In the desert wasteland of baseball-less America there are many things that one could do – get a suntan, hoard canned goods, collect things to push around in a grocery cart, tell one's children about the glorious epoch in which freedom reigned and men threw balls very fast while other men tried to hit them with wooden sticks – but looking ahead to the return of baseball seems to be a logical choice.
Going into the second half the Tigers are at 44-44 with a run differential of -15 and they leave the All-Star break with 74 games left to play. Feelings about the team range from disappointed to despondent and most fans are in the mood for a second half filled with Phillies, Marlins, Padres, Rockies and Brewers. Unfortunately those teams are in the National League and with the exception of a make up game against the Reds and two games against the Cubs, the Tigers are done with interleague play. Instead, the Tigers are looking at the playing their games against the American League during a time of great
mediocrity parity in which no team is truly great and no team is truly bad. The Tigers will fit right in.
In the second half, the Tigers play the following teams:
|Team||Record||Run Differential||Games v Tigers|
First, the bad news: that is a tough schedule. 39 of their remaining 74 games are against teams that are .500 or better. Worse, many of the teams below .500 including the White Sox, Rangers, Blue Jays, Red Sox, Mariners and Indians are likely much better than their current records indicate. The Blue Jays are a wrecking crew against pitchers and the Indians have one of the strongest rotations in baseball. Without Miguel Cabrera and with their starting rotation, many of these teams present a variety of problems for the Tigers. In addition, the Tigers will have to play 74 whole games against themselves and their formidable base running errors and bullpen meltdowns.
As things stand, the Tigers schedule in the second half appears to be devoid of sellers. It is possible that the Rangers, Indians or White Sox could sell, but with the second wildcard and the current clustered standings (no team is more than eight games out of the second wildcard spot), there are incentives for teams to wait around and see if they can make a run. As much as I want to watch this lineup against an over-matched young starter and as badly as this rotation needs to face a kaleidoscopic group of AAAA players, the Tigers will not likely see teams that have been strip-mined in August and September.
The good news is that the schedule is also AL Central heavy with 32 games remaining against division rivals. This used to be better news when the AL Central was exceedingly weak, but the Tigers could still stand to benefit. The last four division titles won by the Tigers have been thanks in a large part to their rivals. In 2014, the Tigers edged out the Royals by one game and went 13-6 against the Kansas City squad. In 2013, the Tigers beat the Indians 15 of the 19 times they met and won the division by, you guessed it, one game. In 2012, they went 12-6 against the White Sox and won the division by three games. In 2011 they won the division by 15 games – those were the days, until they weren't.
The 12 remaining games against Kansas City are clearly key to the Tigers season, but they can ill afford to make mistakes against anyone. The Tigers have a tough task ahead of them, but there is a lot of baseball left and they still have a shot at the postseason and the division. At this point, you may be thinking, "This article is pointless and basically says that the Tigers could go to the playoffs or they could not." Touché, keen reader. However, this conclusion is not meaningless; it shows that the Tigers still have a myriad of possibilities. Possibilities are a good thing – when they go away a season that was once young and full of hope turns into a heap of ashes while someone like the Cardinals, Red Sox or Giants wins the World Series. That is the darkest timeline and we may still avoid it. As things stand, the Tigers schedule puts them in a position to make a run, but it will be difficult.
What do you think, is the schedule too tough to overcome?