Tigers Baseball Outsider

a thinking fan's perspective

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

We’ll Get ‘Em Next Year – But This Year’s Still Fun

Brenan Boesch and Miguel Cabrera celebrate
Here we sit on September 7, and the Tigers are 13 games back of the Minnesota Twins for the lead of the AL Central.

9.5 games behind the Chicago White Sox for second place in the division.

10.5 games ahead of Kansas City and 11 games ahead of Cleveland.

There are 24 games left to play in the 2010 regular season.

The season is pretty much done for the Detroiters of 2010. But all the games still have to be played.

This is not the position I predicted the Tigers to be in at this point of time.

They were supposed to be in contention. That was my 2010 prediction. And if a couple of things would have happened differently – they could have been.

I did predict Verlander and Cabrera would have great seasons. They have.

And I did predict a great year by Austin Jackson – but cautioned against hoping for Rookie of the year acclaims – but he seems to be on pace to achieve the award.

And once Max Scherzer returned from the Triple A Mudhens after getting some pitching instruction – returned as a starting pitcher that has almost rivaled Verlander for the treasured title of Ace.

I didn't predict Scherzer's turnaround.

In fact, I predicted Guillen and Laird would be gone – traded away to acquire some strengths. But they weren't. Guillen was on the DL more often than not – and aside from a great arm to throw out stealers at second – Laird has done little to increase his perceived value to other teams.

And rookie second baseman Scott Sizemore was just not up to the task of playing in the bigs with his busted ankle still healing. He headed back down to the minors in June but will be called back up for September play.

Guillen stepped up to play a pretty darn good second base … until he was injured and on the DL a month later … again. He will be out the remainder of 2010 – and unlikely to return in 2011.

Losing Maglio Ordonez for the season – and most likely the end of his career as a Detroiter – was indeed a difficult pill to swallow as Maglio was playing up to his potential in the early days of 2010.

Inge has held his third bag defensively well – recuperating knees and a newly healing injured wrist that left sidelined for several weeks.

And I had no idea Brenan Boesch existed – let alone explode onto the scene as he did in the first half of the season with no signs of being found out by the opposition. But the return to play after the All Star break saw Boesch's streak end with a screeching halt of a NASCAR driver slamming into a wall.

And the Tigers hit that wall with him – losing first to the Indians in Cleveland – 4 in a row.

And the slide continued for three series until 10 days later the Tigers were 8 games back.

And where I thought Mr. Illitch's patience would be exhausted by another weak second half performance – the Tigers stayed put with Jim Leyland – and Dave Dombrowski. In a public statement made in the opening days of August – it was announced that Mr. Illitch was committed to Leyland and Dombrowski through 2011.

So I blew that call too.

There are some nice things to say about the Tiger Rookies this year. You know about Jackson. But rookie Will Rhymes has stepped up to play a pretty decent second. Seemingly a guy who makes things happen – much like a Roberto Alomar … but not quite the skill or instinct of the great second baseman now sadly only renowned for spitting in an umpire's face.

At this point Rhymes is rivaling Inge for fan favorite … and sports talk radio hosts most least favorite player to talk about.

I like Rhymes a lot. He is fun to watch – and comes through for you more often than not.

The Tigers have lost more than their share of one run games. 23 to be exact so far. They have won 15.

The question is "why did the Tigers of 2010 drop after the All Star Break?"

They are losing the close games - usually with men on base. 12th worst in the American League. Worst in the Central Division.

This has been the main point of failure for the Tigers. The inability to win those close games.

Closer Jose (Papa Grande) Valverde was outstanding in the first half, blowing only one save opportunity before the All Star break. But after the All Star break – Valverde faltered and Coke, Perry, Schlereth, and Weinhardt all took turns blowing a total of 12 save situations.

They just couldn't finish.

The inability to close out save situations accounts for a good majority of games lost by one or more runs.

And in those closing at bats in those 1 run losses – more often than not a runner was left on base.

But that being said – these tigers have come back to win in 33 games, with their largest comeback made up a deficit of 6 runs.

But when behind in the ninth inning have only came back 5 times to win.

Those are the numbers. The fact is that this year, more than recent memory, fan confidence in the Tiger's pulling out a victory is higher than before. Even higher than in 2006.

Rhymes, Raburn, and Jackson
And the Tigers are still fun to watch – exciting – with faces like Jackson, Boesch and Rhymes stepping up from the minors – and Austin Jackson chasing down everything in center field.

The Tigers are fun again.

That's the bottom line. Fans are in love with this new young face of Jackson, Boesch, Casper Wells, Will Rhymes. They are hoping these are the faces of the future. But the pundits will tell you that it is unlikely fans will ever see any of these faces – except Austin Jackson. It's agreed now that he is an upgrade from Curtis Granderson.

Who would have thunk it?

So now – as we watch the remaining 23 games of the season (our boys of the old English D are beating the White Sox 6 – 1 as I write this … wait … Inge just hit a three run dinger to make it 9 -1 in the bottom of the eighth) – we can at least enjoy this new found fun baseball to watch.

Even if it doesn't really mean anything to this post season.

We'll get 'em next year.

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