It seems like a long time ago when the Tigers started out this season 6-0, then went to 11-2. At the time, there were the usual few Pollyannish (see foolhardy) folks that wondered if the 2015 Tigers could match the 35-5 record Sparky Anderson's 1984 crew put up.
Fast forward to the present. The Tigers have played 50 more games, for a total of 63, and still haven't reached 35 wins. They've gone 22-28 since they were 11-2. At a pedestrian 33-30, they could be considered no more than average.
For that matter, as certain media is so fond of saying (as if it matters), if the season ended right now, the Tigers wouldn't even qualify for the playoffs. They're in 3rd place in their own division, and in 4th place when it comes to qualifying as a wild card.
Sure, there's still 100 games to go and anything can happen. The Tigers could play fairly well for the next three and a half months and cruise to another AL central division title. Or it could go the other way. They could crash and burn as well.
It should come as no surprise that the Tigers losing pitchers like Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello would cost them a few wins. As mentioned in my previous post, former ace Justin Verlander has thudded back to "average", if he can even stay healthy, and Anabel Sanchez has reverted back to his career self. Sometimes he pitches well -- other times he pitches batting practice.
The much maligned bullpen has been OK. Nothing great, but passable for the most part.
To nobody's great surprise, slugger Miguel Cabrera keeps on keeping on with his bat. Yoenis Cespides was a great addition in the outfield and J.D. Martinez seems to have come around after a slump. Jose Iglesias is a slick, if weak-hitting shortstop, and second baseman Ian Kinsler is a solid player. Rajai Davis and Anthony Gose have their good days and bad days, but are decent role players. Even James McCann, filling in for injured catcher Alex Avila has contributed here and there. The aging Victor Martinez has long been a one-dimensional player. He could hit, but do nothing else. Now he's on the shelf with an injury, duration unknown, but Father Time is definitely working against him.
All in all, the Tigers are a "maybe" team. Not only every game, but for the season. They're neither dominant nor doormats. They can play well one day and stink it up the next. They're capable of rattling off an 8-10 game winning streak, but equally capable of the same sort of losing streak.
A funny thing about baseball. Even the worst teams win 4 games out of 10 over the season. One would think the better teams would easily win 6 out of 10. But currently only one, the St. Louis Cardinals are above the .600 mark.
A 100 win season in MLB is considered phenomenal these days, but it only requires a .617 winning percentage. That's not even winning two out of three all year. Successful teams in other sports would consider only winning two out of three as almost underachieving. Think New England Patriots, Seattle Seahawks, or a few NBA clubs.
What's really weird in baseball is that on any given day, a cellar dweller can beat a first place team and nobody raises an eyebrow. Happens all the time. But it would be big news if the same happened in the NFL or NBA.
The cream has a way of rising to the top in the NFL and NBA. When the playoffs start, the pretenders are usually quickly exposed.
But in baseball, the postseason is every bit the crapshoot the regular season was. Many in the Detroit area thought the Tigers would go far last year. They were unceremoniously broomed by the Baltimore Orioles. And the Kansas City Royals, which the Tigers had "owned" all year, went on to the World Series, finally losing in a thrilling seventh game to the San Fran Giants. And had anybody ever heard of Madison Bumgarner before? Where did he come from to suddenly turn into Sandy Koufax on the biggest stage of all?
So will the Tigers even MAKE the playoffs? Personally, I'd say it's a coin flip. Maybe. Maybe not. But you never know. If they do, they could wind up winning their first World Series since Sparky's 1984 squad pulled it off. There's something Orwellian about that number, but I digress.
Let's just say stranger things have happened. After all, the New York Giants knocked off the undefeated Patriots in the Super Bowl a few years back -- right? As did the LA Kings barely sneaking into the playoffs and winding up claiming Lord Stanley's Cup not so long ago.
In the end, there's only one definitive answer.
We'll all find out in October.