Verlander’s September Prospects

What is left to be said about this Detroit Tigers team and this incredible winning streak?

When the Tigers needed just a few wins to hold off the Twins for the division in 2006 and 2009, the only streaking taking place was on the losing side. The fact the Tigers have been over a week since the comparison was shifted from AL Central opponents to the possibility of catching the Yankees for tops in the American League, is nothing short of incredible. Now with the team on the verge of cracking some champagne in the locker room, Jim Leyland’s job has shifted to how he can best keep his team rested and ready for October baseball.

Naturally, the top name that comes to mind about how to use his services from here on out would be ace Justin Verlander. Assuming that the team has clinched a playoff berth in advance of Sunday’s game, Verlander would then be scheduled to start twice before the end of the season, including a final send-off against his “hometown” Orioles at Comerica Park. This means that he would have five days off between the A’s start and the Orioles start, as well as the same amount of time between the Orioles start and game one of the ALDS. While there are no signs of wear on an arm load that has eaten up a good deal of innings, Leyland has to weigh those overuse concerns against getting a tuned-up Verlander in the postseason.

There’s also that individual award recognition that Leyland has always treasured for his players. While he has mentioned that he wouldn’t go out of the way for his players to earn personal accolades, he understands the potential history that his “stud horse” is trying to achieve. A 25-win season/13 straight wins could perhaps turnaround many of those voters that have suggested that there isn’t a standout for the AL MVP award. Plus, as one columnist mentioned, Verlander is the top pitcher in the “year of the pitcher” – in other words, going 25-5 with a sub 2.40 ERA is more than Cy Young worthy.

For Jim Leyland over the next few weeks, he will finally have the opportunity to give some of his players some rest, while giving others an opportunity to land a spot on the 25-man roster. With “magic number” soon to be a thing of the past, the Tigers are suddenly in the unique situation to prepare themselves for what could be an exciting postseason run, and a chance to get those three wins that they missed out on five years ago.