Only five teams in baseball history have made the playoffs while getting outscored by their opponents (excluding strike years).* This year's Detroit Tigers have a chance to become the sixth. It's not a proud achievement. The Tigers have, so far, been outscored by three runs -- three is also the number of games that the Tigers are ahead of the Minnesota Twins in the loss column, which is the only column that matters in the defective American League Central.
It tells you pretty much all you need to know about the dearth of pennant races this year that we are left watching this division with any interest at all. Well, hey, at least it's close. The American League East has been without drama for months now -- and even with the Red Sox closing in on the Yankees, who really cares? Both will make the playoffs.* Texas was a fun story in the West, but the Rangers never seemed to have the substance to catch the Angels. Same story with Florida chasing Philadelphia and Colorado chasing Los Angeles. The wild-card race in the NL had a brief burst of life when the Rockies played the Giants last week -- but other than that it has been dead, too.
So, those of us who love pennant races -- isn't that every baseball fan? -- are stuck watching the Tigers and Twins match flaws over the final two weeks. This division has been quite the fiasco this year. Funny thing, the American League Central was probably the best division in all of baseball in the middle part of the decade. The White Sox won the World Series in 2005 and Cleveland won 93 games that same year. The next year three teams in the division won 90 games, and the Tigers won the AL pennant. In 2007 the Indians seemed to have Boston down and out but were destroyed in three straight games to lose the American League Championship Series.
This year, though, the Central has been dismal. Part of it is that some of the key players in the division (
And because of this we are left with teams that are like the ruins -- you can still find some beauty and history in the rubble. The Kansas City Royals have the best pitcher in the American League in
The Chicago White Sox are entertaining because every other day manager
The Twins have the remarkable
That leaves the Tigers. What a strange team. Just about everyone in the lineup except
Still the Tigers are nine games over .500 and in first place, probably because they are 53-37 when
The odd thing is that those three pitchers could make Detroit scary come playoff time. The key word is
Then again, the Tigers have not wrapped up the American League Central just yet. The Twins are finding ways to win, and the two teams still have a four-game series in Detroit coming up next week. No, this Twins-Tigers match-race isn't necessarily exciting or dramatic. But at least it's reasonably close. In a baseball September like this, you have to take whatever you can get.