|Jim Leyland's Tigers have given him plenty of reasons to frown this season. (Getty Images)|
Simple mathematics suggest the Tigers will probably miss out on the postseason. Nothing is to be assumed, of course, but the Tigers are chasing the White Sox in the AL Central, and one glance at the calendar tells you it's getting late out there.
For Detroit players and partisans, this raises a troubling question: are the Tigers on their way to being the most-disappointing team of 2012? In four subjective words -- yes, yes they are.
Consider that in 2011, the Tigers barged to a 15-game margin of victory in their division. Now consider that, over the winter, they added Prince Fielder to the fold. Now consider that they opened the season with the sixth-highest payroll in all of baseball -- close to $120 million and roughly $20 million more than that of the rival White Sox. Now consider that, at the non-waiver trade deadline, they ponied up for Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante.
They also returned reigning AL MVP Justin Verlander, and he's pitching at a Cy-worthy level once again. Miguel Cabrera might win the triple crown. Fielder has an OPS of .920. Austin Jackson is having easily the best season of his young career. Doug Fister has pitched his first full season in Detroit. Max Scherzer leads the majors in strikeouts. The pitching staff as a whole is uniquely crafted to limit the damage that the suspect team defense would otherwise inflict. The Tigers have even managed to go a healthy 12-6 against Chicago.
Also consider the schedule. The Tigers rank 13th in the 14-team AL in terms of strength of schedule. They play in a division that's a cumultive 43 games under .500 against teams from outside the AL Central. A big part of the problem is the Tigers have managed to go only 36-33 this season against teams with losing records. That means the Tigers rank a disappointing 23rd in the majors in terms of winning percentage against such teams. A club with designs on the World Series must do better against the bottom-feeders.
The Angels? Yes, they've flopped impressively in their own right. But they do have the mitigating circumstance of playing an unbalanced schedule in what's probably baseball's toughest division. The Phillies? Yes, they've Jack-and-Jilled down from the 102-win mountaintop, but they also toil in a two-playoff-team division. As well, they, unlike the Tigers, have been waylaid by injuries.
Add it all up -- the talent base, the payroll, the accommodating schedule -- and no team in baseball has fallen short of expectations quite like the Tigers. There's time for that to change, but there's not much time.