The 100 game mark is quickly approaching and the Detroit Tigers remain as mysterious as ever. Game after game goes by -- win a few, lose a few -- but they seem to be in a rut. Tick, tick, tick.
The Motowners hover somewhere around 7-8 games back of the division leading Cleveland Indians and a few games out of a potential wild card spot.
They can score a bunch of runs one day, then have their bats go silent the next. Beat good teams, lose to bad ones. The longer this drags on, the worse their chances at making the post season get. It's unlikely Cleveland will go into a tailspin. They have too much talent, both pitching and hitting, to suffer a lengthy losing streak. Sure, it could happen, but the odds are highly against it.
In the east, the Red Sox are cruising along, and the Orioles and Blue Jays are both quality teams. Also with better records than the Tigers.
The same can be said for the Astros in the west, where Texas leads the division.
Assuming the Tigers won't catch Cleveland -- there will only be two wild card spots available. Throw Detroit in the mix with Baltimore, Toronto, and Houston, and their chances at reaching the post season don't appear good.
True, the Tigers could get hot and there's "plenty" of games left, but as each day goes by and they hover just over .500, the clock is working against them. Tick.
With the notable exception of J. D. Martinez, the Tigers have been relatively major injury free. They remain who we all know they are. Lots of good hitters in the line-up, mediocre starting pitching, not much team speed, and a disaster for a bullpen. Typically, they need to score a bunch of runs to win, because their beleaguered pitching staff is surely going to surrender a few on most days.
It is interesting to note manager Brad Ausmus, in the last year of his contract, has yet to receive a renewal offer from the club. If the Tigers make the playoffs, and a little noise once there, it's entirely possible BA will be re-upped. But not a sure thing. If they don't make the playoffs, he is almost surely history. It always seemed strange that, never before managing at ANY level, the Tigers tagged Ausmus as their skipper. Of course the players have to play the game and the general manager is in charge of procuring them, but losing typically falls at the feet of the manager.
Further, puttering along as they have been for the last few months isn't helping them any. There's too many other teams, as mentioned above, that remain ahead of them. And just like the Tigers could get hot, they could also swoon. If 7-8 games back turns into 13-14, with fewer yet left to play, they can pretty much kiss the season good-bye.
When the Tigers locked up several players for long term contracts, it was thought to be a good thing. Yet it might well be backfiring on them. They're stuck with what they have. Other teams are mighty wary of taking on a long-term mega-contract for a player that isn't exactly living up to his billing. And as the season winds down and several clubs are making a playoff push, they'll ALL be looking to add a key piece here and there. And, like the Tigers, such players won't come cheap or easy for them. They'll have to give up something, be it a good player another team covets, or a few top prospects. In other words, going for it now often means mortgaging the future.
The Tigers appear to be in limbo. Not terrible, but hardly great either. It's hard to imagine how adding a key player -- or even two -- to fill spots of need would propel them into being contenders. Again, they are what they are.
And as the games keep going by with no movement of note, their chances get slimmer and slimmer.
Tick, tick, tick.