The Tigers lead the Minnesota Twins by five games and the White Sox by six. They are a virtual lock for the division title. And yet they aren't a very good team. They just got swept by the Royals, of all teams and they are 2-11 against the Red Sox and the Yankees. They are only 27-25 in the second half of the season and they project out to win 87 games by season's end. Hardly inspiring. But that makes them scary. Remember the Cardinals in 2006?
The Cardinals won the World Series in 2006 with a team that finished the regular season at 83-78. A big part of the reason is that their pitching got hot in the playoffs and they had a guy named Albert Pujols. The Tigers have a couple of guys in Verlander and Jackson who could be dominant in the playoffs and they have a guy named Miguel Cabrera.
Who knows if history can repeat itself, but seriously, the Tigers aren't a great team. In a fourteen team league, the Tigers are 11th in batting average, 10th in On Base Percentage, 11th in total bases. They have a catcher (who IS good at throwing out runners) who is batting .218 with a 62 OPS+. They have a pretty slick shortstop who has a 61 OPS+. They have a third baseman who can be spectacular at times with the glove, but whose arm is falling off and is batting .231. Aubrey Huff has done nothing since coming over from the Orioles. Ordonez has lost all his power and Granderson is having a bad year getting on base.
The pitching is somewhat of a better story. With Verlander, Porcello and Jackson, the Tigers have two studs and a third guy who is better than league average. In a five game series, that's enough really. In a World Series, it gets a bit dicey after those three. Galarraga can't seem to get it together and Jarrod Washburn isn't really that good. They have a decent enough bullpen by today's standards as long as Zach Minor never gets into another game. Rodney is a bit of a question mark as a closer. His 1.37 WHIP and his 4.7 walks per nine innings are pretty scary. He's not a guy who strikes out a batter an inning either. So he's a bit of a liability overall.
The Tigers are a decent fielding team. They are fifth in the league in defensive efficiency despite being league average for fielding percentage. They are good at throwing out runners as mentioned earlier and they have a very good fielding infield in Inge, Polanco and Everett.
It just doesn't seem like a team that can compete with the likes of the Angels, Yankees and Red Sox. Pitch around Cabrera and the rest of the batters can't hurt you very much. Verlander and Jackson are great, but they don't seem to have killer instincts. But again, if you think back to the Cardinals of 2006, all that becomes pretty scary come time for the post season.