There's no denying the Tigers are the king of the AL Central. The club set a franchise record with its fourth consecutive division crown this season — it also won three in a row from 1907-09 when it lost three consecutive World Series. While this current run features two ALCS losses and a World Series sweep at the hands of the San Francisco Giants, maybe the fourth time is a charm. Here are five reasons why the Tigers are division champs.
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY SportsRick Osentoski
V-Mart's MVP-type season
In a year when Miguel Cabrera didn’t quite play up to Miguel Cabrera standards (which are ridiculously high), Victor Martinez stepped up in a big way, delivering a career season at age 35. His numbers could easily be mistaken for Miggy's. The .337/.411/.568 slash line. The 32 homers (a career high). The 103 RBI. What stands out most, though, is the walk-to-strikeout ratio: 69 walks to 42 K’s, which equates to a 1.64 BB/K mark. That’s obscene. The only other player in the league that has more walks than strikeouts is Jose Bautista. He clocks in at 1.08 BB/K, while Coco Crisp is at 1.00. Everybody else is under 1.00. V-Mart is having the best offensive season of his career and is a huge reason why the Tigers are back in the playoffs. — Stats through Sept. 27.
Getty ImagesJason Miller
The other Martinez
After being released by the hapless Astros on March 22, the Tigers swooped in and signed the then-26-year-old outfielder on March 24. The signing turned out to be a steal. Batting a career-best .315, J.D. Martinez joins V-Mart and Miggy as the team's .300-plus hitters. JD also tallied career-highs in homers (23), RBI (76), runs (57) and doubles (30). His right-handed bat made Tigers fans forget about Prince Fielder, who was traded in the offseason. — Stats through Sept. 27.
Getty ImagesLeon Halip
13-6 vs. the Royals
Miguel Cabrera (left) and Co. own the best in-division record at 42-33, while Kansas City is 38-37 and Cleveland is 39-37. While the Tigers surprisingly went 8-10 vs. the AL Central's last-place team in the Twins and barely broke even vs. the fourth-place White Sox at 10-9, Detroit took care of business when it came to Kansas City, beating the Royals 13 of 19 times, starting with two walk-off victories at Comerica Park to open the season. Detroit finished 11-8 vs. Cleveland. Meanwhile, the Tigers were 17-15 vs. the AL East, 18-16 vs. the AL West and 12-8 vs. the NL. — Stats through Sept. 27.
Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY SportsPeter Aiken
Joba the magician
Most of the preseason hype was placed on a rotation that included reigning AL Cy Young winner Max Scherzer, 2011 Cy Young winner Justin Verlander, Rick Porcello and Anibal Sanchez ... then the Tigers added 2012 Cy Young winner David Price before the trade deadline. Scherzer put together another Cy Young-type season, while Verlander struggled, Porcello won 15 games, Sanchez was injured for a third of the year and Price wasn't his lights-out self once he joined the club. But a real plus has been the relief work of Joba Chamberlain, signed as a free agent in the offseason. He ranks second in the AL in holds, behind leader Wade Davis of the Royals, and filled the eighth-inning void when Bruce Rondon was injured in spring training. — Stats through Sept. 26.
Getty ImagesJim McIsaac
Beating the Zubaz curse
After sweeping three at Fenway, they suffered the the ill-fated "Zubaz" road trip. Donning Zubaz garb, they left the ballpark around 12:30 a.m. ET, headed for Cleveland, but plane troubles left them sitting on the runway for several hours before the flight was canceled and they returned to their Boston hotel at 3:30 a.m. They flew to Cleveland the next afternoon and suffered a walk-off loss a few hours later. Two games later, they suffered another walk-off defeat and were swept in three by the Indians. What followed was a 9-17 stretch during which they lost a five-game division lead and fell into second place by 1½ games. But they shook off the Zubaz curse, winning 12 of the next 14, which started with a seven-game win streak, to regain that five-game lead.