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The Tigers project to be best in the division in the second half

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The Royals and Twins are going to start hitting the wall, while the Tigers and Indians find their stride. But will it be enough to flip the standings?

Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

I want you to suspend your disbelief for a moment, and ignore everything you've actually witnessed with your own eyes in the Tigers' first half. Yep, all of it. Forget the great starts by David Price, forget the majestic J.D. Martinez bombs, forget the bullpen implosions, forget Shane Greene going down in flames. Why? Because sometimes you have to just trust the numbers and ignore what's happening in front of you. If the true odds of winning a coin flip are 50/50, and you've just lost 30 flips in a row, trust the numbers: you're due for a crazy hot streak because those numbers will work themselves out.

The same is true for baseball. The forecasts and projections are there for a reason, and many times the visible results can be deceiving. At the half-way point in 2012, both the White Sox and the Rangers were winning their divisions, while the Tigers and A's were both in third place and playing .500 ball -- they faced each other in the ALDS. On July 1, 2013, the Los Angeles Dodgers were in last place in the NL West -- they won the division. Go back to July 1 of last year, and you'll see that the A's and the Brewers were both leading their respective divisions -- neither team made it to a postseason series.

Ignore the results you see for the moment, pay attention to the numbers, and keep flipping that coin. We're not through here, not yet.

If we go back to two different sets of projections for the AL Central -- Baseball Prospectus and Fangraphs -- we can get a good look at how the Tigers project to perform in the second half, and where they should end up in the standings, relative to their competition.

The good news is that the Tigers project to have a better record than anyone else in the Central during the second half (except maybe the Indians). The bad news is that they don't project to actually perform any better, it's their competition that projects to perform worse. The bad, bad news is that the Tigers' solid second half while the rest of the Central starts to crumble probably still won't be enough to win them the division.

Baseball Prospectus projects that the Tigers will play exactly .500 ball during the second half, going 37-37 to finish the season with an 81-81 record. The Royals are projected to crash harder than any other Central team, going 34-42 (.447 percentage) the rest of the way, but ultimately finishing with an 86-76 record and easily winning the division.

Team 2nd Half W 2nd Half L 2nd Half % Final W Final L Final %
DET 37 37 .500 81 81 .500 (3rd)
CLE 36 38 .486 78 84 .481 (4th)
CHW 36 40 .474 77 85 .475 (5th)
MIN 33 40 .452 82 80 .506 (2nd)
KCR 34 42 .447 86 76 .531 (1st)

Fangraphs has a very similar projected outlook for the Tigers and the AL Central as a whole, with the exception that these numbers expect the Indians to pick up the pace a lot more than the Tigers. However, in the end, it doesn't change the final result.

Team 2nd Half W 2nd Half L 2nd Half % Final W Final L Final %
CLE 39 35 .527 81 81 .500 (3rd)
DET 37 37 .500 81 81 .500 (3rd)
CHW 37 39 .487 78 84 .481 (5th)
KCR 36 40 .474 88 74 .543(1st)
MIN 33 40 .452 82 80 .506 (2nd)

There are obviously a few unknowns that could impact these numbers: Alex Gordon's injury could hurt the Royals a lot more than anticipated; the Tigers could pick up exactly the right combination of leprechauns and four-leaf clovers at the trade deadline and go on a .650 tear; the Indians could get some better defense and suddenly their world-class rotation (Kluber, Carrasco, and Salazar are all in the Top Five for AL pitchers with the most strikeouts this season) could launch them to the top; but more than likely, the final numbers will look pretty close to what you see here.