|Exciting Baseball for Final Races|
Written by Jonathan Leshanski (Contact & Archive) on September 28, 2009
For the Rockies the let down was huge, their third place finish coming immediately on the heels of their World Series appearance which made them favorites to run away with a weak Western division.Â But it didn't work out that way.Â The Rox stumbled as their pitching failed to find the consistency which was key to their success a season earlier.Â Consistency, rather than excellence is the hallmark for success in Colorado as in neither 2007 nor 2009 has the Rockies pitching been better than middle of the pack among NL teams (in fact they ranked, and rank eighth in both seasons).
But these aren't just the reincarnation of the 2007 Rockies.Â Superstar Matt Holliday was shipped off to Oakland before the season, offensive powerhouse Garrett Atkins is having his worst season in years and has lost his everyday job and hasn't even broken the 10 home run barrier to this point in the season.Â That's worked out ok since relative unknowns Troy Tulowitzki, Clint Barmes and Ian Stewart have stepped up to add a lot of power to the team.
For the Tigers it's a different animal all together.Â The Tigers seemed on the verge of becoming the powerhouse of the AL Central back in 2007.Â Then in the offseason they made what appeared to be one of the great pickups in recent years by acquiring Miguel Cabrera, one of baseball's best hitters, along with up until then successful starter Dontrelle Willis.Â Â It made them almost unanimous favorites to run away with the division in 2008.Â Instead they finished dead last.
That was due to a regression both in terms of runs scored and the fact that Dontrelle Willis, instead of being a frontline ace for the Tigers, turned out to be a total disaster posting an ERA over 9 and managing just eight starts and no wins for a Tigers staff which totally collapsed and finished ahead of just Baltimore and Texas in terms of ERA.Â Â Willis certainly wasn't the only culprit in the collapse, but his implosion certainly was the most notable.
In 2009 the Tigers team ERA is more than half a run better than it was in 2008, due to a number of factors including the emergence of Edwin Jackson (statistically the team's best starter), a bounceback season by Justin Verlander and a more than solid season by rookie Rick Porcello.Â That has created a solid core which has carried the Tigers despite the fact that this Tigers team seems to struggle to score runs (10th out of 14 AL teams in runs scored).
In fact neither of these teams look at all like they did during their 2007 seasons when both made runs for playoff glory.Â For the Rox it's all about new faces who've come up through the farm system and replaced many of the old stars, while the Tigers have shifted from being an offense driven team to one which is carried mainly by their pitching.Â For both teams it's a very different look.
Transformed for the 2009 season, both are poised to make a splash in the playoffs if they can just hold off the competition for a bit longer.Â The question is can they do it? Â
The Rockies face some stiff competition in the Brewers and Dodgers in their final six games, while the Tigers go head to head with the pursuing Twins for four before finishing against the third place White Sox.Â Either way it should make for some exciting baseball in this final week of the season.