Two halves are supposed to make a whole, right? Unfortunately, the Tigers first and second halves haven’t added up to a strong finish over the past five seasons. Even in 2006, when the Tigers made it to the World Series, they faded fast in the second half of the season and only managed to make it to the post-season because they won the Wild Card spot.
So now the Tigers are going into the All Star break in first place in the Central Division, a half game in front of Cleveland, thanks to a strong finish, winning three out of four games from those pesky Kansas City Royals. The question is, can they avoid another second half nosedive? Of course, the Tigers are relying heavily on the right arm of their ace Justin Verlander, who finished the first half 12 and 4. Manager Jim Leyland closed out the first half with Verlander on Sunday, and will come right back with him again on Friday, when the Tigers resume play after the All Star break. Unfortunately, he can’t pitch Verlander every day.
Max Scherzer’s numbers look good, with ten wins for the first half. But his ERA is high, and he needs to be more consistent in the second half if the Tigers are going to keep playing into October. Brad Penney and Rick Porcello have been good at times, but also have to give the Tigers more consistency and more innings. The fifth starter spot is still up for grabs. Phil Coke was sent back to the bullpen after winning only once as a starter, and rookie Charlie Furbush had to take the bus back to Toledo after he was hammered by the Royals on Saturday night. The Tigers might be in the market to trade for another starter. Or they could call up someone from the minors. It might be time to see if Andy Oliver or Jacob Turner can handle the pressure of pitching in the big leagues.
I still think the Tigers have the strongest team in the Central Division, which should be very winnable. But as Satchell Paige once said, “Don’t look back. Someone might be gaining on you.” And sure enough, the Indians, White Sox, and Twins, who seemed dead and buried a few weeks ago, are all within sniffing distance.
It’s nice to see the Tigers get some recognition, with five players going to the All Star game in Arizona. That should be more evidence that the Tigers are the class of their division.