Monday, September 17, 2012

The AL Central Lynch Pin

The Detroit Tigers have made their share of big moves in recent years, acquiring Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis from the Marlins, signing Jose Valverde, trading for Doug Fister, and this year’s signing of Prince Fielder but despite their frequent additions, and the hope that Fielder would push them over the edge this year and make them a World Series team, it appears that they may just be enjoying the postseason from their homes this season.

That said, the Tigers are poised to strike here, today’s game against the White Sox could be the most important game of the regular season for Detroit, They are 2 games in back of the White Sox and if they can narrow that to 1 game with only 3 of their last 16 games coming against a team with a winning record, and their final 13 coming against the Royals and the Twins. Contrasting that Chicago has 3 against the LA Angels and 4 against the Tampa Bay Rays in that same stretch. It will be a tougher fight for the White Sox to hold onto first than it will be for Detroit to overtake them, but it’s all a moot point if Chicago can keep winning games.

Detroit has the decided personnel advantage, but it now becomes an argument about heart and the kind of players you want on your team. Chicago has gotten a great deal of production out of some unexpected sources, A.J. Pierzynski has up and become some type of masher behind the plate, Alex Rios is contributing in a big way, Adam Dunn is the mold from which all 3 outcome hitters are cut, Paul Konerko has been rock solid, and despite his notable decline, Kevin Youkilis has been a productive addition. The White Sox also have themselves set up with a potentially very formidable 3 man rotation for the postseason, behind Jake Peavy, Chris Sale, and Jose Quintana the White Sox have a very dangerous rotation, and though their bullpen isn’t exactly a lockdown quality, it’s certainly serviceable enough behind those 3 pitchers.

Contrasting that the Tigers have a strong enough lineup to be competitive, but their middle infield is tragically anemic and their right field/DH are somewhat below average. That doesn’t take anything away from the potential the lineup has to burn an opposing pitcher, Fielder, Cabrera, and Austin Jackson have been spectacular, but with Fielder and Cabrera go the team’s offense, and that’s a lot to rest on two men’s shoulders down the stretch of a pennant race. The rotation is nothing to sneeze at, but Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, and Fister aren’t quite the same type of dominant trio that has been helping carry the heavy load in Chicago. There is however, no denying the stronger bullpen in Detroit, while Brett Myers helps sure up the late innings in Chicago he doesn’t quite do the job Valverde, Joaquin Benoit, Phil Coke, and Co. have been able to lock in for Detroit.

Today’s game pits Quintana against Fister, in what could be the most pivotal game of their team’s seasons. Both young pitchers have had very good years, though Quintana has been struggling of late his last outing (also against Detroit) was an impressive 7 & ⅔ inning affair so he may have turned the corner after battling some fatigue late in the season. Both teams understand exactly what’s riding on this game, and I’m nearing certain that this is will be the real decider here, coming out of this game with momentum and a 3 game lead in the division, Chicago will be looking much better than Detroit, though if the Tigers can pull within one, Jim Leyland et. al. recognize their easier schedule and most certainly will look to capitalize on such.

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