Five Reasons for the Tigers Not to Panic

Unrest among Tigers fans has picked up over the past couple weeks, as the Tigers have fallen out of first place behind the upstart Royals and there have been a few ugly losses along the way. Despite that, there are five reasons why the Tigers remain in good shape.

1. The slump isn’t much of a slump

Despite appearances, and a few losses full of crooked numbers, the Tigers sit at 11-11 in the month of August. That’s nothing to write home about for a team that’s aiming to win the division crown, but it’s also not a horrific slump, either. Consider last year, when the Tigers won the AL Central and clinched it a week before the season ended, the Tigers were within a game of .500 in three of the six months of the season. In 2012, they had two months just like it, too, and were three games under .500 in May. Way back in 2006, the Tigers had a six week stretch over August and September where they didn’t win a single series.

Over the course of a six month long season, teams are bound to have a few bumps in the road. When it comes to wins and losses, this recent stretch is nothing unlike what the Tigers have gone through in prior years when they had some significant postseason success.

2. The pitching staff is about to get healthier

In a cruel twist of fate, the Tigers lost a pair of starting pitchers just as they were entering a stretch full of playing every day with a doubleheader mixed in. That forced the Tigers to have to not just reach down to Toledo, but down to Erie and pull up a guy like Buck Farmer, a solid pitching prospect with little experience, and certainly not someone ready to compete against big league hitters. The results were to be expected.

But Justin Verlander returned this past weekend, Anibal Sanchez could return from the disabled list and start this weekend, and Joakim Soria will be back to try and help stabilize the bullpen.

A former Cy Young and MVP winner, last year’s AL ERA champ, and an experienced closer. Those are some significant reinforcements for a team that was relying on Farmer, Robbie Ray and the revolving door of relievers from Toledo.

3. Rosters expand on September 1

Yes, that’s true for everyone. But in the case of the Tigers, it provides an opportunity to exploit some tactical holes. Ezequiel Carrera is probably best as a late-inning defensive replacement and pinch runner, but has to be used as more than that right now. That won’t be the case next week, when the Tigers can add Tyler Collins or Steven Moya to the big league roster. The catchers have also struggled mightily against left-handed pitching, with just a .231 wOBA, but Toledo’s James McCann has a .350/.409/.487 slash line against lefties, and he’ll be ready and able to come up as well.

The Tigers have been juggling as best they can to manage a roster with some obvious holes and limited alternative options. But when rosters expand, those options increase substantially.

4. The Royals can’t keep this up

Fans are in a frenzy over a month in which the Tigers have lost their lead in the AL Central, but it’s been far more about the success Kansas City has been having, winners of 24 of their last 31. That’s an impressive streak, but it’s unsustainable, and likely in line for a correction. No team plays .800 ball for half a season.

According to Baseball Prospectus, it’s not just that the Royals are playing above their heads and winning a few more close games than expected. They’re winning WAY more, to the tune of an additional ten games between what their projected record should be based on runs scored and what it actually is. Even when adjusted for opponents, it’s still nine games higher than expected. That’s a larger difference between actual and expected record than any other team in MLB. Toughness and grit and all that aside, Kansas City has gotten a favorable bounce through the first five months of the season.

Correcting for the past can be tough to argue, because there’s no going back and changing it, but there’s nothing to indicate this hot streak won’t end, because all streaks do. And when it does, the underlying projections show the Royals are a .500 baseball team.

5. Star power matters

Max Scherzer. David Price. Miguel Cabrera. Victor Martinez. Verlander. Five players on the Tigers roster, every one of them better than anyone else Kansas City has to offer. That’s not to knock a solid Royals club, it’s simply to point out the obvious.

The Tigers have a track record of success, because they have some of the best players in baseball. And they still have those same players. Sure, some have had their ups-and-downs this season, but when push comes to shove, you’d still take a down year from Cabrera than the best Alex Gordon has to offer.

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