Just over four weeks are left in the 2012 regular season and our Detroit Tigers find themselves in a nip-and-tuck battle with the Chicago White Sox for the American League Central division title. While many fans are discouraged that the team hasn’t ran away with the division like they did last season, the Tigers still have an excellent chance to win their second straight division crown for the first time in franchise history.
Here are five reasons why the Tigers can win it.
1. Miguel Cabrera is a better hitter on one leg than anyone else is on two
The big fella in the middle of the Detroit lineup is having his best overall season at the plate since joining the Tigers. Amazingly, he’s doing it while playing a new (old) position and enduring an injury. For much of the last month, Cabby had been playing on one foot. Yet, he still seems to bang out two hits a night. As long as he’s in the #3 hole and producing like he is capable, the Tigs have a really good shot. He’s the best hitter in the division, league, and baseball.
2. Delmon Young is red-hot at the right time again
With the departure of Brandon Inge earlier this season, that left DY as the most polarizing player on this team. Just as in 2011, Young struggled in the spring. But just as in 2011, he’s gotten hot in the late summer. Last season he hit six homers and had 20 RBI in September, and then hit five huge homers in the Tigers’ post-season run. Once again in 2012, the right-handed hitter is getting hot at the right time. If he keeps it up, and history says he should, the Tigers have a dangerous 3-4-5 trio in their lineup.
3. Sanchez is getting acclimated to the American League
Somewhat lost in the last few weeks has been the solid pitching of Sanchez, one of the two pieces that came over from the Miami Marlins at the trade deadline. The hard-throwing righty has great stuff (he’s tossed a no-hitter and struck out more than 200 batters in a season) and he’s starting to show it off in the AL after 6 1/2 years in the Senior Circuit. In his last three starts, Sanchez has a 0.92 ERA, and he’s produced four quality starts in seven starts for the Tigers. With Max Scherzer looking very Verlander-like in the second half, an effective Sanchez extends the Detroit rotation and makes it that much more likely that the team avoids a 3-4 game losing streak.
4. They’ve feasted on home cooking
If you want to find a reason that the Tigers are in a fight for the division at all, look no further than their home/road split. Last season, Detroit won about 62% of their games at home and 56% on the road. But in 2012, they are winning at just a .462 clip as travelers. At home, however, the Tigers have been monsters at CoPa again – posting a .609 winning percentage. For some reason, their offense seems much more lively at home, and they have several sweeps in Detroit. The team has a long 10-game homestand starting September 18, (while the ChiSox have six games on the road) and if they can keep up their winning ways in their home park, that homestand could give them a cushion.
5. The Tigers have the best pitcher in baseball
The reports of Justin Verlander’s struggles have been greatly exaggerated. Sure, casual fans will see his 13 wins and think he’s having an off season, but nothing could be further from the truth. Wins are a poor way to judge a pitcher’s efficiency. Verlander has had a lot of no-decisions in ’12, and his teammates have given him paltry offensive support. With a little more support, JV could have 16-17 wins. But most importantly, Verlander’s ERA is about the same as in 2011 (his terrible outing against the Royals last week is the only reason it’s not lower than last year), he’s allowing about the same number of hits, and he leads the majors in strikeouts again. JV is still JV. And as long as he’s dealing like he can, the Tigers have the best pitcher in the game to keep them in games and to pitch the big game down the stretch if needed to edge out the Pale Hose.
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