Granderson Saves The Season (Photo by John Greilick. Detroit News)
Last week I emphatically stated that “it all comes down to this.” Turns out, it actually all comes down to this: a one game playoff tomorrow afternoon to determine who will win the AL Central. Tigers fans are experiencing a range of emotions, from blaming a “Leyland led collapse” to just being thankful that meaningful baseball is still in Detroit. The rest of us are in the middle, although I’m more slanted towards the latter than the former. If nothing else, this last week has certainly been thought provoking.
The national spotlight has shone on the Twins and Tigers for the last week. I hate it when this happens. When outside media types (and fan-types) start to analyze the teams and give their predictions I am often shocked by how out of touch they are. The prevailing story is that the Tigers collapsed down the stretch and choked away a stranglehold on the division. I”ll leave it to Mack Avenue Tigers to shoot that one down. Here is what he said a month ago:
“But, I have to say, I don't really think the Tigers have a late-season choke in them. So, unless something bad happens, I think it's easy to imagine them being able to go 16-16 the rest of the way… Most likely? I'm going to put the Tigers at 17-15 from here on. That gives them an 86-76 record.”
Guess where the Tigers finished? 86-76. In other words, they have played exactly how one might expect them to play down the stretch. This whole “blew a 7 game lead” thing is overblown. Their seven game lead was an anomaly that matched up with some Tigers wins and Twins losses that happened to coordinate. It was certainly not representative of a division stranglehold. Everybody knew that this was going to come down to the wire. The Tigers have been nothing if not consistent. They are not a great team. They are a good team that can get hot and cold and have not deviated far from their mean all season. What you see is what you get—the Tigers stayed consistent down the stretch, posting a winning record for the last month and going 3-4 in their seven games against the Twins.
Meanwhile, the Twins outperformed their averages by such staggering amounts that it is not even funny. Mack Avenue Tigers again:
Since then, the team went 16-4. This is a team that was under-.500 before it started its run. Who could possibly have expected it to play .800 down the stretch and catch the Tigers on the penultimate day of the regular season?
16-4 in their last 20 games! Three of those losses were against the Tigers. The other was against Zach Greinke.
That’s not to say that the Tigers haven’t choked a little bit. Certainly something was caught in their throat this weekend, as they lost two of three to the White Sox—only scoring ONE run in the first two games. That sounds like a choke. But again, sample size. The Tigers performed exactly as one would expect for the last month. It just so happens that the Twins decided to play far beyond anybody’s wildest dreams.
Let’s take a trip back to my very own season preview:
Prediction: The Tigers will be in the hunt for a playoff spot up until the final week, at which point, the hot team will win out. This team has tremendous potential, it's just a matter of putting it all together.
The Twins got hot. Now both teams live to play one more game.
- F*** Ozzie Guillen. Last Wednesday, Ozzie scratched Jake Peavy so that he could start against the Tigers on Friday. Screw you man. Apologists will say that he was just doing what he could to win. Bull. He wanted to do his best to try and beat the Tigers. That is not your job. Your job is to help the White Sox win games. Sox lost the Wednesday (scratched) game and won Friday, a net zero for the White Sox, but killing the Tigers in the process.
- Granderson saved the season. Curtis has had a tough year. Inconsistent offensively, personal bests alongside personal worsts. Recent miscues in the outfield. On Sunday, with the season on the line, he made up for it. If you haven’t yet, go watch the video right now.
- Where has Miguel Cabrera gone? He went 0-11 in the White Sox Series and is 1-15 in the last four games. Maybe it was just an ill-timed slump. Or maybe it was because he was out too late drinking with the White Sox and then got beaten up by his wife. ARRRGGH
- I took solace in the fact that if the Tigers were going to get swept by the White Sox then they wouldn’t have deserved the playoffs. It was oddly comforting. At this point, it feels like the Twins deserve it more, for their unreal play of late, but that is the beauty of the game. Whoever wins tomorrow is the team most deserving of the AL Central crown. If the Tigers don’t win, it isn’t because they choked, but because they were just an above-average team to begin with.
- If Rick Porcello comes out and stones the Twins tomorrow (he allowed 1 ER in 6.1 innings against them last week, in a game that the Tigers ultimately lost), is he the Rookie of the Year? I say yes. Some rookies have better numbers, but nobody has performed as well as Rick down the stretch with as much on the line.