By: Jamie Samuelsen
For the past few weeks, we’ve heard far too much about what the Tigers don’t have and not enough about what they do.
Miguel Cabrera is playing hurt. Bruce Rondon is down. The power disappeared in September when the Tigers hit only 16 home runs after hitting 75 in July and August combined. The A’s have home field advantage. The Indians only finished a game behind the Tigers in the Central. Some dude named Henderson Alvarez no-hit the Tigers on the last day of the regular season.
It’s the nature of baseball fans to worry, but it seems lately like Tiger Nation has turned into the Chicken Little Society.
The sky is not falling. The bats haven’t disappeared. And any Tiger doubters are ignoring the most important factor in the ALDS and any series the Tigers play from this point forward.
Max Scherzer. Justin Verlander. Anibal Sanchez. Doug Fister.
Scherzer is the front-runner for the AL Cy Young award. Verlander won that award along with the MVP in 2011 and was the Cy Young runner up last year. Sanchez led the AL in ERA this year and he’s the #3 starter in this series. Fister was once the #2 starter on this team and would be the #2 starter on most of the other playoff teams, and perhaps the staff ace. That’s one of the most luxurious starting rotations that any manager has ever been able to enjoy.
Take a look at the A’s. They’ll go with Bartolo Colon in the opener who finished second to Scherzer in wins (18) and second to Sanchez in ERA (2.65). But following that, they’ll pitch rookie Sonny Grey, Jarrod Parker and Dan Straily. Sufficed to say, the Tigers will have the edge in every pitching match-up in this series. That’s an advantage that any team would love to have.
Does this guarantee the Tigers advance? Of course not. Some of you will aptly point out that the Tigers appeared to hold a similar edge last fall against the Giants in the World Series. And Barry Zito v. Verlander didn’t exactly go the way that people expected it to. The offense does need to perform. And the fact that Cabrera is playing through pain is a very discouraging way to start the postseason.
But just remember that last year, the Tigers did not have Torii Hunter batting second nor did they have Victor Martinez batting fifth. They also had Jhonny Peralta coming off a lousy season (.239/.305/.384) while this year, he was an All-Star prior to his 50-game suspension for PED use. It’s still up in the air what kind of a hitter Peralta will be in these playoffs, but he looked to have his stroke back last week in three games in Miami.
Predicting baseball series is a lot like predicting hockey series, it’s not very safe. But in hockey, you’re smart to ride the hot goaltender. And in baseball, you’re smart to ride the dominant pitching. The Tigers have it, and they have it in bunches.
Worry about what the Tigers lack. After all, fall is the time for baseball fans to worry. But remember what they have. And remember the fact the famous baseball adage “pitching, pitching, pitching”. If that pitching comes through, as it should, you’ll have nothing to worry about by Halloween.