Split personality disorder.
It's the only explanation for the Detroit Tigers in the Jim Leyland era.
Each year it's the same story. First half of the season, Detroit is a consistent and winning ball club. The second half, Detroit is a below .500 team struggling to hang on to what they built up to the All Star break.
If it happens one year, maybe unbalanced scheduling can be used as an excuse. If it happens another year, maybe injuries can be used. But for four straight years, not much else can be said.
Jim Leyland arrived in 2006, and immediately helped the Tigers complete a turnaround from one of the worst to first. The team made the World Series that year, losing to the St. Louis Cardinals team.
But in 2006, another trend began for the Tigers: great starts and poor finishes.
The Tigers led the league with a 59-29 record through the first half of the season. Detroit dominated baseball and looked unstoppable. They got all the way to 76-36 on August 7th, and then the fall began.
The second half of the season they went 36-38, losing their final 5 games of the year. Most fans forget they didn't even win the division as Minnesota caught them in the final days of 2006.
Luckily, the Tigers still made the playoffs and caught enough fire until they extinguished their own flames in the World Series.
In 2007, Detroit had another solid season, but displayed the same penchant for poor second half play.
First half: 52-34
Second half: 36-40
In 2008, the Tigers didn't have as good of a start in past years and their second half collapse was even more glaring.
First half: 47-47
Second half: 27-41
They ended 74-88, good enough for last place in the central division.
In 2009, they did slightly better in the second half. But the season ended in heartbreak.
First half: 48-39
Second half: 38-38
If Tigers fans look a bit closer they can't forget the tail end of the season. A 3 game lead with 4 games left in the year. Unfortunately, they blew the lead.
It forced Detroit into a 163rd game against the Minnesota Twins. It looked like they were going to win and overcome another bad finish. They held a 3-1 lead early, but like the story of seasons past, it was not enough.
They lost an incredible battle.
So where do these Tigers stand? Are they for real? Are they good enough to sustain a whole year?
Currently, with only 13 games to go until the 2nd half of the season, Detroit stands in 2nd place behind Minnesota. For members of the Central Division it appears the only way of making the playoffs will to ultimately win the division. The East is too strong and the loser of division will most likely end up with the Wild Card spot.
These Tigers have become difficult to read. They're an above .500 team and should remain that way up to the halfway point.
These Tigers have also continued a trend that have resonated over the past four years. A dominance in interleague play.
2006: 15-3, 2007: 14-4, 2008: 13-5, 2009: 10-8, 2010: 8-3 (to this point)
Interleague play has played a major role in early season success with this team.
They've had rookies like Austin Jackson and Brennan Boesch make an immediate impact.
Detroit has seen a renewed sense of baseball-self from Miguel Cabrera. Veteran Johnny Damon has contributed nicely and Magglio Ordonez appears back to normal after an inconsistent 2009.
The bottom 6-9 batters had been abysmal through the first 50 games of the season. But after sending a bunch of players back and forth to the minors and waiving, they seem to have caught some fire. Brandon Inge is hitting sufficiently, while Al Avila is giving them some production from behind the plate.
The team still needs a bit better run production with men on base, a worrisome sign. They are hitting .245 with runners in scoring position and have only scored 237 runs in those situations. That leaves them at 16th in MLB.
As for the pitching, it seems to have taken a similar path.
The team currently has a 4.13 ERA, led by Justin Verlander and his 3.54 ERA. Verlander averages 8.54 strikeouts through 9 innings and has recovered nicely from his traditional early season struggles.
Jeremy Bonderman has also come back strong this year. With a bevy of injuries taking him out of commission yearly, he finally has stayed healthy and has a moderate 4.06 ERA. His problem has been run production during his outings.
As for the question marks, many exist on the pitching staff.
Rick Porcello is number one in the "what happened to him?" category. Still very young and full of potential, Porcello has found himself in a sophomore slump.
Max Schrezer is another enigma for the staff. Will he continue pitching decently like he has since coming back up from the minors or will be meet somewhere in the middle from his atrocious start?
Finally, Armando Galarraga. He has pitched extremely well since being brought back in as a starter early in the season. He is better than last year, but the jury still remains how consistent he will be throughout the year. He has had two solid starts since his "perfect" game, and one that the team could have done without.
As for the bullpen Joel Zumaya has remained healthy and Jose Valverde has turned into a great pickup for the closing role.
Detroit currently stands as 3rd best bullpen with a 2.91 ERA in all of baseball. Just behind Minnesota and San Diego.
Will Zumaya stay healthy? Will Valverde stay this hot? Will players like Eddie Bonine and Phil Coke remain as consistent as they've been?
Those questions will still remain for a while.
As a Tigers fan, do you feel comfortable where the team is or do the signs point to another disappointing finish in 2010?