Star power has Tigers sitting atop Rankings
Miggy's pursuit of second Triple Crown in two years leading Detroit's rise
There are a few questions surrounding this year's Detroit Tigers, and every one of them makes fans of the team smile.
Will All-Star third baseman Miguel Cabrera win his second American League Most Valuable Player Award in as many years and notch another Triple Crown, or will he get just one of those honors? Here's another: Who is the best choice to start a playoff series, former AL Cy Young Award winner and MVP Justin Verlander, or Max Scherzer, who's 19-1?
In short, it's a great time to be a Tigers fan. It's also hard to blame anybody who follows Detroit for thinking about a World Series title.
But are the Tigers the best team in baseball? Are they even the best team in the AL?
Fans who root for the Dodgers, Braves, Red Sox and Rangers certainly have their opinions. Let's not forget about the Cardinals, Reds and Pirates -- three powerhouses that have turned the National League Central into one of the most competitive and fun divisions in baseball.
The A's, Indians, Orioles and Rays all have their eyes on the playoff prize, and anything can happen in the final five weeks of the season.
Are you ready for the home stretch?
For the third season, MLB.com has set up a panel of experts to vote on the top 15 teams each week. Three former Major League players -- Larry Dierker, Mitch Williams and Frank Thomas -- are part of the process, as are columnist Peter Gammons and Carlton Thompson, vice president and executive editor of MLB.com. Former general manager and current MLB.com analyst Jim Duquette, along with MLB.com columnists Mike Bauman, Hal Bodley, Anthony Castrovince, Richard Justice, Matthew Leach and Jesse Sanchez are also part of the group.
It's time to hear your voice. Choose your Top 15.
1. Tigers: Detroit entered Monday's action with a six-game lead in the AL Central, a slugger in Cabrera who's in the midst of another historic season and two aces in Verlander and Scherzer. Could this be the year the Tigers win it all?
Last week: 4
2. Red Sox: The Red Sox won two of three from the Dodgers in Los Angeles over the weekend, and they've now won 26 series, the most of any team in the Majors. Boston's offense has been steady for most of the season, and now the pitching is returning to familiar and dominant form, thanks in part to veteran Jake Peavy.
Last week: 3
3. Dodgers: The Dodgers have 46 wins in their last 58 games, and it's hard to blame the folks in California for dreaming about a World Series. Los Angeles has lost four of its last eight games, but it still leads second-place Arizona by 9 1/2 games in the NL West.
Last week: 1
4. Braves: The Braves have the best record in baseball and a 13-game cushion over the second-place Nats in the NL East, but they have not looked like the same team that averaged nearly six runs per game amid a 14-game winning streak that began just after the All-Star break. The loss of outfielder Jason Heyward to a broken jaw was a big blow to the club's offense.
Last week: 2
5. Cardinals: The Cards are on a roll. They won three of four against the Braves over the weekend and have victories in 10 of their last 14 games. That's good news, when you consider Monday's game against Cincinnati opens a stretch of 13 straight games against the Reds and Pirates, NL Central division foes who are also battling for supremacy in the standings.
Last week: 7
6. Rangers: Texas enters this week's showdown with the Mariners leading Oakland by 2 1/2 games in the AL West and will be looking to pad its lead. Here's why the Rangers like their chances: They're 41-16 against division foes, the highest winning percentage and most victories for any Major League team against division rivals.
Last week: 5
7. Rays: The Rays trail the first-place Red Sox by one game in the AL East, and Evan Longoria is on the cusp of carrying the team back to the top. Longoria, who is coming off his worst month of the season, has six home runs and nine RBIs in his last 10 games. In helping the Rays take two of three from the Yankees over the weekend, he notched his first three-hit game since June 19.
Last week: 10
8. Pirates: The Bucs wrapped up a West Coast swing on Sunday with a 4-3 record to remain tied with the Cardinals atop the NL Central. They're already thinking about the playoffs in Pittsburgh, and it is believed that the club would start Francisco Liriano and A.J. Burnett in that order in the first two games of a postseason series. Pittsburgh likely can't go very far without Starling Marte, though. Marte, who has been battling a right hand contusion, sustained a sprain of the fourth MCP ligament on the hand and was recently placed on the disabled list.
Last week: 6
9. Reds: The Reds, who trail the first-place Cardinals and Pirates by 2 1/2 games, are coming off a series loss to the Brewers, but they remain in control of their own playoff destiny. Cincinnati will play seven of its next 10 games against St. Louis, starting on Monday night at Busch Stadium. The Reds are 2-6 in their last eight games against the Cards.
Last week: 9
10. Athletics: The A's, who have lost five of eight and are 16-18 since the All-Star break, have seen better days. Oakland remains narrowly behind Texas in the AL West after losing two of three in Baltimore over the weekend. What's more, Josh Reddick reinjured his right wrist on Sunday.
Last week: 8
11. Indians: The Tribe is heating up, and such a run could not come at a better time. The club has five wins in its past six games -- and eight in its last 11 -- heading into Monday's off-day. On the horizon is a nine-game stretch against the Braves, Tigers and Orioles that could go a long way toward determining Cleveland's chances of locking down a postseason spot.
Last week: 14
12. Orioles: The O's won two of three from the A's over the weekend to remain in the middle of the hunt in the AL Wild Card race. Chris Davis continues to make a run for the AL MVP Award, having recorded 46 home runs and 118 RBIs through 128 games.
Last week: 11
13. Yankees: Derek Jeter, who has made three trips to the disabled list this season, returns for the Yanks' series opener at Toronto on Monday, and he's expected to provide a substantial boost to a team that has won seven of its last 10 games. Following tough losses in the first two games of a weekend set at St. Petersburg, New York outlasted the Rays on Sunday.
Last week: 13
14. D-backs: Manager Kirk Gibson called it a "bad trip," and nobody is going to argue with him. The D-backs concluded their trip to Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and Philadelphia with a 4-6 record, but they started it by winning two out of three against the Pirates. Arizona trails first-place Los Angeles by 9 1/2 games.
Last week: 12
15. Nationals: The Nats matched a season-high five-game winning streak recently, and they hope to carry that momentum into a stretch of 19 consecutive games against the bottom three teams in the NL East. The Nationals are not giving up on their playoff dreams. Their fans shouldn't, either.
Last week: N/A