When you look at the Tigers’ roster on paper, it doesn’t look like a contender. However, as we near the halfway point of the season, the Tigers are just a few games out of first place in the division. There are a few reasons the Tigers have been able to hang around, but here are three reasons the Tigers can win the division and reach the post season.
The Cleveland Indians are very beatable
The Tigers are 3-7 versus the Indians this year, which is discouraging. However, the Indians aren’t the same team they were when they reached the World Series. A big reason the Indians are struggling is the bullpen. As of right now, the Indians bullpen has a 5-14 record, 5.48 earned run average and nine blown saves. Now, I’m not saying the Tigers’ bullpen is dominant by any means, because it’s not. But, the Tigers have a few guys they can count on in any situation, including Shane Greene and Joe Jimenez. The Indians have relied on Andrew Miller and Cody Allen. Both have disappointed this season and need to play better if the Indians want to win the division again.
Key players are stepping up
The loss of Miguel Cabrera hurts, but the Tigers have been in this situation many times before. Cabrera is out for the season with a ruptured biceps tendon. That is a big blow, but the Tigers have a few guys that can help replace his production. John Hicks is going to be replacing Cabrera and he has had a solid 2018 season. He is hitting .295 with six home runs and 23 RBI. The biggest key to replacing Cabrera’s production will be Nicholas Castellanos. He has been raking this year, as he is hitting .310 with eight home runs, 22 doubles and 39 RBI. Castellanos has replaced Cabrera as the No. 3 hitter in the Tigers’ lineup and I love that move. He has the ability to put the ball over the fence if a pitcher leaves one hanging and the patience to draw walks. A few other guys that have stepped up are Leonys Martin, Jeimer Candelario and Niko Goodrum. All three guys have come up with clutch hits throughout the season and should continue to see the field regularly.
Starting rotation is keeping the team in games
If you’ve watched the Tigers this year, you know the bullpen hasn’t been great. However, the starting rotation has outperformed expectations. Matt Boyd is having a breakout season, Francisco Liriano looks like a free agency steal and Mike Fiers has quietly put together a quality season. The Tigers could easily be three or four games over .500 if the bullpen were better. The Tigers’ bullpen has blown 15 saves this year and has a 4.31 earned run average. The only two starters that haven’t performed to expectations are Jordan Zimmermann and Michael Fulmer. Fulmer is 3-5 with a 4.13 ERA and Zimmermann is 2-0 with a 5.20 ERA. If the Tigers can get any production out of these guys, they will be a serious contender for the division title, despite having a terrible bullpen.