Nothing about this Opening Series seemed to be right. Even the day the Detroit Tigers won, they weren’t even supposed to be playing. Yet, we are two games into the 2017 season and they have split two games with the Chicago White Sox, a team on the mend.
For the entirety of the Tigers opening series with the White Sox, it was a constant barrage of what I’ll call, disappointments. It was life imitating art if I have ever seen it. The imitation was Charles Dickens’ Tale of Two Cities, in which Dickens begins by saying, “it was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” If that doesn’t perfectly sum up every single aspect of the Tigers opening tilt, I don’t know what does; and it all began on Opening Day. Opening Day is meant to be one of the happiest days in a baseball fan’s life — minus of course: anniversaries, child births, and maybe (and it’s a big maybe) promotions. Tigers fans were (best of times) pumped for Opening Day, as we are every year; only to find out a few hours later, “game postponed due to rain,” (it was the worst of times). Then Tuesday, we
Opening Day is meant to be one of the happiest days in a baseball fan’s life — minus of course: anniversaries, child births, and maybe (and it’s a big maybe) promotions. Tigers fans were (best of times) pumped for Opening Day, as we are every year; only to find out a few hours later, “game postponed due to rain,” (it was the worst of times). Then Tuesday, we finally got to see our team play, and they won (best of times), only to be followed by another rainout (worst of times) Wednesday. And lastly, so I don’t belabor the point, we saw Justin Verlander pitch one of the better Opening Day games in Tigers history (best of times), only to see that followed up by a sub 45 degree day and Matt Boyd not even make it through three innings (it was the worst of times).
So, what can we take away from this first “series?” Here’s what I think:
Here’s what I think:
Justin Verlander is still the Man
You know aside from dating a supermodel and being a pretty funny follow on Twitter, we’ve known for years that Justin Verlander can flat out toss the pill. In 2011, he won the AL MVP and Cy Young awards, and since then has suffered through — arguably — three-years worth of injuries and recovery. Last year, however, he finally seemed to have made it back to the dominant form we are so used to seeing.
Here are Verlander’s numbers since 2011:
Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com
After struggling, by his standards, for three years (2015 was his lowest total of innings pitched of his career), JV was back to his old self in 2016. He was completely robbed, especially if you ask Kate Upton, of a rightful Cy Young Award, and this year has started his vengeance tour with a bang.
Verlander took the hill on Tuesday, in rather cold weather, in no long sleeves, ready for the White Sox. He pitched 6.1 innings, gave up two earned runs, walked two, and struck out ten–tying a Tigers Opening Day record.
.@JustinVerlander's 10 K's are tied for the most by a DET pitcher on Opening Day since 1913 (Mickey Lolich, 1966 & 1970 & Jean Dubuc, 1914).
— Tigers PR (@DetroitTigersPR) April 4, 2017
If the Tigers are planning on contending at all this season, much of that success will rely on the bare right arm of Justin Verlander. So far so good.
The Tigers defense (right now) is still the weakest link
Though the Tigers defense has improved since Miguel Cabrera moved back to first base, Ian Kinsler took over at second, and James McCann began calling the signals behind the plate, over the first two games of this 2017 season, they have looked uninterested in catching the ball.
A few plays stick out specifically. First was the ball hit to Mikie Mahtook early in the game on Tuesday, which led to a double. He misplayed the ball and it got to the wall, allowing extra bases to be taken. The second was a passed ball today by McCann. It was a low strike (or should have been), that he just flat out missed. Purely fundamental. Lastly, Tyler Collins was a bit of a one-man circus in right field this afternoon. Early in the game, he misplayed a ball close to the wall which led to a triple and, eventually, runs for the White Sox.
This is a big concern for a couple reasons. There is no timetable for J.D. Martinez’s return from the disabled list. Right now, the odd men out are either Collins or Mahtook, most likely Mahtook given that he’s a right-handed hitter. For two guys who are trying to stake their claim on the roster, they have to start making plays in the field. As the old adage goes, “defense wins championships.” If this is true, the Tigers have a lot of work to do.
JaCoby Jones looks comfortable
A week or so ago, I wrote that the center field job should go to JaCoby Jones. He had a brilliant spring for a young guy trying to make the club, and in his first two games he has looked pretty comfortable under the bright lights, err, on the big stage.
In his first at-bat of the season, against a pitcher in Jose Quintana who has been very good over the past couple of years, Jones hit a bomb to left field for his first Major League home run.
— Detroit Tigers (@tigers) April 4, 2017
I completely understand the idea of platooning guys, especially in the outfield. But in this situation, especially given the options, I hate the idea. Jones has been a difficult at-bat for pitchers, has hit for power, and has stolen bases. He should remain a fixture in the Detroit Tigers lineup for the season. He seems ready.
The Tigers still have 160 games remaining
It seems to be human nature to expect the world to end, especially in Detroit when the Tigers play badly. However, we as fans must not overreact. This is just two games. And, to add to that, this was a pretty screwy way to start the season. Guys were ready to go on Monday, went through the ceremonies, and then were told the game is being postponed. Then, after playing so well on Tuesday, they get rained out again on Wednesday and end up playing only two games in a four-day stretch. No rhythm can develop from that, adding in the very cold temperatures, and the result is somewhat expected.
I know that we want the Tigers to play well, but sometimes that’s just not going to happen. So until they are literally eliminated from the playoffs mathematically, let’s all collectively take a chill pill.
There’s a lot of baseball left to be played. Up next is the Boston Red Sox who come in for a four-game series. Let’s let the boys in the Old English D get a few more games under their belt before we start selling everyone off.