5 Reasons why the Tigers will claw their way back into contention

After a last place finish in 2015, many of the so-called experts predicted the Detroit Tigers to hover around the .500 mark in 2016. Despite the low expectations from the outsiders, many Tigers fans refused to accept mediocrity and believed their team would once again rise to the top of the American League Central. Some fans even believed the Tigers would eventually make another run at the World Series, but now that seems like more than a pipe dream than anything.

In my opinion, there is absolutely no way this team should be sitting at 16-21 (7.5 GB) after their first 37 games (Prior to Monday’s win over Minnesota). On paper, the Tigers lineup looks scary, but in reality it has been scary in the wrong way. That will not continue as the season goes on.

In addition, both the starting pitching and the relief pitching has been less than stellar for the Tigers. Expect for both of those units to turn it around and to help put the Tigers in position to make a run.

Here are 5 reasons why the Detroit Tigers will claw their way back into contention.

Miggy will be Miggy

After 37 games, Miguel Cabrera is hitting .286 with six home runs and 20 RBI’s, but never fear, Miggy will be Miggy. Many are afraid that Cabrera has lost his power-stroke for good following only 25 home runs in 2014 and just 18 last season, but I’m not convinced that’s the case.

Over the past two seasons, Cabrera has struggled with a core injury that has greatly impacted his production on the field. That being said, Miggy is as healthy as he has been since 2013 (or at least that’s what we’re told) when he blasted 44 home runs and it’s a matter of time before he really starts to heat up.

If you happen to be worried about Miggy’s power, just check out the home run he hit this past Saturday. That my friends was the longest home run at Camden Yards since 2009.

Maybin will be a spark

The Tigers have announced that outfielder Cameron Maybin will be called up prior to Monday’s game against the Minnesota Twins. Coupled with the promotion of Steven Moya from AAA Toledo last Thursday, the two could prove to be the spark the Tigers need to get the offense back on track.

When Moya made his season debut in LF on Thursday against the Orioles, Justin Upton was forced to move to CF. Don’t expect that to continue as Maybin will likely be the Tigers everyday center fielder with Upton more comfortable in LF and Moya unable to cover the amount of field needed from a center fielder.

Is Maybin going to single-handedly turn the offense around? Of course not, but he can provide the spark the Tigers have needed all season long.

Justin Upton and J.D. Martinez will mash

So far in 2016, Justin Upton (.216, 2 home runs, 9 RBI’s) and J.D. Martinez (.237, 6 home runs, 16 RBI’s) have left much to be desired. One has to believe that it’s just a matter of time before both outfielders hit their stride and go on a tear.

Throughout his career, Upton has been an extremely streaky hitter. That being said, by the time the season ends, his overall numbers always seem to be there. During his career, Upton has averaged 25 home runs and 83 RBI’s over 162 games and though the slump he is currently in has been extreme, he will find a way to come around.

J.D. Martinez has been extremely disappointing for the Tigers so far in 2016. After back-to-back stellar campaigns, most thought Martinez was a star in the making, but he seems to have taken a step back. Expect for J.D. to catch fire sooner than later and don’t be at all surprised if he ends up with 30+ home runs.

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Top of the rotation will be good

So far in 2016, the Tigers starting rotation has been a reason for concern. Other than newly acquired Jordan Zimmermann, every starter has struggled at times. If the Tigers want to get back into contention, the top of the rotation will have to be solid. Zimmermann will have to continue his dominance, but much of the weight will fall on Justin Verlander and Anibal Sanchez to hold up their end of the bargain.

We have all been made aware that Verlander almost always struggles in April, and this year was no different as JV went 2-2 with a 5.46 ERA. So far in May, the former MVP is 0-2, but his ERA is 3.60 and batters are only hitting .208, which is a great sign. Verlander pitching like a No. 2 starter will be crucial to the Tigers turning things around before it’s too late.

One of the keys to the Tigers 2016 starting rotation, was, and still is Anibal Sanchez. Ever since his dominant performance in 2013 when he posted a 14-8 record with a 2.57 ERA, Sanchez has struggled. He only pitched in 22 games in 2014, due to injury, and struggled to regain his old form in 2015 (10-10 with a 4.99 ERA). The Tigers had high hopes for Sanchez this season, but the struggles have continued (3-4 with a 5.91 ERA). If Anibal can figure out his delivery, he should be able to be a solid No. 3 starter for the remainder of the season.

The Bullpen will be better

In 2015, the Tigers relief pitching was flat out AWFUL! So, what did Tigers GM Al Avila do? He completely overhauled the bullpen in hopes of turning a weakness into a strength. Well, through 37 games the Tigers bullpen ranks 24th in the Major Leagues with a 4.24 ERA. Though that is a slight improvement from 2015, the Tigers relief pitching is still a weakness.

Francisco Rodriquez has converted nine out of 10 save opportunities, but that number could be worse as his WHIP currently sits at 1.42 for the season. Though he has not been as dominant as the Tigers were hoping he would be, Rodriguez has been sufficient and should be better as the season progresses.

As far as the rest of the bullpen goes, guys like Justin Wilson and Mark Lowe have to step and do their job. Wilson, who posted an ERA of 3.10 in 2015, has struggled so far this season (4.50 ERA) as batters have hit a whopping .304 against him. In additon to Wilson’s struggles, Lowe has been an absolute train wreck so far for the Tigers. After posting a microscopic ERA of 1.96 in 2015, Lowe (team worst 8.76 ERA in 2016) has failed to be the setup guy the Tigers had hoped for and he absolutely must regain his old form.

Here is Lowe pitching against the Tigers in 2015. Where has that been this season?

The good news is that the Tigers bullpen cannot be too much worse than they have been. As the season goes on, expect the pen to come around and to become a much-needed strength. If they don’t, we could be in for a long summer.

 

 

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