The Tigers Aren’t Very Good…But They’re Still Breathing
The legendary professional wrestler "Rowdy" Roddy Piper once said during his famous "Piper's Pit" segment..."Just when they think they got the answers, I change the questions!!!"
Well, the questions are starting to change for the Detroit Tigers. After a successful 6-2 homestand against the Cleveland Guardians and the Minnesota Twins, the Detroit Tigers are now 21-30 overall and eight games behind the aforementioned Twins for first place in the American League Central. That was capped off by Thursday's come from behind 3-2 win over Minnesota at Comerica Park.
The Tigers have won seven out of nine and 12 out of 19 to get out of the basement in the AL Central. So what's changed?
BATS ARE STARTING TO WAKE UP
Harold Castro (pictured above), who's a utility player, has hit so well (.316) that manager A.J. Hinch has had to keep him in the lineup. Fortunately, "Hittin' Harold" can play multiple defensive positions, so he can move him around every day.
Jonathan Schoop has been awful at the plate, but has warmed up in the last 7-10 days. He's still hitting .198, but that's improvement. Same with Spencer Torkelson, he was hitting in the .150's earlier in the year. But is now at .203, and he's been very good defensively at first base. Willi Castro is hitting .275, and has actually been OK defensively in the outfield. Even catcher Tucker Barnhart is above .200 now (.229).
PITCHING REMAINS STRONG
Tarik Skubal is turning into an ace right before our very eyes. If he keeps it going, he should make the AL All-Star team this year. He's 4-2 with a 2.15 ERA in 10 starts. He's also struck out 61 while walking only 10. Pretty strong.
And the bullpen continues to be good despite COVID-19 and injuries.
INJURED GUYS ARE CLOSER TO RETURNING
Outfielder Austin Meadows will likely return next week from vertigo caused by an ear infection. Pitcher Tyler Alexander is also close to coming back, probably to the bullpen. Other guys like Victor Reyes, Robbie Grossman, and Eduardo Rodriguez are close to coming back, too. All may return by July 1st.
And we all await the arrival of Riley Greene to the outfield.
YES, THINGS ARE BETTER. BUT THEY'RE STILL 21-30
Despite the recent improvement, there are still issues on the team. Other than Skubal, all of their other starting pitchers are still hurt. Casey Mize, Matt Manning, and Spencer Turnbull are still out for awhile. Jeimer Candelario and Javier Baez still aren't hitting, and as a result, have been rotated out of the lineup for Harold Castro in recent days.
And I still don't like how manager A.J. Hinch babies his starting pitchers. I think it has contributed to the injuries that they have.
And they have no business having 14 pitchers on the roster, IMO. Because of that, you only have 3 bench players per game (one being a catcher). That's a potential problem going forward if/when you have an injury to a position player. Hinch doesn't seem to value bench players and overvalues his bullpen.
Winning 12 out of their last 19 games is very encouraging. But look at their record, it's 21-30. That's still not very good. They need another stretch like they've been on to get themselves legitimately back in the race. They still have time, 111 games left. But it needs to happen soon, otherwise we're talking about the Tigers selling at the trade deadline in early August. And that is unacceptable this season after the last few years of rebuilding.