Commentary

Tigers doing it with offense

Detroit has won seven straight thanks to contributions from some surprising sources

Updated: May 16, 2011, 12:00 PM ET
By Jonah Keri | FanGraphs
Martinez & AvilaJoy R. Absalon/US PresswireVictor Martinez and Alex Avila are giving Miguel Cabrera plenty of offensive support.

We human beings can't help but look for reasons to explain complicated or unlikely events. That's especially true in baseball, where we prop up a players-only meeting, a bench-clearing brawl or a sacrifice to Jobu as the reason a team turned its fortunes around.

Still, even the most hardened cynic can't help but notice what's happened to the Detroit Tigers. On the morning of May 7, the American League Central already had the feel of fait accompli. The preseason favorites, the Twins and White Sox, sat 8½ and 11 games out, respectively. Detroit had been flaky to that point, following a seven-game losing streak with three straight wins over the Yankees. Still, sitting at 15-18 and 7 games out of first, Tigers fans at least had to wonder how long it might take to dig out of that early hole, assuming they could get out of it at all.

Then, Justin Verlander happened. One seven-game winning streak later, the Tigers are right back in the race, just 3½ games behind the upstart Indians and in the lead for the AL wild card at the season's quarter pole.

Though Verlander's no-hit masterpiece may have lit the fuse for Detroit's current streak, a surprisingly balanced offense (tied for third in the AL in runs scored) has played the biggest role in the Tigers' success. Miguel Cabrera was expected to be the undisputed leader of Detroit's attack, and he hasn't disappointed, hitting a robust .309/.440/.540 this season and staking his claim as the best AL hitter not living on Planet Bautista. But Cabrera's had tons of help, both from expected and unexpected sources.


For a full breakdown of the Tigers' surprisingly potent offense, become an ESPN Insider today.

Jonah Keri (@jonahkeri) is a staff writer for Grantland. His book, The Extra 2%: How Wall Street Strategies Took a Major League Baseball Team From Worst to First, is a national best seller. His new book Up, Up, and Away, on the history of the Montreal Expos, is now available for preorder.