Oh what a night in Minnesota!
The Tigers should have clinched the division a while ago in my opinion, but between Miggy’s abdominal injury and the ineffectiveness of our bull pen, plus the lack of run support for the starting rotation, the Tigers did not clinch their third consecutive AL Central crown until Game 159.
But what a Game 159 it was! A-Jack started the night off with a leadoff triple, and Torii Hunter drove him in for a 1-0 lead. Turns out that was all that was needed, as Mad Max got win #21, and we closed the door on the divisional title.
No time for rest though, because due to trouble in Boston and Oakland, the Tigers find themselves still in the hunt for the top seed in the AL, and the coveted home-field advantage throughout the postseason that comes with it. However, there are a few factors that have to go the Tigers way to get this.
A Bunch Of Scenarios
How it stands now, at this moment, going into tonight’s games, the final series for each team in this long scenario, is like this: Boston has the top spot by three games. Oakland is ahead of the Tigers by one. The Tigers play the worst team in baseball, the Miami Marlins, in their final series. Oakland meets Seattle, and the Red Sox have division rival Baltimore, who is still barely in the hunt for a wild-card spot, behind Tampa Bay, Cleveland, Texas, and Kansas City. This may get confusing, so hang on.
Scenario 1: Red Sox win one game. It’s done for the Tigers if they win one against Baltimore. However, this is an advantage for the Tigers, because Baltimore leads the season series 9-7. The starters for Boston are Buchholz, Lester, and Lackey, while the O’s send Feldman, Chen, and Tillman to the mound. However, Chris Davis is ill and the O’s lost Manny Machado for the season earlier this week. But Baltimore still has a shot for that wild-card. The Red Sox have several key players listed as day-to-day: Jacoby Ellsbury, Mike Napoli, and Shane Victorino among them.
Scenario 2: Tigers drop one. Unlikely, but possible. The Marlins the worst team in baseball in most offensive categories. Their BEST hitter, shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria, bats .230. Mike Stanton leads team in RBI with 58. Jose Fernandez, the ROY candidate, is only bright spot: 12 W, 187 K, 2.19 ERA, but is not pitching vs Tigers. Pitcher matchups in our favor: Porcello, Sanchez, Verlander, combined record 40-28 vs Koehler, Eovaldi, Alvarez, combined record 12-22, none of whom has more than 4 wins.
Scenario 3: Oakland sweeps the Mariners. If this happens, regardless if Boston is swept, the A’s win the top seed. The odds of this are slim as well; Seattle leads season series 10-6. Oakland is sending Colon, Parker, and Gray to the mound while the M’s have Hernandez, Maurer, and Ramirez starting. Oakland also likes to play conservative after they clinch, so they will probably rest their key players.
Scenario 4: Boston is swept, Tigers sweep, Oakland wins two of three. It’s a three way tie in the win-loss column, things can get messy:
If there is a three-way tie among all division champions, the team with the best record against both of the other division champion is given the top seed with the remaining teams seeded as follows:
1. Head to head record between other 2 division winners.
2. Best overall record in the regular season ignoring interleague play.
3. The team with the best record in the final 81 games of the season, ignoring interleague play.
4. The team with the best record in the final 82 games of the season (providing the game added is not between some of the tied teams), extending backward until the tie is broken (with interleague games skipped and ignored in this process.)
If there is still no clear cut winner, then it follows the rules for a three-way tie for a wild-card spot, which is as follows:
When there is a three-way tie between non-division winners and no other non-division winner has a better record claiming wild card 1, a tiebreaker eliminating 1 of the 3 teams will follow. Based on a group head-to-head record, teams A, B and C will be created. Team B will travel to team A. The winner wins wild card one. The loser will go to team C. The winner of that game wins wild card two. After those two games, wild card teams one and two will play each other in the wild card round; this could be an “A/B rematch.”
Thank you Bud Selig for making the playoffs so damn confusing.
The Tigers lead the season series against the Sox 4-3, but trail the A’s 4-3. The Red Sox and A’s are tied 3-3 for the season. If my math is correct, the tiebreaker ends there, with the A’setting the top seed at 7-6 combined, the Tigers getting the #2 spot at 7-7 combined, and the Sox falling to #3 at 6-7 combined.
Smart Deadline Moves Key to Postseason Roster
Double-D was smart at the trade deadline. Luis Marte was injured in Toledo, but he was called up and put on the Major League DL. With both Marte and Octavio Dotel eligible for the postseason, but also both injured, it gave us some wiggle room, due to a loophole that allows any player eligible for postseason play to be replaced by anyone in the organization. This allows any two players acquired or called up after August 31st to be on the postseason roster. Sure, it cost us the major-league salary of Marte, but is worth it because it opened up options most teams don’t have.
Our eligible players as of August 31st were catchers Alex Avila and Brayan Pena, first basemen/DH’s Prince Fielder and Victor Martinez, infielders Omar Infante, Jose Iglesias, Miguel Cabrera, Ramon Santiago, Jhonny Peralta, and Hernan Perez, outfielders Austin Jackson, Torii Hunter, Andy Dirks, Don Kelly, and Matt Tuiasosopo, starters Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Anibal Sanchez, Doug Fister and Rick Porcello, and relievers Joaquin Benoit, Drew Smyly, Jose Veras, Al Alburquerque, Bruce Rondon, and Phil Coke, with Marte and Dotel on the DL. That is 28 men competing for a 25 man roster. With the loophole, we can add in catcher Bryan Holaday, outfielder Nick Castellanos, lefties Jose Alvarez and Darin Downs, and righties Luke Putkonen, Evan Reed, and Jeremy Bonderman. So 35 to cut down to 25.
Expect “Moonwalk” Leyland to use 11 pitchers and 14 position players. The postseason roster should look like this:
Catchers: Avila, Pena, Martinez
IF: Fielder, Infante, Iglesias, Santiago, Cabrera, Perez
OF: Jackson, Hunter, Dirks, Kelly, Peralta
P: Verlander, Fister, Sanchez, Scherzer, Porcello, Benoit, Smyly, Veras, Alburquerque, Rondon, Putkonen
This should be how it looks, though I can see swapping out Perez or Alburquerque for Alvarez to gain a lefty or Coke, though with how well Putkonen pitches against both lefties and righties. The nice part of having the two injured players eligible gives the Tigers the freedom to name them and replace them after a series. V-Mart will probably be the third-string catcher, playing his normal role as DH in the ALDS and ALCS, as well as at home in the World Series, but he would be the catcher in games in any NL city.
A Bit of History
In the clinching game, with his 700th win as Tigers manager, Jim Leyland made history, becoming the second manager to have three straight postseason appearances in both leagues, with 1990-92 in Pittsburgh and 2011-13 here. The other manager? Tony LaRussa (1988-1990 Oakland and 2004-06 St. Louis). Big thanks to www.baseball-reference.com for that bit of info.