“I don’t know what to say other than our starting pitcher did not pitch well.”–Jim Leyland

At the moment, four of the top five payroll teams wouldn’t make the playoffs. Only three of the top 10–Yankees, Rangers and Giants–would be in if the season had ended last night. Meanwhile, three of the bottom six–A’s, Rays, Pirates–are in a good place. If you’re ranking the disappointing teams, you’d probably put them in this order: 1. Angels. 2. Tigers. 3. Red Sox. 4. Phillies.

The Phillies have been gutted by injuries, so their five-year run of division championships is understandable. The Red Sox have been hit hard by injuries as well, but those wouldn’t matter if Josh Beckett and Jon Lester had pitched better. The Red Sox are 16-27 in their starts. Lester’s ERA is a shade over five, Beckett’s a shade under.

The Angels are pretty much the same story. A rotation that looked so good during Spring Training has been a huge disappointment. Mike Scoscia has been forced to rely heavily on a bullpen missing Jordan Walden and Scott Downs, and the result is a team fighting to hang in the playoff race.

Now about the Tigers. On paper, they were as good as any team in baseball last spring. And isn’t that a killer? In fact, Jim Leyland tried to warn us several times that there’s a difference between projections and actually doing it. What’s so maddening about the Tigers is that there have been stretches when they’ve been as good as advertised.

Whenever they win a couple, it’s easy to think this is the beginning of a 30-10 run to the finish line. So far, it hasn’t happened. But they’re good enough to do it.

Doug Fister is healthy and productive. Max Scherzer has turned his season around. Rick Porcello has shaken off a slow start. Yet, there’s just no consistency. Anibal Sanchez was supposed to stabilize the rotation, but he’s 1-3 with a 7.97 ERA. Now the Tigers have lost five of six and fallen two games behind the White Sox in the American League Central.

Sanchez allowed 13 baserunners and five runs in 5 1/3 innings of a 9-3 loss to the Twins on Monday. He seems to have trouble dealing with the deeper American League lineups, or maybe as he approaches free agency, he’s struggling with the pressure of the situation. Him aside, it’s still tough imagining the Tigers not making the playoffs.

Yes, I know the games aren’t played on paper. But a team with Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder in the middle of the lineup and a team with a bunch of quality arms in the rotation ought to be good enough to win. They’re right there–two out in the division race, 1 1/2 games out in the Wild Card chase.

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