There was a time in Wahooland when this series would have meant the world for the team and its fans. Then the All-Star Break happened, and the Indians are the worst team in baseball since then. Man, did it happen quickly too. Now they’re 12-37 since the break and looking up at the Royals of all teams. The Tigers just took the series against the White Sox and appear primed for another surge to the playoffs. It’s been a wild ride this season and it sucks to see the Tribe having to play spoiler, but at least we can find comfort knowing the Twins are buried even deeper, and won’t embarrass the division in the postseason by getting swept by the Yankees. It’s the little things, I guess.
While the Indians hit the skids, the Tigers have been tearing it up in the second half. After a 44-42 start to the season they’re 27-19 since the break with a run differential of +30, compared to only +6 in the first half. Seems like their new first baseman Prince Fielder finally found his groove. He’s hitting .340/.467/.545 in the second half after a .299/.380/.505 beginning to the season. Must be nice to start slow and have it look like that. Not that I’m jealous or anything.
Just a quick sidebar, but it’s amazing to see the Tigers sell tickets like they do. They’re third in the league in attendance (2,551,390) and it’s not just the winning that’s doing it; in 2008 they were in last place but still finished third in attendance with 3.2 million. Sure, it’s a larger metropolitan area than Cleveland, but Detroit is the image of economic devastation. Goes to show you what spending a few bucks and some luck in the draft will do for you.
Anyhow, back to the 2012 Tigers. Besides Prince’s on fire second half and Miguel Cabrera’s now typical savagery at the plate, Delmon Young has turned it on of late. He’s 13-for-36 his last ten games with three homers, and his OPS at home is 40 points higher than away. Austin Jackson has come to earth a bit with a .779 OPS in the second half down from his .953 before the break but he’s still getting on base at a great clip and has turned himself into a fabulous leadoff man (to say nothing of his continued defensive mastery of the lawn at Comerica).
The Indians offense has to get off this collective skid eventually, right? This past month’s futility happened at least partially because nobody could hit. I wrote in a Weekly Wroundtable back in July that the Indians season all counted on Travis Hafner’s presence in the lineup. He hasn’t played since August 5th. I’m not saying, but I’m just saying. In August the team collectively hit .231/.290/.352 and though they seemed punchless they did hit 24 home runs. Seems like a lot less. The Tigers hit 29 over that same span though so maybe an all or nothing approach has inflicted the Tribe and everyone’s trying to hit bases empty 5-run homers every at-bat. Someone should tell them that’s very difficult. There needs to be a steadying rock in this lineup, otherwise it becomes a bunch of pretty good hitters trying to do too much. Let’s not ruin Jason Kipnis, he’s too cool.