June 26, 2006

OH YEAH, THEY'RE REAL AND THEY'RE SPECTACULAR:

No doubt about Tigers after sweep of Cards (Danny Knobler, 6/26/06, Michigan Live)

This was the weekend where it started to feel real.

Big crowds, thrilling wins. Big-name opponent, and it didn't make a bit of difference.

Can anyone doubt the Detroit Tigers right now?

Sunday's 4-1 sweep-ending win against St. Louis was typical, from the outstanding starting pitcher (Jeremy Bonderman) to the shut-down bullpen (Joel Zumaya, Wilfredo Ledezma and Todd Jones) to the eye-popping defense (Brandon Inge) to the clutch late hit (Curtis Granderson).

Granderson's eighth-inning double off left-handed reliever Randy Flores put the Tigers in front for the first time all afternoon, but it hardly came as a surprise. It's what the whole weekend was building to, wasn't it?

"We flat-out just beat them,'' Inge said. "And I think they would say that, too.''


Not that the Tigers aren't terrific, but this year's interleague play has really demonstrated just how wide the gap is between the AL and the NL, especially in terms of pitching (other than the Yankees and the Marlins).

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 26, 2006 8:05 AM
Comments

OJ,

The Rockies are currently 7-2 in interleague play, with 3 shutouts AT HOME over the week. Two of those were against the vaunted pitching staff of the Oakland A's.

Keep in mind, the Rockies are a team that went above .500 in interleague play only twice since it started, and not since 2000.

Posted by: Brad S at June 26, 2006 8:43 AM

The Tigers and Cardinels are overrated. Tigers will fall back to the pack and battle for a wild card spot. Whomever the NL serves up in the World Series will lose to the AL.

Posted by: AWW at June 26, 2006 9:56 AM

The Rockies pitching staff is as good as anyone's. The Question is whether they've really figured out how to make Mile High neutral with that humidor.

Posted by: oj at June 26, 2006 10:41 AM

Of all the teams with new ballparks over the last several years, the Tigers were the only team in the AL that went from a premier hitters' park to a premier pitchers' park (Seattle might argue the point but they are the only ones).

It has taken Dombrowski 5 years to re-tool the organization to the new surroundings but he now has put together the kind of team that wins in a pitching oriented park:

- Power pitching with guys like Rogers, Bonderman, Zumaya, Verlander, Jones etc. All 5 starters under a 3.50 ERA.

- Outfield speed to cover the immense outfield.

- Solid up the middle defense

- Line drive hitters to put doubles up the gaps.

The two concerns are they have a low OBP and no left handed power. They will cool off some, but they won't collapse. Too many veterans with pennant race and playoff experience.

AWW is probably right that they will be in the wild card chase. If so, 6 of their last 9 games are with Kansas City. If I were the Sawx or Yanks I would be very afraid.

Posted by: Jeff at June 26, 2006 10:56 AM

I hate to say this but the Mets are really the only good team (thus far) in the NL. Go figure.

I expected the Tigers to fall down in June; then again, I expected the White Sox to fall down in June of last year, then July, then August, and they almost did in September but October rolled around. That is why it is such a great game.

Posted by: pchuck at June 26, 2006 10:59 AM

Well the Diamondbacks have had their heads handed to them against the AL. They're 1-8. That's taken them from 1st in the NL West to last.

Posted by: Brandon at June 26, 2006 11:32 AM

They've been tanking since thhe Grimsley story broke and Tracy signed a big contract.

Posted by: oj at June 26, 2006 11:42 AM

With Ledezma & Sanchez ready now and Miller and others coming.

They could use a real 3b, with Inge going super-utility, and a big time outfielder.

Posted by: oj at June 26, 2006 11:45 AM

We're nearing the end of June and the Tigers are still on top of the world (well, MLB)! Though an optimist in general, I'm not ready to proclaim them champs yet. The Red Wings and the Pistons put a big crimp in my "we are the champions" optimism over Detroit's pro sports teams.

Posted by: Dave W at June 26, 2006 11:52 AM

The Tigers finished 50-25 for their first 75; they will finish with an even better record in their second 75 because of their youth, and with nearly 110 wins. What you're seeing is something that is almost never seen: the beginning of greatness. Imagine the Braves of the 90's but with a great bullpen.

The Tigers have had one starter go down and capably backfilled; if another goes down, they have the best pitcher this side of Jared Weaver in the minors ready to step-in.

Posted by: Palmcroft at June 26, 2006 12:44 PM

My beloved Braves...my poor, poor Braves. Bound to tank after a decade plus of admirable performance.

And am I the only one here that got the Seinfeld reference?!

Posted by: Bruce Cleaver at June 26, 2006 6:11 PM

The Tigers are at or near the top in hitting, pitching and team defense (overrated AWW?). They have some of the best young arms in the Majors and young regulars like Curtis Granderson and Marcus Thames are budding stars. Also, don't underestimate the Jimmy Leyland factor. Anything can happen, but they appear to be too solid a team to come apart at the seams. It's been years since I paid much attention to baseball, but these guys have brought me back to the fold.

Posted by: JimBobElrod at June 26, 2006 8:54 PM

Easy now--Granderson has the stuff to be a star but Thames is older and has a rather low ceiling. He and Monroe are fine 4th and 5th outfielders but they probably need a big guy to start if they're going to go deep in the playoffs.

Posted by: oj at June 26, 2006 9:05 PM

Thames is doing a great job for Detroit: .308 .375 .651 (He is after all a Yankee by training. Yet another of the former Yankees, like Mike Lowell and WilyMo Pena, who couldn't cut it in the Bronx, but are fine for lesser teams).

He's actually one of the few hitters in their lineup -- Gullen and Granderson are the only others iirc -- with any sort of plate discipline.

True, he won't be a star ever, and he's probably, given his age, at the top of his game. But he's not the someone who needs replacing in order for the Tigers to make a run this year.

That person would be the dreadful Placido Polanco. True, you don't need a great hitter at 2nd. But Leyland insists on batting he of the 10 bbs and the .288 .321 .367 line 2nd in the order, right in front of his rbi man.

When they played the Yanks, Leyland actually sat Granderson against Johnson and had Polanco lead off. Shudder. It was a gift.

Polanco's one of the reasons Detroit hasn't played well against NY and Chicago, the two teams they're most likely to have to face in the playoffs. They play Oakland next week. It'll be interesting to see how they do against the other likely playoff team.

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at June 27, 2006 2:03 AM

Sure, he'd start for the Yankees, but he's the kind of limited player, a la Polanco, whose good season at a peak age can fool management into overestimating him.

Posted by: oj at June 27, 2006 7:39 AM
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