As the 2011 season started, I feared, in the back of my mind, that I was feeling too optimistic about the Tigers' chances in the coming season. The Central was looking like a three-team dogfight, and a postseason berth was hardly a sure thing for the Motor City Kitties. Nonetheless, I did pick them to win 91 games, edge the Twins, and win their first division title since 1987.
Not only was I not being overly optimistic, I was underestimating the Tigers, as were many others.
Thanks to a torrid second half (46-24, second best in MLB behind only the Brewers), the Tigers left the Indians and White Sox in the dust (as it turns out, the Twins were never a part of the equation), and claimed the division crown with a 95-67 record.
Credit is due all around, as this truly was a team effort all season long. What can you say about Justin Verlander's season that hasn't already been said? For his efforts, he'll take home his first Cy Young award, and that he's even warranted MVP consideration speaks volumes about how special a season he's had.
To Miguel Cabrera's credit, he put his issues behind him, got his act together, and put together another monster season en route to his first batting title. His countryman, Victor Martinez, proved to be one of the best additions of last off season, as his presence behind Cabrera was precisely what they needed.
A perfect 49-for-49 in save opportunities, Jose Valverde was the best closer in baseball. The man who was behind the plate for most of those saves, Alex Avila, emerged as a budding star and made his first All-Star Game.
Finally, the acquisitions of Doug Fister and Delmon Young will be remembered for some time, as they put the team over the top. Given the best, most talented roster he's had in his time in Detroit, Jim Leyland guided this team back to the postseason.
It's been a magical year, not short on unforgettable moments. In this piece, I'll rank the best of the best from the past six months. Enjoy!