Another year under Leyland and another roller coaster season is in the books. And the Tigers have made the playoffs in back to back years for the first time since Kane and Abel were turning double plays and Gene Lamont was still the third base coach (I’m saying he’s old.) This was by far the most infuriating season I’ve experienced watching the Tigers play and that falls directly on Leyland’s shoulders: He’s loyal to a fault (he keeps throwing Valverde and Benoit out there when we have better options or at the very least different options), his lineup decisions are perplexing at best (why Raburn, Worth, Santiago and Boesch get the playing time they get while Dirks is kept in the cold makes no sense to me), but he does give the best post game interviews; with answers soaked in condescension and his personality so delightfully, grumpy.
The past few seasons we’ve seen Leyland treat his everyday players like rechargeable batteries, resting them early and often and thinking that would allow his guys to store up energy for later in the season and of course that never works and he inevitably is forced to rest guys at the end of the season as well, having well wasted games earlier in the year. And on the other end of the spectrum he wears his bullpen arms out early till all that’s left is for them to fizzle out come October and November. And still the Tigers are in the playoffs, and as Division Champs; thus giving them real and substantial World Series hopes.
Now that they’re in that is all that matters. Once the regular season ends and the playoffs begin, you can throw records, and home field advantage out the door because pitching is king and the Tigers have the best three man squad in the American League. Verlander, Scherzer and Fister (Fister? I hardly knew her) could be the Ace of just about any staff in the AL and for those that want to argue that L.A. has a better staff, I’d say L.A.’s pitchers may have a better reputation, but they haven’t performed nearly as well as the Tigers.
According to www.fangraphs.com other than Greinke the Angels other four starters have a xFIP over 4 and Ervin Santana has a -0.8 WAR to go along with Weaver’s 3.0, Wilson’s 2.5 and Haren’s 1.7. Compare that to the Tigers starting 5 who all have xFIPs below 4 and Anibal Sanchez has the lowest WAR on the team with 1.4 who in the last 30 days has the best WAR on the team at 1.3, the best xFIP on the team at 2.99 and has an astonishing 8:1 K:BB/9 rate (Nerd Alert.) In layman’s terms the Tigers worst starting pitcher has been lighting fools up for the last month.
The massive variable in calculating the Tigers chances lies in the lineup. I am assuming the consistent everyday lineup during the playoffs will be some variation of:
- Austin Jackson – OF
- Andy Dirks – OF
- Miguel Cabrera – 3B
- Prince Fielder – 1B
- Brennan Boesch – OF
- Delmon Young – DH
- Jhonny Peralta – SS
- Alex Avila – C
- Omar Infante – 2B
Assuming anything to do with the everyday lineup that Jim Leyland sets is dangerous at best. At any given moment during a pennant race Leyland could send Danny Worth, or Ramon Santiago to battle, so who is to say he won’t do the same in the playoffs.
More to the point however, I am not a fan of the most probable lineup either. Brennan Boesch is the worst everyday player on the Tigers. He hasn’t hit well for average, batting .242, he hasn’t been able to get on base with any sort of consistency with an OBP of .289 and hasn’t been able to generate any power with a slugging % of .376 with only 12 HRs.
Avisail Garcia is a promising young player, who in limited time (and admittedly with a smaller sample size) has shown more ability and skill both at the plate and out in the field. While I note the objections people might have to putting an unproven player in the lineup in the playoffs, I believe he is a major upgrade over Brennan Boesch who, with the fear of sounding hyperbolic, I say is in the running for the worst player in baseball.
On the other hand we do have, Miguel Cabrera who chases Nap Lajoie, Ty Cobb, Jimmie Fox, Lou Gehrig, Ted Williams, (Ted Williams again) Mickey Mantle, Frank Robinson, Carl Yastrzemski, and Mike Trout. We’ve got the Tigers who chase 1984 and Tigers’ fans who chase Keith Law with torches and pitchforks (He doesn’t actually hate Miggy guys, and there’s nothing wrong with having the opinion that Mike Trout is the MVP).
Over the past few days as it was becoming more and more clear that the Tigers would win the AL Central over the doggedly dying White Sox who whimper towards irrelevance, more and more Tigers fans were clamoring about how clutch the Tigers are. You could make the argument that Miggy is clutch, that last year V-Mart was clutch, but the Tigers don’t get to be clutch. You aren’t clutch when the reason you needed to come from behind in the first place is because you laid down earlier and fell behind of your own accord. When the reason you were behind is because Danny Worth, and Ramon Santiago were getting more playing time than they should, because Don Kelly and Ryan Raburn were a big part of your strategy. The Tigers aren’t clutch. They played well at the end and got a little lucky because the White Sox laid down.
Now that I got that off my chest, it is an exciting time. The NFL season is in full swing, the NBA season is right around the corner and the Tigers are headed into the playoffs as Division Champs and I am willing to take my chances with this team against anyone else in the League.
As they say in the common tongue…Eat ’em up Tigers! Eat ’em up!