This is the season for the Detroit Tigers. Destiny has finally smiled on the boys in the Old English D. As the Tigers look forward to the playoffs, they can attribute some lesser-known strengths for being where they are today.
Everybody knows about Justin Verlander's repertoire and Miguel Cabrera's pop, but there is a lot more to the Tigers. They have received great contributions from nearly everyone on the roster, and this balance has really sparked a team of destiny.
Here are the 7 biggest under-the-radar strengths that are fueling the Tigers' success.
Since Alex Avila has gone under the microscope this season after becoming an All-Star, there are still areas of his game that have gone unnoticed. One such area is his base running.
Although Avila is far from fast, he is the strongest base runner on the team. He is always taking the extra base and reads relay throws very well. His ability to advance bases in crucial situations has kept the Tigers out of inning-killing double play several times this year and has frequently led directly to runs scored.
Avila is a standout player in many aspects of the game—his headiness and leadership have been keys to the Tigers' success.
A lot has been made about how much of a competitor Phil Coke is. He stuck around in his starting role far longer than he should have because he was such a competitor. While this is certainly true, a lot of people overlook his actual abilities.
Even though starting really didn't work out, Coke is a very good pitcher with great stuff. He features a mid-90's fastball and a plus curve. These are his bread and butter and honestly, when he is on, he is as good as any reliever in the bigs.
With continued health, Coke should play a major role in winning the Central and the Tigers' playoff run.
Justin Verlander overshadows everything. It's just a fact. Yet Max Scherzer has one of the better fastballs in the bigs, and nobody ever talks about it.
Max Scherzer has a unique amount of run on his fastball amongst the hard throwers of the game. His two-seam has such great movement that it is every bit as effective as his 95-plus mph four-seam.
Max has developed into a true No. 2, something that the Tigers can count on in the playoffs.
Check out these numbers on Victor Martinez:
.354 with two outs runners in scoring position
.404 with runners in scoring position
.419 full count
I think that the numbers speak for themselves.
For the longest time, Jhonny Peralta has carried a stigma that he is a below-average defender. This has turned out to be entirely false. While Peralta does not have the greatest range in the world, he is a steady, average defensive shortstop at the Major League level.
Peralta is currently fourth in the majors in fielding percentage among shortstops. He has a higher fielding percentage than reputed defensive stalwarts Jose Reyes, Elvis Andrus, and Jason Bartlett. His range is average, but he makes nearly every play that comes to him.
Let's be honest. Rick Porcello has faced his share of ups and downs over his brief Major League career. He has seen great heights and has experienced some major setbacks. But one thing that has remained consistent is his demeanor and toughness.
After a terrible start to the year, Porcello had the ship righted for two great stretches of six straight starts. Recently things that had been working have failed him. He has been leaving balls up and his breaking ball has taken real steps backwards. He is experiencing another dry spell.
Although he is currently struggling, I have no doubt that he will bounce back. He has proved to be resilient and will most likely come out of it again in time for the stretch run.
I'm not sure if Jim Leyland knows it or not, but David Pauley is having a really good year. He currently boasts an ERA of 2.39 and a WHIP of 1.13. While innings have been few and far between since coming to the Motor City, David Pauley figures to be a big part of a playoff run, should the Tigers wrap up the Central.
Pauley has only thrown twice since August 10th, a staggering stat considering his numbers. The bullpen in Detroit has been rock solid recently, but imagine how much better it would be if Leyland decided to start using one of his best horses.
He could certainly be added to the list of under-the-radar strengths for the Tigers.