Posted 08/04/2011 at 01:14 PM
The Indians landed perhaps the biggest prize of the trade deadline with the Ubaldo Jimenez deal but it may be too late. The deal may still be a good one as for the Tribe as his contract is reasonable for a front-line starter and the Indians will control his services through the 2013 season. Cleveland parted with a few top pitching prospects but the deal could provide life to an Indians team that has slumped to .500 after a red hot start to the season. Jimenez could certainly be shopped next season to a contender if the Indians were to sink back to the bottom of the division again.
Detroit has been playing great ball of late and the Tigers have advanced to a four-game lead in the weak AL Central. Detroit added underrated starter Doug Fister to add another complimentary starter to the rotation and while the pitching has not been great this season outside of Justin Verlander, the Tigers are consistently scoring runs, something the Indians, White Sox, and Twins are not doing. Detroit is still at a negative run differential for the season despite being eight games above .500 but the Tigers look to be in a commanding position in this division.
Detroit will only play four games the rest of the season against the teams that currently have a winning record, heading to Tampa for a four-game set with the Rays later this month. The rest of the schedule is filled with division games as well as home and road sets with the Orioles and a September west coast trip to face the Athletics. The schedule should set up very favorably for Detroit the rest of the way but there are twelve games between the Indians and the Tigers that will ultimately decide the division title.
In contrast Cleveland has 18 games remaining against winning teams, obviously only six of those games are against teams not named the Tigers, facing two series with the Rangers. Cleveland will play three more home games than Detroit the rest of the way but the closing schedule is more difficult with no off days after September 12 and a double-header crammed into the second to last week of the season. The final three games of the season will also be in Detroit as the Tigers will cruise to the finish with the final seven games at home, hosting the Orioles for four games before the potential critical final series. In all likelihood the Tigers will have the division wrapped up by that point as the Indians do not appear to be in position to get back into this race even with the big addition on the mound and the White Sox and Twins continue to underachieve.