State of the Central: Detroit Tigers
The past 2 offseasons the Tigers have made big splashes in free agency and have been expected to easily win the American League Central. Last year the Tigers barely beat out the White Sox for the division crown, and this year they find themselves a half game behind the Indians in the standings as of July 1st. The Tigers have been able to rely on an owner that wants to win now to strengthen their team at the trade deadline and during the offseason, but in general over the last year and a half this team has underachieved. But as is the case every July 31st, there will be plenty of players available for the Tigers to gear up for the stretch run.
2013 Record: 44-38, 2nd in the American League Central, ½ game back (As of July 2nd)
What’s going right: The Tigers are one of only a few teams that can boast both a dynamic offense and a dominant pitching staff. The Tigers have one of the best pure power rotations in all of baseball, with Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer both on pace to strike out 200 plus hitters. Doug Fister benefits from a lot of runs scored when he starts, and when Anibal Sanchez returns from the disabled list he adds another power arm to the rotation. The addition of Torii Hunter in the offseason has added balance at the top of the lineup that has paid dividends in front of the lethal combo of Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder. And Miguel Cabrera has found a way to one-up his historic performance from last year and is far and away the most feared hitter in the American League.
What’s going wrong: The Tigers lack a closer. The fact that this team is blowing so many late-inning leads is becoming a detriment. The Tigers even brought back Jose Valverde out of pure desperation when rookie reliever Bruce Rondon could not hold onto the role in spring training. Valverde held down the fort initially but then ran out of steam and is now in Triple-A. The Tigers have also been strangely inconsistent. They seem to bring their best for one series and then can go 2 or 3 series in a row while just looking uninterested.
Trade Deadline Target: Closer, left fielder.
Bold Prediction: The Tigers make a run at Glen Perkins at the trade deadline, but end up having to settle for a lower tier late inning reliever. This does not prevent the Tigers bullpen from being one of the worst in the American League in the 2nd half. Miguel Cabrera just misses out on his second consecutive Triple Crown and AL MVP, as the Tigers are eliminated in a 1 game playoff the day after the season ends and fail to make the postseason.