The all-star break is the worst part of the season for me with no real baseball games for four days, but I haven't stopped thinking about baseball. Here, I'll attempt to answer some questions about the post-all-star break portion of the season.
Will the Tigers make any trades before the July 31 deadline?
Yes, they need help in the bullpen and I expect them to get something done soon. Joaquin Benoit and Drew Smyly have been among the most effective relievers in the league this year and have settled nicely into their new roles in the back end of the bullpen. They have no truly reliable relievers beyond that though and they need depth.
I don't believe the Tigers will pursue a big-time closer, but rather someone who can get the game to Benoit and Smyly. They may acquire a southpaw such as James Russell of the Cubs to replace Phil Coke or a right hander like White Sox Jesse Crain to take the place of the injured Octavio Dotel. It wouldn't surprise me if they got one of each. It won't take a top prospect such as Nick Castellanos or Avisail Garcia to land a seventh inning reliever, but they may have to part with someone like outfielder Tyler Collins or catcher James McCann.
What else do the Tigers need besides relievers?
Besides the bullpen, their biggest problems in the first half were poor defense and lack of late-game hitting. I don't think these areas will be addressed in trades though. According to Baseball Prospectus' Park-Adjusted Defensive Efficiency and Baseball-Reference's Total Zone statistics, the Tigers are near the bottom of the majors in team defense. Most of that is due to a porous infield, but that's not something that is easy to fix mid-season and they'll just have to live with it.
As for their inability to hit late in games, I've got to believe that is mostly a fluke which will correct itself down the stretch. Regardless, they are second in the league in runs scored, so offense is not a problem.
Is there anymore help on the farm?
If they had any relievers ready to help, they would be with the big-league club already. Outfielders Castellanos and Garcia will probably get chances, but I wouldn't expect either to fit into a full-time role just yet.
Which hitters will get better/ worse in the second half?
Alex Avila will be better - he can't get much worse. Right? Look for him to bat 250 with 8 homers over the next couple of months. Jhonny Peralta will regress and see his batting average fall back to about .270 for the season.
Will Miguel Cabrera win his second consecutive Triple Crown?
He should lead the American League in Batting Average and Runs Batted In, but Chris Davis has a seven home run lead. Davis will probably not bat .300 down the stretch, but his power is real so I wouldn't expect a big homer drought. I don't think he'll hit 60, but 50-55 homers well is well within his reach and he'll be tough to catch.
Cabrera has a better chance to win the Alternative Triple Crown - Batting Average, Times on Base and Total Bases. He currently leads by wide margins with a .365 BA and 196 TOB and trails Davis by only two (246 to 244) in TB.
Overall, he is on line to have the best Tigers hitting season of all time. He has 49 Batting Runs which projects to 84 for the season. If he keeps up the same pace, hell surpass Norm Cash's franchise record of 76 in 1961. Cabrera's previous best was 65 in 2011.
Will the Tigers Win the Division?
I still expect the Tigers to win the division going away. Despite their shortcomings, they have too much starting pitching and too much hitting to fail. The Indians have had a good run, but they don't come close to matching up in talent with the Tigers. Nobody else in the Central does either.
According to their run differential, the Tigers should have 56 wins instead of 52. They have had a tough time in close games, going 3-9 in extra innings and 15-21 in games decided by two runs or less. With more bullpen depth acquired in trades and some better luck, they should reverse that trend in the second half.
Can they win the World Series?
Of course they can. Any team that makes the playoffs has a decent shot at winning the World Series. Furthermore, the Tigers probably have a slight edge over other teams due to their strong starting pitching, something that tends to grow a little in importance in post-season with all the off days.