With the Tigers having the day off before facing the Tribe tomorrow, I've taken the time to convince myself why the Twins and the Sox won't be able to keep up with the stellar pace that they've set.
I didn't think the White Sox were going to be any good this year. They're 51-37 and hold the division lead at the moment, which is kind of the opposite. And they've done it while Paul Konerko has struggled and been hurt, while Jim Thome is on pace to have his worst full season since his early 20's, and while Ozzie Guillen indirectly begs somebody to assassinate him by continuing to act like a giant cock. But they've got this far with a whole lot of pitching -- the starting rotation has ranged from at least average to excellent, and the bullpen has been rock solid: Linebrink, Logan, Thornton and Jenks have all done very well, and they've done it by doing something that a lot of Tigers pitchers have had a hard time doing -- not walking people.
But I'm hoping that, for the second half of the season, at least some of that pitching will start to fade. Let's start with John Danks; Danks has pitched very, very well for the Sox. His record is a modest 6-4, but he's been burned a few times with poor run support (which shows you why W-L is like the 18th most important pitcher stat). After getting shelled in his first loss, his next three losing decisions came while only allowing two runs in each of those starts. His strikeout/walk ratio is nearly 3 to 1, WHIP is 1.168, and his ERA+ is soring at 170. But then there's this: He's 23 years old. This is only his 2nd big league season, and his innings are going to creep up to totals he has yet to reach in his career. Sustaining the success he had during the first half of the season won't be impossible, but don't be surprised if he starts to fall off.
Gavin Floyd's stats look remarkable this year compared to what he's previously done. He hasn't been a steady part of an ML rotational until now, and he's jumped on the opportunity: 1.119 WHIP over a span of 109 innings, accumulating 10 wins and a 3.22 ERA. Like with Danks, though, I'm hoping that he'll slip back to some of his earlier numbers (career 1.443 WHIP and 5.13 ERA). He's still doing well (just came off a 7.1 IP/no runs/3 hits outing) but before that his hits and run totals were slightly increasing, and he's given up a few more line drives than he was before, with fewer ground outs. Hopefully this is a signal that the league is just barely starting to get to him and he'll start to regress enough to slow this stupid team down.
As far as their offense goes, I expect more of the same. As a team they've hit 120 homers, which is 12 more than the next closest team. Carlos Quentin has been a big surprise, but we'll see if he's had a major breakthrough or if he'll turn back into the guy who let down Arizona. Jermaine Dye is having a good year, and I don't expect both Thome and Konerko to finish how they've started. So if they're going to falter, it needs to be the pitching first.
Minnesota will not die. Every year we think that they're finally going to go back to the contraction-talk-era Twins and they never do. They trot out a bunch of guys you've never heard of before the season and somehow they manage a 50-38 record through 88 games and they're right on the heels of the first place Sox. I mentioned like a week ago that the Twins don't scare me. Well, they should. Things that should be dead but aren't are scary. They give away Johan Santana and lose Torii Hunter and nothing has changed. How is this so?
To be honest, I have no fucking clue. I look at their team and I see a whole bunch of average. An average staff is headlined by the "ace", veteran Livan Hernandez, who somehow has nearly 10 wins before the allstar break with a 76 ERA+ and WHIP hovering around 1.600. Nobody has been dominant, but guys like Nick Blackburn, Scott Baker and Kevin Slowey all have ERAs under 4.00 and have helped the Twins to another one of their trademark runs (they've won 16 of 18).
So I looked into it. According to Aaron Gleeman, the Twins have been wicked clutch. They've tallied a significant advantage in OPS with runners in scoring position while having rather mediocre numbers in every other scenario. I try to look at this as a positive for the Tigers, as it will be hard for the Twins to keep up that kind of pace.
Gleeman points out that, while the Twins RISP numbers are likely to regress, the rest of those "other scenarios" I referred to could possibly pick up. But the Twins will be relying on that while fielding a handful of young, unproven players while they try to hunt down first place.
As for the Tigers, we all know the story: there has been a disturbing amount of underachievement. Cabrera has yet to fully come around. He, along with Polanco, Maggs, Sheff, Curtis, Inge, Zumaya, and Rodney have all had to battle injuries. That doesn't even include Bonderman, who's done for the year. Renteria has been awful, to the point that my computer does a red underline for his name and suggests "Fuckface" as a correction. The offense that was suppose to chase 1,000 runs isn't even on pace for 800. So, is this shit really going to last? We've recently seen a spurt, a resurgence of sorts, that has looked fairly promising. If we can get everybody healthy, then I like our odds of improving ... I just don't want to let myself believe that these inconsistencies will last until the end of September. I can't see it happening. Once we get Maggs back, once Rodney finds his groove, once Renteria dies, then we can get this train going again.
I think that's enough bullshitting for one night. Go Tigers.