Keith Allison, Flickr
At 52-42, the Detroit Tigers and their fans have far less to complain about at baseball season’s midway point in 2013 than in many years past.
Their team is in first place, had six All-Stars shine on Tuesday night and looks to be in fantastic shape for a solid final three months of the season, so what’s not to like? A few things, perhaps. What has led to the Tigers’ success in the first half, and what might happen for grades in the second stanza? Here’s a quick look just before the games resume again.
Starting Pitching: A+ Second-Half Projection: A
Detroit has gotten superb results out of all their starters this season. Max Scherzer has delivered at the front of the rotation, helping compensate for an awkward start to 2013 by Justin Verlander. Anibal Sanchez has looked brilliant at times, Doug Fister remains steady and Rick Porcello has rebounded after a rough start. It’s hard to imagine things getting much worse for Verlander which is positive news, but that will be the major second half story line. If he pitches better than in the first half, the Tigers will be on their way to a third straight division title, if all else stays the same, which it will.
Infield: A- Second-Half Projection: B+
Miguel Cabrera, after a second straight triple crown, is chasing the incomparable feat and has done so quite well, collecting 95 RBI’s before the break. Jhonny Peralta, delivering a solid first half has been great as well. Omar Infante has struggled a bit and is now nursing an injury, while Prince Fielder has remained consistent. Cabrera and Fielder will carry this bunch, and considering the uncertanty surrounding Peralta’s possible looming suspension and Infante’s injury, they’ll likely have to. Replacing Peralta’s production, if the team has to, might become the biggest issue in the second half.
Outfield: B+ Second Half Projection: B
Had Austin Jackson not sustained an injury wiping out a chunk of his first half, the grade would have likely been higher. Still, Torii Hunter had an excellent beginning to his Detroit career and Avisail Garcia played well in Jackson’s absence. The only major dissapointment, thus far, has been Andy Dirks’ inability to consistently hit. With Jackson back in the fold setting the table, things will remain decent, but another slump or two from Hunter and Dirks continuing to struggle might complicate things. Count on a tiny bit of that, but it shouldn’t prevent Detroit from scoring.
Catcher: C- Second-Half Projection: B-
Alex Avila has had his problems in 2013, but thankfully, the play of reserve Brayan Pena has been fantastic, compensating for most of the shortcomings of Avila’s bat. In the second half, Pena should fall back to earth a bit while Avila, if healthy, should pick things up. A solid .268 average last August with two home runs and 10 RBI’s would help things along just as much in 2013 as last season.
Bench/DH: C+ Second-Half Projection: B+
Victor Martinez was missing in action much of the first half struggling to regain his form, but his bat has finally started to perk up, which has been a boost to the offense. Matt Tuiasosopo has shown flashes of power and precision, which helped compensate for Martinez’s struggles and Don Kelly’s usual on again but mostly off again production. Reserves such as Hernan Perez have done a decent job when called upon. With a healthy Martinez leading the charge, things should only get better for this bunch in the second half.
Bullpen: D- Second-Half Projection: Incomplete
As everyone knows, the bullpen was miserable in the first half. The Jose Valverde experiment failed miserably, while other established players, such as Phil Coke and Al Alburquerque, have struggled. Octavio Dotel has been lost to injury, meaning handfuls of young players, such as Luke Putkonen, Evan Reed, Darin Downs and Jose Ortega have been counted on to mixed results. Joaquin Benoit has been a stabilizer at closer of late, but a few major additions will need to be made prior to the July 31 trade deadline if the Tigers’ want to contend for the World Series as expected. How will everything fare in the second half? Nobody knows for sure, which is cause for concern, as well as a grade of incomplete for the upcoming second half.
Overall, expect the Tigers to win the Central Division, but where they go from that point in the playoffs is currently still anybody’s guess. Clearly, they have the starting pitching as well as the thump in the middle of the order to contend with anyone, but issues in the bullpen and the potential loss of Peralta might work to complicate things in the future.
Max DeMara is a senior editor at The Detroit Sports Site. You can find him on Twitter @SportsGuyTheMax