MLB Detroit Tigers

5 Keys to Second Half Success For Detroit Tigers

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5 Keys to Second Half Success for Detroit Tigers

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The Detroit Tigers hold a slim 1.5 game lead over the Cleveland Indians in the American League Central heading into the All-Star break, which they should consider a success with some of the problems they have experienced.

They have endured through the struggles of Jose Valverde. They were able to hang around while Austin Jackson missed an entire month with a pulled hamstring. If you asked many who watch the team on a regular basis, their best baseball could still be ahead of them.

Who knows where the Tigers would be if it weren’t for Miguel Cabrera. He has backed up his Triple Crown season in 2012 with yet another incredible performance through the first half and has been one of the biggest keys to the Tigers’ success thus far. His consistency is the biggest reason the Tigers are in the position they are in currently.

They’ve also had a few surprising stars who have been key to their success. Jhonny Peralta is having a career year at the plate, not to mention he is about as consistent as it gets defensively at the shortstop position. Drew Smyly has logged 56.2 innings in 36 appearances, and has been one of the most reliable relievers in the game in 2013.

Despite their success, there are still a few burning questions this team must answer if they hope to run away with their division. The Indians have traditionally struggled to maintain their success in the second half, but this year may be a little different with Terry Francona at the helm. They’re going to need to be at their best if they hope to win their third consecutive division crown.

David Fouty is a columnist for Follow him on Twitter @davefouty, “Like” him on Facebook and add him to your network on Google+.

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5. Trust Jim Leyland's Steadfastness

John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

One thing has always been true about Jim Leyland — he knows what he wants to do and isn't going to change for anyone. He is famous for riding out the hard times and sticking to his plan. They may hit a rough patch or two, but they have to trust their manager. He has proven his ability to get the Tigers to the postseason lately and there aren't many reasons to doubt him.

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4. Beat Up On the Chicago White Sox

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

This one is easier said than done. The Tigers and Chicago White Sox still have 16 meetings against one another out of 68 remaining games. The White Sox are rumored to be sellers at the trade deadline and could likely dump some of their key players for younger talent. The Tigers will have to make the most of these meetings if they hope to run away with the division.

However, the White Sox won't go quietly, no matter who is on their roster. They always bring their "A" game when the rivals meet and would love nothing more than to be a thorn in the Tigers' side.

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3. Add Bullpen Help

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The Tigers have a few members of their bullpen who have carried them as a whole. Drew Smyly and Joaquin Benoit have been the MVPs out of the 'pen this season, but they can't continue to rely on them to do all the dirty work. They're going to need to add proven bullpen help to nail down their late-inning struggles.

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2. Lots of Innings from Starting Pitchers

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Only the Cincinnati Reds and Philadelphia Phillies have received more innings from their starters than the Tigers this season, and that cannot change if they hope to be successful. The Tigers' rotation was looking like one of the best in baseball through the first few months of the season and with their struggling bullpen, they must rely on the big guns to keep their opponents off the scoreboard.

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1. Figure Out Closer Situation

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Joaquin Benoit has done an exceptional job in the closer's role lately, but excelled for the majority of the season as a set-up man. He could continue to fill this position if need be, but the Tigers may be better served if they added a closer at the trade deadline and put him back in his old spot.

It may come at a hefty price, but with all the money the Tigers have put into assembling a winning ball club, they shouldn't cut corners on a lock-down closer.