As the Detroit Tigers rally against the Oakland Athletics came up short Thursday afternoon, the club sank to only one game over .500 and lost their seventh consecutive ballgame. Since I live in Florida, I am mainly immune from Tigers-related talk radio. I've heard the rumblings of how negative things have become. The Tigers are roughly a third of the way through their schedule, here are ten reasons for all of us to stay positive.
- Miguel Cabrera: He's just as good as he's ever been. The Tigers could be a 100-loss team and he would be worth the price of admission and worthy of our time. Cabrera is second in the American League in batting average and first in on-base percentage. He's also first in OPS and in times on base. He is the same offensive juggernaut he's always been. Remember last year when he was hurt for most of the year, and as a result, we saw a more "human" Cabrera? He's back to being a superhero. Last season he struck out almost twice as many times as he walked -- 117:60-- this year he has reduced that ratio to 39:34. As long as Cabrera is producing at this clip, the Tigers are alive.
- The return of Justin Verlander: Sure, his first rehab start did not go well. However, even if the Tigers get 2014 Verlander, they are better off. The rotation is struggling right now and at the very least, Verlander adds some depth to the staff. Verlander has such a reputation as a fighter, do not be surprised if he is just the shot in the arm the club needs. The only two pitchers in the starting rotation performing at or above the league average are David Price and Alfredo Simon. Verlander will make that three.
- Losing streaks mean almost nothing: I worked all day today and live in Florida. Still, I have read the words, "longest losing streak since 2011" at least 20 times. No joke. So, if a seven-game losing streak is so damning, 2011 must have been a terrible year in Detroit. According to the internet, the 2011 Tigers won 95 games and advanced to the ALCS. So, it is apparently very possible to still do well even with a losing streak of this length. Who knew? The 2011 St. Louis Cardinals won the World Series even though they lost seven straight games in June of that season.
- The Twins are not this good: The Twins are currently 11 games over .500 due largely to some pretty unsustainable performances from key players. Mike Pelfrey and Kyle Gibson currently have ERA+ of 157 and 159 respectively. With all due respect to both of these guys, they will not keep that up. When they come back down to earth a bit, so will Minnesota. Since the Twins ranks towards the bottom of the American League in most offensive stats, as the pitching falters, the wins will stop coming at such a healthy clip. The Twins 12th in the American League in on-base percentage and 13th in slugging percentage.
- Five teams make the playoffs: There are 15 teams in the American League and five of them now make the postseason. Once a team is in, it's all about getting hot. A Tigers team with some small improvements is easily in the top five of the American League.
- David Price will be a free agent: When CC Sabathia was entering his free agency winter, he was ridden hard by both the Cleveland Indians and the Milwaukee Brewers. He hurled 10 complete games including seven in his 17 starts for the Brewers. The Tigers will be in a similar situation with Price. If the Tigers feel like there is a change Price could leave -- and there is -- they will ride him hard this season. More innings for Price is good news for the Tigers and their fans.
- Victor Martinez will come back and cannot play any worse: Martinez has now been on the shelf since May 18. He is the not-so-proud owner of a .216/.308/.270 slash line. Many say that he is done. Washed up. However, Martinez was hurt this winter and that has to be partially to blame for his slow start. In fact, the last time Martinez was recovering from an injury, 2013, he had this slash line through May 18: .216/.276/.307. How did he respond? After May 21, Martinez slashed .333/.385/.477 and the Tigers won the division.
- Anibal Sanchez will get better: So far this season 76 pitchers have thrown at least 60 innings. Sanchez is 73rd in ERA+, 74th in home runs allowed, 75th in earned runs, 63rd in FIP and 2nd in losses. There is just no way this continues. He's too good. As Tigers fans we have seen this guy strike out 17 in a game, we have seen him win an ERA crown. Sanchez has coughed up 13 homers this season alone.That's the same amount he gave up in 2013 AND 2014 combined. That's 308 innings of work! Sanchez has been bad this year, if he can find a way to limit the homer runs, he will right the ship.
- The club is still above .500: For all the Tigers problems, they are a game above .500. .500 is the magic number in baseball, it always has been. In today's game .500 is good enough. At that break-even mark, you are a hot streak away from the playoffs. Even though this team has had more than its fair share of injuries (Verlander, Martinez, etc.) and poor performances (Sanchez, Martinez, etc.) they still sport a winning record. While being .500 on September 1st would be disappointing, the Tigers would still find themselves in contention.
- It's the first week of June: There are 107 games left on the season. That means there are nearly 1,000 innings of baseball left to be played. Martinez will return to the lineup. Verlander will take the mound. Dave Dombrowski will make a trade. Other winning teams will have losing streaks of their own. The baseball season is a true marathon. The Tigers are going to be fine.