The Detroit Tigers are 10 games above .500 at the All-Star Break (52-42), sitting a game and a half ahead of the Cleveland Indians in the American League Central, and four and a half games behind the MLB’s best record in Boston.
Tigers fans may grumble about the slim lead, but in fact, they’re in good shape. For starters, that’s much better than last year’s 44-42 record at the break, and three and a half game deficit to this year’s last-place Chicago White Sox.
The Tigers’ bats are the best in the league. There’s no arguing it. They have the best batting average (.281) in all of baseball, the second best on-base percentage (.348), the second most runs scored (477) and the third best slugging percentage (.436 trails first-place Baltimore by .007).
And what about #24? Yeah, Miguel Cabrera is chasing a possible second-straight Triple Crown. He owns the top spots in the Major Leagues for average (.365) and RBI (95). He has 30 home runs, which trails crazed Orioles first baseman Chris Davis whose 37 home runs before the All-Star Break tie an AL record.
The spurts by the two sluggers have put them in a possible chase at Roger Maris’ record of 61 (a record that stood for 38 years before being taken down by McGwire and Sosa, and then Bonds, and then again became the record after they were busted for steroids).
That could be good or bad for the Tigers. He could use it as motivation and continue to put up huge numbers, or he could get distracted by it. However, chasing history proved to be no problem for Cabrera last season when he won the first Triple Crown in 45 years.
In Tuesday’s All-Star Game manager Jim Leyland shined bright, giving a sign to his team’s fans that he’s still got it.
Leyland’s squad shutout the National League, gaining home field advantage for the AL in the World Series. Max Scherzer started the game with a scoreless inning, and then Chicago’s Chris Sale got the win after two innings of perfect pitching.
Leyland played hitting matchups in the 7th to get out of a jam. The next inning he brought in New York Yankees hero, and all-time saves leader Mariano Rivera into the game for an emotional moment for any baseball fan. Instead of saving him for the 9th inning, Leyland avoided a possible disaster in which Mo wouldn’t get a shot to pitch in his home city in his last All-Star Game.
He gave New York fans what they wanted. Now it’s time for him to give Tigers fans what they want. A World Series Championship.
While he’s not the only person in the organization that needs to step it up, he’s a pretty good place to start. It might officially be time to make Brayan Pena the everyday catcher. And Tigers fans should have high hopes that Leyland’s 7th inning genius on Tuesday will carry over to the rest of the season. He did show a fire and passion last Thursday when he was thrown out of the rivalry game with the White Sox after the benches cleared at Comerica Park.
Also on that list of people who need to step up? How about General Manager Dave Dombrowski and assistants Al Avila and Al Kaline. It’s time for them to make a move before the trade deadline.
This team needs a closer. They have their set-up men in Smyly and Benoit, but Benoit is currently in the wrong role. While he is perfect in save opportunities this year, he is not the man for the job.
Now that Jose Valverde is officially gone (let’s hope, this time), the front office needs to make a move for a closer. There have been talks about acquiring Tim Lincecum as a reliever from the Giants, but they may want to hold onto him after throwing his first career no-hitter over the weekend.
The Brewers potentially have two relievers on the market in John Axford and Francisco Rodriguez. Joba Chamberlain is likely on the market out in the Bronx.
The problem though? Lincecum will be tough, and I mean tough, to lure from the Bay. And Axford and K-Rod have each had a shaky past, and the Tigers aren’t looking for that. Chamberlain has been pitiful out of the bullpen this year, with a 5.40 ERA and four HR in 25 games.
While it’s frustrating to see this situation, only time and trust in the front office who have all but put together a winning team will help Tigers fans find out what’s in store for the rest of 2013.
One of the biggest signs of hope could be the newfound wheels on Prince Fielder. While he failed to defend his Home Run Derby title on Monday, Fielder went 1-for-1 with a triple. Yes. A triple.
All jokes aside, Fielder has been a good anchor for the Tigers. His numbers may not be quite on Cabrera’s level, but if he wasn’t behind him in the lineup, Cabrera wouldn’t be on Cabrera’s level.
So, as the second half begins, the starting rotation (four pitchers above .500, one right on that mark) will need to continue to be one of the best around, and the nothing-short-of-stellar bats will need to stay hot. If they can do that, on top of landing a legitimate closer, the fans just might get what they want.