71-51, 1st place, still way ahead of Cleveland and Kansas City, whoever they think they are.
I’ve just returned from the past, but I can’t tell you anything you don’t already know about the Tigers losing two in one day to the Royals. 2-1, 3-0. Yup. Royals-Tigers scores there, fer shur. The results were disappointing, but were the games bad? No, not really.
I don’t know whether to blame mlb.com or Ned Yost, but I was told that the first game starter for the Royals was going to be Big Game James. This appears to have confused the Tigers as well, a problem they solved by deciding to hit neither pitcher.
We complain a lot around here. It’s only natural. We want nothing but hits and runs from Tigers hitters, and nothing but outs from Tigers pitchers. We want nothing but wins from the team. If the Tigers were to finish 161-1 some season, that one loss would haunt us for years. It also seems like the negative lends itself to more description and analysis (and more humor). But this season has been a good one that only seems to be getting better, so I’m going to try to focus more on the positive. Once in a while.
It’s easy to be positive about the Tigers starters. Some look askance at the notion of “quality start,” but to my mind, going 6 innings or more while allowing 3 runs or less is about as big a contribution to a winning effort as any individual player is capable of, even though more dramatic events, especially late in a game, might draw more attention. Only 6 pitchers have started for the Tigers this season – that’s quite an accomplishment in its own right, and testimony to the health and consistency of the staff. Here’s how they have fared as far as quality starts go:
Sanchez: 15 QS in 21 starts, streaks of 7 and (currently) 6 in a row
Verlander: 16 QS in 26 starts, streak of 6 early
Fister: 17 QS in 24 starts
Scherzer: 20 QS in 24 starts, streak of 10
Porcello: 14 QS in 22 starts, streak of 6
Alvarez: 1 QS in 5 starts
Further good news is the team record (59-23) in these quality starts:
Drew Smyly is the most underrated good news of the season. Prior to the season, most of us had our money on either Porcello being traded or Smyly to Toledo. That Smyly would be so good out the bullpen… well, no, that’s not it. He worked out of the pen in 2012, too. The surprise is that he’s this good, and that it’s been that way all year.
Losing Jhonny Peralta to a suspension was a thing of dread, and being without Omar Infante for a month was an unexpected blow, and having these circumstances overlap could have been a disaster. And yet from it all emerges SS Of The Future Jose Iglesias and Utility Infielder Of The Middle Distance Hernan(do) Perez, just when we thought the pickings were slim and the cupboard was bare. Talk about a silver lining.
Matt Tuiasosopo is perhaps the biggest (positive) surprise. Even though I liked him right away and was delighted when he made the team, even I was waiting for the other shoe to drop. I mean, look at his career numbers prior to this season. There is nothing there to indicate that he was anything. You had to see him to suspect it. You have to watch him now, perhaps, to continue to believe. He’s good. He’s an asset.
Look at Rick Porcello. He’s quietly having a career year, and is both still young and a veteran. Porcello, I would wager, is no longer the guy who falls off the edge of the table when Smyly is slid onto it. Uh-uh. Have you found yourself feeling something resembling confidence when Porcello is slated to start? I have.
Take another look at Justin Verlander. Look over his game logs and such. You know what? He’s still Justin Verlander. This is good.
Victor Martinez is the bad news that became good news. His roaring comeback is such that I find it hard to remember what it was like earlier in the season. I never doubted him, of course.
Torii Hunter, for all the occasional overstating and overrating, and some at bats and plays that make you go “huh?,” lights a fire under this team. It has helped a good deal how he’s gone from setting the table to clearing it.
Don Kelly. On balance, not a bad idea keeping him around, eh? How I wanted Berry and Worth over Kelly and Santiago. But Don Kelly has earned his keep.
And then there’s Miguel Cabrera, having an insanely productive year of insane consistency. What’s a slump for Miggy this season – 1 for 8 with only 1 HR? Every day we watch an all-time great playing at a high level, and while it’s fun, it’s just an everyday thing, isn’t it? You get used to it. For Most Valuable Player, defined carefully and reasonably, there is no competitor and no contest. And statistically, he’s having a Triple Crown season whether he literally acheives that or not. Winning a Triple Crown is usually if not always a matter of seasonal accident in one of the three categories. As of Game 121, the full season pace Cabrera was setting is this (without penalty for games missed): .359, 54 HR, 166 RBI. That’s not even modern. That’s black-and-white photo, herky-jerky newsreel stuff.
You know, one thing Miggy has over a number of contemporary and near-contemporary greats is his personality and showmanship. Did you see, not too long ago, when he tripped over third base and, after getting up, tipped his helmet to the fans? The kicker was that he didn’t grin and ham it up. He was annoyed with himself and embarrassed, you could tell. And he still made a joke of it. He knew it (the stumble) was funny, he knew people watching thought it was funny. There was nothing to add to it except an irritated but obliging tip o’ the cap. Which made all of it even funnier. Perfect touch. Prince Fielder was dying in the dugout.
What’s your 2013 Tigers good news? I know there’s more.
All right. Still time to take this series. Go Doug. Go Miggy. Go Iggy. Is he just on loan from the Red Sox or what? I’m having a difficult time associating the plays Iglesias is making at SS with the uniform he’s wearing. Is this for real? Do the Tigers get to keep him?