After 100 games, the Detroit Tigers are 56-44 and in first place by 3-1/2 games over the Cleveland Indians. A year ago, after 100 games, the Tigers were 53-47 and a game and a half behind the White Sox for first place. Detroit would eventually finish the regular season 88-74 en route to their second consecutive division title.
Detroit has 62 games left in the season. By my count, only 17 of those games are against teams with a +.500 record: seven vs. Cleveland, four vs. Oakland, and three vs. each the Yankees and Boston. Does this mean it’s an easy run to the playoffs? Not so much. Tigers’ starting pitching has been mostly solid, but the bullpen has been inconsistent. And while the offense has been among the best in baseball, the pending issues with Jhonny Peralta could cause a disruption in the batting lineup.
All this to say I’m not ready to pop any corks just yet. For example, the Tigers have to play the Kansas City Royals 11 more times. The Tigers are 3-5 against the Royals, so far this season. Conversely, Detroit’s 9-3 against the Indians. That, in a nutshell, has been the 2013 Detroit Tigers: playing up—or down—to their competition.
If the starting rotation continues to be dominant (or Verlander figures out whatever’s ailing him) and the top of the batting order continues to terrorize pitchers, Detroit should keep plenty of breathing room between themselves and Cleveland. But the problems get no easier as the calendar turns to October.
At least eight American League teams are jockeying for five post-season berths. The Tigers play those teams 17 more times before October. Those games will prove whether or not the Tigers resolved their bullpen issues and are ready to make an October run.
We shall see.