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Detroit Controls its Own Destiny Heading into Season’s Final Month

An unexpected addition of Delmon Young has been welcomed by Miguel Cabrera and the Tigers hitters.

After the Detroit Tigers most recent series against the Cleveland Indians ending in a sweep for Detroit, the Tigers are in complete control to win—or lose—the division.

Since the All Star Break the Tigers have made moves both on and off the field that has brought excitement, confusion, anger and every feeling in between to fans.

 

Quick Recap:

July 21- Trade for Wilson Betemit, sending Brandon Inge to Detroit’s AAA affiliate Toledo Mud Hens (Some fans are elated to have a 3rd baseman who hits above .250, others heartbroken over the fan favorite, vowing one day soon Inge will return better than ever.) The Tigers also grab a .5 game lead in the AL Central, a lead they have not yet relinquished.

July 30- Tigers trade Charlie Furbush, Casper Wells, Franscisco Martinez, and Chance Ruffin for Doug Fister and David Pauley. (Most are excited about the prospects of Fister’s ERA despite his abysmal record)

August 8- Mike Ilitch extends the contracts of Dave Dombrowski (4 years) and Jim Leyland (1 year). While more fans were okay with Dombrowski’s extension, many were irate about Leyland. (After five straight seasons at .500 or below after the All Star Break and Detroit fighting for the AL Central, fans wanted Leyland to prove it wouldn’t happen again.)

August 15- Detroit trades for Delmon Young to mostly positive reviews. (With Magglio Ordonez struggling for extra base hits and the ability to cover any part of the outfield many felt anybody was an upgrade.

August 19- Tigers call up Brandon Inge after a month stint in the minors that saw him hit over .300 in Toledo. (He hits a home run and doubles his first game back. Inge fans claim redemption and others bet it was an aberration.)

August 21- Detroit completes a sweep of the Indians putting their division lead at 4.5 games over Cleveland and five over the White Sox, the largest this season with 36 games remaining.

 

So what does Detroit have to do to hold on and clinch their first division title since 1987?

First, don’t count your chickens before they hatch. As history has proven under the Jim Leyland era in Detroit, no lead is safe. Until the magic number is zero the Tigers cannot afford to take the foot off the gas in any way.  Of Detroit’s remaining schedule, 24 games are against AL Central foes, with 12 coming against the Indians and White Sox. By facing so much of the division Detroit has the opportunity to stonewall any hot streaks by the others and firmly grip the division title.

To rack up the W’s Detroit needs focus and consistency. Starting with pitching, both starters and relievers need to step up (outside of Justin Verlander). Many believe Max Scherzer is the best compliment to Verlander. A pair of solid starts by Scherzer against Texas and Cleveland has been accompanied by mediocre efforts against lowly Kansas City and Baltimore. While he escaped Baltimore with a win, they must take full advantage of lesser competition.

In July some blamed Rick Porcello for the 100 degree Midwest heat as he scorched to a 5-0 record, but as temperatures cooled in August so did Porcello with a 9.15 ERA in 4 starts. Add in recently acquired Doug Fister still seeking his bearings in a Tigers uniform and consistency issues remain.

Even Jose Valverde, perfect and close to untouchable when a save opportunity presents itself, needs to produce in non-save situations. His over 6.50 ERA and .300+ BAA is unacceptable for a pitcher who has proven more than capable. At this point in the season he should naturally approach every situation like it’s a save because a tied extra inning appearance could be the ultimate season save.

As for hitting, the time to rest batters has expired. While Leyland loves to play matchups, his everyday lineup should reflect the one he rolled out for the game against Cleveland on August 21.

 

1. Austin Jackson, CF

2. Brennan Boesch, RF

3. Delmon Young, LF

4. Miguel Cabrera, 1B

5. Victor Martinez, DH

6. Alex Avila, C

7. Jhonny Peralta, SS

8. Wilson Betemit, 3B

9. Ramon Santiago, 2B

 

This lineup gives Detroit their best chance to win on a daily basis. Leyland can still utilize late game defensive subs and get the most of his hitters early in games.

The final ingredient is in-game coaching. As we’ve discussed here before, the Tigers make some baffling decisions when it comes to base running. Detroit cannot afford to leave runners on base when the opportunity to score appears. This doesn’t mean become overly aggressive, but take chances and play to win, don’t play not to lose.

If the Tigers control their part they will be AL Central champions for the first time in team history.

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