A HUGE series kicked off at Comerica Park on Friday night and our Detroit Tigers need more late-inning magic, this time from the bat of Victor Martínez, to propel Detroit to a 4-3 victory over the Baltimore Orioles and for the time being tying themselves with Baltimore for one of the two spots in the American League Wild Card.
Now at 76-64, there’s just 22 games left in the 2016 regular season. We gave you, the Nation, the chance to ask us any questions you had regarding the Tigers and their stretch run to potentially finding their way back in the playoffs. We gave you the power, we sifted through it all and found these questions. Hopefully we provide adequate enough answers for ya!
Hmmm, for league MVP? Well, Miguel Cabrera is a perennial candidate for MVP but his numbers appear to be just a tick or two below what we’re use to seeing from him but still is likely going to get some votes. One could argue Cabrera is not even the MVP of the Tigers. And Justin Upton has been an above-average, five-tool-caliber talent his career capable of being in MVP talks. Unfortunately, his slump to begin the season did him in for any hardware talks.
Now Justin Verlander and Michael Fulmer being in AL Cy Young talks? I like that proposition. Verlander is just five innings away from the 200 watermark and has a sub-2.00 ERA in the second half, contributing to his 3.28 ERA through 29 starts. His 1.0005 WHIP is second to none and the 209 punch outs are second to only Chris Archer.
Fulmer is an interesting case. He’s definitely a popular pick to win AL Rookie of the Year. The only thing that may hurt Fulmer in the Cy Young talks may be his innings logged. After tonight, Fulmer has pitched 143.2 innings, which doesn’t even rank in the top 40 of qualified American League starters. And for better perspective, Verlander’s 195 IP rank 2nd in the AL.
Top three minor league prospects… Well the first two I can think of right off the bat are JaCoby Jones and Joe Jimenez.
I say Jones because he has a chance to be a regular come next spring and compete for a spot on the 25-man roster. Jones’ prowess has always been the bat no doubt, but he presents a very intriguing value of utility being able to play the left side of the infield and then go play in center field the next night. But it’s all likely Detroit wants to see him have some success at the Triple-A level before he becomes a regular in the show.
Jimenez is on his way to being the Tigers Minor League Pitcher of the Year. Jimenez posted a dazzling 1.51 in 55 games (53.2 IP at three different levels down in the bushes this year, reaching Triple-A at the last stop. And with a K:BB ratio of higher than 4:1, Tigers fans have been begging and pleading for Jimenez to be called up. However, the Tigers have been stern about being patient with him and his workload and recently announced he will take part in an instructional league this fall to work on his off-speed pitches. No doubt though, Jimenez will be a popular candidate to be promoted mid-season next year.
And the third prospect? Perhaps Christin Stewart or Mike Gerber? Both are outfielders who have shown a ton of pop in their time down on the farm. Maybe slick-fielding shortstop Dixon Machado will earn his stripes? Or perhaps there is a pitcher lying in the weeds like an Austin Kubitza or Myles Jaye who becomes a dark horse.
Hopefully Upton doesn’t come crashing down and this is his where he goes off and helps lead the charge. But outside of Upton, I see three guys right away that Tigers fans want and need to see perk up at the dish.
Ian Kinsler struggled mightily throughout the month of August and appeared to get out of that funk, somehow salvaging a .223 BA in August. He’s been swinging a hot bat in September though, 7 for 17 with four runs score and a couple runs batted in. He’s the Tigers table setter, he needs to get on base and move the line.
Victor Martínez is another guy that has hit the skids as of late. He’s just 4 for 23 in September and his go-ahead solo home run in the 8th inning Friday night was his first extra-base hit since August 26. Miggy needs his ‘Bash Brother’ V-Mart to help lengthen the lineup.
And I’m going to go to the bullpen for No. 3 – Shane Greene. Greene in July was virtually unhittable and really molding into that 8th inning role for the Tigers. But since the calendar flipped to August, he’s been borderline treasonous. Since August 2, Greene has compiled an ERA approaching 10 (16 ER in 14.2 IP). And oddly enough if you look at his game log, he’s endured what Mark Lowe did in the first half – he gives up runs in bunches and the outings are very sporadic.
While being 6 GB of Cleveland in the AL Central division may seem like a lot, Detroit has seven more games with the Tribe alone to fix that right away. One must imagine though what sort of deficit they would be facing, or where in the playoff race they would be had they not lost 11 of 12 to Cleveland and just went .500 at the worst.
This American League playoff chase is going to come down to the last day. There are at least eight teams vying for just two spots in the Wild Card. Just four games separate four teams in the AL East and the Tigers are sandwiched right in between all of them in the Wild Card chase. Take it for what its worth, but a favorable schedule on paper could bode well for the Tigers chances to make the playoffs, as all the AL East teams have to beat up on each other down the stretch.
Wow, big names huh? Well, the 2017 class of free agents around Major League Baseball is not the sexiest crop of players and does not compete with the names that were available last winter. However, it is worth noting that there are a number of position players throughout the majors that are on one-year pacts who are seeing their stock skyrocket and ready to break the bank.
Problem is, Detroit doesn’t really need any position players. If anything, they could address the bench but even that is not a huge necessity if you ask me.
No, any ‘big names’ they go for this off-season will be acquired via trades more than likely, and who knows what the chances are of that happening. A good chunk of that will also depend how they finish out the 2016 season. It is also worth mentioning that now with all these young gun pitchers making an impact down the stretch, Detroit appears to have a bit of influx of pitchers. So perhaps they flip one for a bat off the bench or just to shed cap and replenish the farm?
Again, it’s unclear how likely either scenario is at this point in time, but the club can go in a number of directions.