Detroit Tigers players celebrate amidst a rain of alcohol-free sparkling wine
Detroit Tigers players celebrate amidst a rain of alcohol-free sparkling wine after they defeated the Minnesota Twins 1-0 in a baseball game, Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2013, in Minneapolis. The Tigers clinched the AL Central title
AL Central champions!
Face it, the Tigers are loaded. Led by Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder, the offense is one of the most potent in the game. On the mound, however, Justin Verlander might have lost his status as the ballclub's ace. What?! Hard to believe, right? But when Max Scherzer won his first 13 decisions and is 21-3, and Anibal Sanchez is second in the AL with a 2.64 ERA, manager Jim Leyland can't go wrong in handing the ball to anyone in the Tigers rotation — which owns the best ERA in the Junior Circuit. Here are five reasons the Tigers are division champs, again. — Statistics through Sept. 25. The clincher: Tigers edge Twins 1-0 Celebration videos Poppin' bottles of champagne Goggles can't save Prince Fielder
Triple Crown threat
Is there really any doubt that Miguel Cabrera is the best hitter in the game? Last year's Triple Crown winner and AL MVP didn't slow down in 2013. The 30-year-old third baseman had a legitimate shot at becoming the first player to win Triple Crowns in consecutive seasons until a nagging groin injury slowed him down heading into September — oh, and Chris Davis' inexplicable home run assault. But still, Miggy might surpass last year's numbers (.330, 44 HR, 139 RBI). Through Thursday, he led the majors with a .345 batting average, was tied for first with 137 RBI, and was second with 44 homers. Not too shabby. — Statistics through Sept. 25.
The rest of the starting lineup
Want to pitch around Miguel Cabrera? Well then say hello to Prince Fielder, who is hitting .282 with 25 homers and 106 RBI … or how about Victor Martinez (right) and his .302 average with 14 homers and 83 RBI? The batting order is stacked top to bottom. Austin Jackson and Torii Hunter (.303) set the table for the big boppers, and the back end of the lineup — which includes Omar Infante (.318) and Alex Avila (11 homers) — cleans up the scraps. Detroit's offense leads the majors in batting average, is second only to Boston in runs, leads the league in total bases, and boasts an AL-best .258 average from the seventh inning on. Have fun pitching to these guys. — Statistics through Sept. 24.
Who would have thought that Justin Verlander wouldn't be considered the ace of the staff? But when Max Scherzer (left) features a 21-3 record to lead the majors and is second with 230 Ks, skipper Jim Leyland's toughest decision might be picking a Game 1 starter for any round in the playoffs. It can even be argued that Verlander (13-12, 3.56) isn't the second best arm in the rotation, as Anibal Sanchez (right) has shined this season and is second in the AL with a 2.64 ERA. With three potential aces, it's no wonder the rotation sports the AL's top ERA at 3.48. — Statistics through Sept. 24.
The men in charge
Manager Jim Leyland is in his eighth year at the helm, while Dave Dombrowski (right) has been the general manager/president since 2002. The two worked together in Florida when the Marlins won the '97 World Series and it was Dombrowski who was able to coax Leyland out of semi-retirement to return to the skipper's seat, this time in Detroit. With Leyland's experience and Dombrowski's ability to make key acquisitions (Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder, Torii Hunter, Max Scherzer, Anibal Sanchez to name a few), the franchise is in good hands.
Thank you, Cleveland
While the Indians have been a surprise — and are still in a tight race for an AL wild-card spot — the Tigers took care of their division rivals with ease. Detroit beat Cleveland 15 of the 19 times the two faced off. The Tigers only led the Indians by two games after play on Aug. 1, but a four-game sweep at Progressive Field increased the lead to seven games. Cleveland would stumble through the month with 12-16 record, which allowed Detroit to all but wrap up the Central crown by going 19-11 in August.