoff hitter, which may be true. Yet, there has never been an issue with Granderson's production at the leadoff spot until now and frankly, there is no better option with speed comparable to Granderson's on the roster.

Throughout the last year or two, Curtis has transitioned from a leadoff hitter into a power hitter with the second-highest slugging percentage of the team's full-time starters.

Another player suffering from the same strikeout plague as Granderson is the Tigers' third baseman Brandon Inge. Inge strikes out at an even higher rate of 1.2 times for every four at-bats.  

Like Granderson, Inge has turned into a power hitter as well, with the third-highest slugging percentage behind Inge and Cabrera.

You know something's not right when the Tigers' leadoff hitter and ninth hitters are the second and third highest source of power.

The Tigers' offensive woes don't stop there. Gerald Laird and Adam Everett, two other starters, are batting .229 and .235 respectively.  

There's no way for me to sugarcoat any offensive production from either player. Laird and Everett have combined for two triples and seven home runs this season. That speaks for itself.

Placido Polanco, the team's full-time second baseman, is having his worst offensive season in the last decade. He's been extremely reliable for the Tigers since he's arrived, and believe me, I'm not taking what he has done for the team for granted.

But it's the facts that I am stating and I have to point out that this was not a good season for him. It may cost him some money as he will be looking for a new contract following the 2009 season.

There's no doubt that people who read this will criticize me for being a pessimist and not appreciating the fact that this team is still in contention for a playoff spot. I'm not a pessimist, I'm a realist.  

With the lack of offense, this team is extremely lucky that this division is comparable to a strong minor league division. In any other division, the Tigers would be in third or fourth place.

If they happen to clinch the AL Central in the coming days, Jim Leyland should be the unanimous choice for Manager of the Year. He has taken one of the worst offensive teams in recent history and a half-depleted rotation into the month of October. That's not luck, that takes skill.

With the most important start of the 2009 season, Justin Verlander will take the mound tonight and as they finish out the season against the Minnesota Twins and the Chicago White Sox, we will see how much this Detroit Tigers team wants to keep playing.

Will they look like they have through much of 2009 or will they look like the team that put up 20 hits on the White Sox after being dealt a 5-0 deficit to begin the game?

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