Monday Morning Thoughts: Tigers a step below the best in the AL

Detroit Tigers right fielder Brennan Boesch (26) at bat during the game against the Texas Rangers at Rangers Ballpark. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-US PRESSWIRE

The Tigers went 3-4 in the past week. They were facing the Yankees at home and the Rangers on the road. They were so close to being 5-2 yet for the inability to close out a couple of opportunities. I don't know that we can read too much into the specific results. One moment this team is winning a bunch of games in a row, the next moment it's dropping a couple of frustrating losses. But combining what we learned this week with what we've learned throughout the past four more or so, there are a few conclusions that can be reached.

The Yankees and Rangers remain the class of the American League. I've said it before -- I've said it on my friend Casey Ford's Sports Pen show on ESPN970 -- and it seems just as true now. The Yankees are not perfect. But they are a step above the Tigers. Likewise, the Rangers have had their own struggles, and like Detroit have tripped in the run scoring column at times. And like with Tigers fans, Rangers fans have watched an outfielder make phenomenal mishaps. Yet when you compare the teams, you see a Texas club that's just a little bit better in several areas.

Watching the Tigers is like watching a Greek tragedy unfold. You see their flaws. You know it's going to be their undoing eventually. Will their failure to execute at the plate cause them to narrowly miss out in making the playoffs? Will the defenses lapses cost them a deciding game in the playoffs? Or maybe the utter incompetence of the next few batters after Prince Fielder -- no matter what order manager Jim Leyland chooses to put them -- will make the final week's games irrelevant. And I haven't even mentioned the uneven performances in the bullpen and the inconsistent starts in the rotation. Sometimes it's amazing to see this team is in the playoff hunt at all.

Detroit's still good enough to make the playoffs. I know, sometimes when you're in the midst of concentrating on the negatives it seems impossible to see the team for what it is. While flawed, it's good more often than not. Especially when facing teams from its own division. Yet the Tigers made pretty uneventful work of the Rangers on Friday. They won the first two games of the series against the Yankees with only a Jose Valverde non-save meltdown making the game close. They won six games in a row to open the month of August. In July, it took three of four from the Angels and swept the White Sox.

What I take away from all this is that the Tigers are not a team that's going to win 95 games. Fortunately they still have 25 games remaining against the dregs of the Central and seven against the White Sox. That's a much better spot to be sitting in than where A's, the Angels, the Orioles, the Rays and the Red Sox are in. The wild card is not desirable, but it's attainable. Detroit also has more games at home and an easier strength of schedule than Chicago does. So while the Tigers may not be favored to win the AL pennant, it's not time to pack up playoff hopes. There's plenty of season left to be played.

Jim Leyland doesn't know what to tell you about Brennan Boesch. Leyland, via Beck: "I don't know what to do with him, because he's fighting himself. He gets mad when we talk about relaxing, but he's just fighting himself." Danny Worth might have a room he can crash in for a few weeks. Boesch is probably the most frustrating player on the team. He keeps doing just enough to be tantalizing and then failing spectacularly when you feel like he's turned the corner. (Metaphor for the team alert?) While batting Delmon Young in the 5-hole was a horrible idea, batting Brennan Boesch in the 5-hole is equally bad. It's getting easier and easier for teams to pitch around the meat of the Tigers order when they're faced with a couple of hitters like that.

I've got a few more topic ideas that I could write about, but I think I'll call it good for now so I can make separate posts rather than use up all my ammunition already.

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