Tigers Baseball Outsider

a thinking fan's perspective

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Detroit Tigers – There’s A Big Storm Brewing

originally published on headstuffing on August 4, 2009

Hold on to your hats Tiger fans!

Or at least turn them inside out and wear them as rally caps.

There's a big storm brewing! It's already on the radar screen.

Last night the Tigers took the first game of a six game home stand with the Baltimore Orioles and Minnesota

Twins by coming from five runs back and tying the game in the fifth – then winning the game with a two out two strike blast by Clete Thomas into the bushes in center field.

It was a bomb.

As well, Tiger's ace Justin Verlander did not let a five run first inning phase him. He pitched lights out ball the next seven innings getting better with each pitch he threw. It was that beautiful Verlander poise and presence coming through yet again.

But this time the Tigers offense woke up.

Leading the way was superstar Miguel Cabrera – who while he has big numbers and hitting .334 – had been very quite in clutch situations with men in scoring position – knocked in three RBIs with a big clutch double and the game tying homerun.

To recap - the Tigers came back and caught the Orioles in the fifth. And won it with a walk off homer in the ninth.

That was an exciting game – and many things Tiger fans have been waiting to see finally appeared.

But it was a home game. In Comerica Park. The Tigers usually win at home.

I'm not trying to put a damper on last night's elation. Please hear me out. I'm just trying to be objective.

The Tigers have a chance in the next few weeks to widen the gap between them and the Chicago White Sox and Minnesota Twins. They might expand their lead by as many as four games ahead of their Central Division rivals.

But, like I said already, there is a big storm brewing!

As I look at the Tigers long range weather forecast, I can see a tropical storm brewing over the American Midwest. And it looks like it could build into a category five hurricane. The conditions look like they could be just right for this monstrous storm to hit the Tigers right where they are weak – weak as a West New Orleans levy of sandbags – when the Tigers play away games.

The Tigers will need a lot more sandbags to weather this storm. Let me explain:

The Tigers record at home at Comerica Park is 32 wins and sixteen losses.

The Tigers record when they are away from Comerica Park is 23 wins and 33 losses.

The Tigers stink on the road.

But luckily so do most of the other teams in the American League.

So what is this storm brewing that has me so worried?

It's a ten game road trip – starting on the 18th of September and ending on the 27th of September. During that trip, the Tigers will play three games in Minnesota (a park where they have little luck), four games in Cleveland (who just took two out of three from Detroit in Cleveland last weekend), and then the final three against the Chicago White Sox at what should be called New Cominsky Park.

The Tigers record on the road stinks.

It is possible that the Tigers could lose six to eight of those games. Such a result would possibly be enough to sink the Tigers 2009 chances. Drowned by the lack of offense they are known for on the road this season.

As I look at the remaining schedule of the Tigers, White Sox and Twins in 2009 - if current trends continue - I see the Tigers being even with Chicago by the time the first pitch of that September 25th weekend series begins. Games in that horrible dome in Minneapolis and Cleveland's Progressive field will erode at least two games of what I expect to be a three game lead.

Two of the three sandbags will be blown off the Tigers soft away game levy, leaving a single sandbag or two to ride out the three game hurricane of games at Chicago.

Chicago is the windy city.

And some would try to say that Detroit is No-Mo-Town now. This would be the worst possible outcome if the Tigers lose eight out of ten on that road trip.

Now there are some elements that entered into the radar that may slightly change this American League Central weather patterns development over the last week.

The Tigers have picked up some pitching to make their rotation even stronger, acquiring Jarrod Washburn from Seattle in return for Lucas French and a Minor League rising star Mauricio Robles.

Washburn was having an above average year with Seattle – with an 8 win 6 loss record – throwing 79 strikeouts and 33 walks in 133 innings. How will he do as a Tiger? Tonight will be his first outing clad in the old English D. And his first start will be in Comerica – after the elation of a great win last night. So fingers are crossed that Washburn starts off strong as a Tiger.

But as well, Chicago has strengthened their pitching, picking up Jake Peavy from San Diego. Peavy is considered to around the same barometer readings with the Tigers Verlander, Anderson, and now Washburn. The white Sox already have perfect game pitcher Mark Burhle in their rotation.

Do the Tigers Verlander and Jackson combined outweigh the dominance of Mark Burhle? Are Washburn and Peavy simply going to cancel each other out? It will be very interesting and exciting to see.

But there is good news for us Tiger fans in all of this. After what promises to be the most exciting road trip of the season during that last half of September, the Tigers return home – to trusty and faithful Comerica Park.

The Tigers safe harbor from the storm.

And who is coming to play those final six games of the 2009 season in the Tigers safe harbor? Who else.

The Minnesota Twins and Chicago White Sox.

This is going to be one wild storm during the last four weeks of the American League Central Pennant race my friends. And if I were you, I would get tickets to all six of the final home stand games.

Because if the Tigers can ride out the hurricane brewing for the end of September, that first week in October will be the most amazing games played yet at Comerica park.

Can the Tigers ride that fast approaching storm? Will they have stashed away enough wins to survive the expected offensive power outage they seem to experience during road trips?

But I think - like 2006 - we need as big a lead built right now to survive that final onslaught.

In 2006 we had the luxury of being in the Wildcard division. We sat in August and September and helplessly watched the water rise high enough to erode the Tigers once ten game lead.

Is the 2009 version of the Tigers stronger than the 2006 version? It's certainly different. But this year I think the Tigers pitching is actually better than in 2006.

We got the pitching to slow down the storm - but we need these bats of this potentially explosive offense to get better on the road.

2009 has the potential to be one of the most exciting finishes of Tiger baseball history.

Hang onto your hats Tiger fans, because there is a big storm heading our way.

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