The Tigers are officially halfway through the season. they’ve managed to lead the division for the majority of the first half. They’ve seen some good pitching, some awful pitching and some much improved defense (which is helping the pitching). They’ve seen the offense roll, and then cough and sputter against pitchers that shouldn’t induce coughing and sputtering. Through it all they have a 2 game lead in the division (and 2 games in hand). Far from a commanding lead, but they also have a schedule that could prove favorable in the second half as well. Some various thoughts on what the team has done so far:
- Playing the ‘”on pace for” game the Tigers have 3 hitters with a decent shot at 30 homers. The Tigers have only had 2 30 homer seasons this decade and the last time 3 Tigers hit 30 in a season was 1992.
- The Tigers have 47 of their final 81 games at home and only 1 more trip to the West Coast. They do still have to go to Fenway and Yankee Stadium and they’ve yet to play Tampa Bay yet. They do have 1 9 game roadie left going to Minnesota, Chicago, and Cleveland in late September.
- The Tigers are on pace to improve on their walks but only slightly. The 2008 total was 644 and the 2009 projection is 612. But intentional walks are way down (on pace for 40, 63 issued last year) as are HBP (on pace for 30, 68 last year) and wild pitches (on pace for 46, 65 last year).
- One of the speculated reasons for the walks last year was that pitchers knew how bad the defense was and they nibbled. That can’t be an excuse this year with the Tigers having one of the best defensive teams in baseball. They are above average at every infield position and are typically in the top 5 at the position. Last year Detroit was 39 runs below average for the season, so far this year they are 26.7 wins above average.
[blank] of the Year
- Catch of the Year: Curtis Granderson robbing Grady Sizemore of a walk-off homer and preserving a complete game shut out for Justin Verlander.
- Surprise of the Year: I have this as a 5 way tie between Edwin Jackson’s dominance, Brandon Inge’s offensive season, Fernando Rodney being 17 of 17 on save chances, Magglio Ordonez being so awful, and Don Kelly starting a game as a clean-up hitter. Ramon Santiago’s power surge gets honorable mention.
- Start of the Year: There are some good candidates, but I’m going to go with Edwin Jackson’s complete game effort against the Angels. Verlander has a couple of games that were better pitched, but Jackson’s came at a time when the team was scuffling a little (4 game losing streak) and he tossed a complete game fanning the heart of the Angels order to preserve a 2-1 win.
- Comeback of the Year: When the Tigers covered up an awful Armando Galarraga start by coming back from an early 6 run deficit.
- Worst Walk of the Year: Joel Zumaya walking in the tying run in Houston. Just brutal.
- Best Walk of the Year: The intentional walks to Mauer and Morneau setting up the bases loaded K of Michael Cuddyer on Friday night.
- Best time to ignore typical platoon rules: Pinch hitting right hander Ryan Raburn for left hander Josh Anderson against right hander
Ryan Dempster Kevin Gregg setting up the Best walk-off pinch hit homer of the year.
- Best comeback story: Dontrelle Willis’ 7 innings of shut out ball against a hot hitting Rangers team.
- Worst comeback story: Pretty much every start Willis made after that.
- Team MVP of the year: At the risk of being labeled and Inge Fan-Boy or Inge-lover, I’m going with Inge. His offensive and defensive contributions have brought more value to the team than any other player. The Tigers were prepared to sacrifice offense for defense at many positions including third base. They didn’t plan on sacrificing it in left field and right field and DH and second base (due to Polanco’s early season struggles). And it’s not just the overall contributions, or the contributions in context of expectations and the rest of the lineup. Inge’s hits have been dramatic. The homer in Houston to grab a victory, the homer in Toronto to tie the score after Brandon Lyon surrendered the lead late. Other 2 run homers that proved to be the difference in the game (against the Brewers and against the Rockies). Inge has been a legitimate force and the Tigers would be in a world of hurt without his contributions this season.