The Detroit Tigers enter the All-Star break at 52-42, 10 games over .500, and 1.5 games ahead of the competition in the AL Central standings. The Indians have lurked around like this before, it’s unlikely to last and none of the other three teams pose a threat. So, for all intents and purposes, the Tigers are headed right back to the playoffs barring something unforeseen.
The All-Star break is a good time to grade the performances of the players. I’m not a teacher and honestly couldn’t imagine being one. 30 kids staring at you, dreaming of something else, trying to find ways to irritate you. No thanks. But this is easy. Sit at home and watch a baseball game day after day and then evaluate.
I will grade on an A to E scale. Why not F? Because we didn’t have F’s where I went to school and I’m staying true.
Part 1 of this article set will focus solely on the position players.
Austin Jackson – Grade B – Jackson is a legit difference maker but spent over a month on the DL. This is the 2nd year in a row that he has been hobbled. Had he not missed any time he’d be crushing the competition in terms of runs scored. I’d like to see that .280 average climb back toward .300 before the season is up.
Torii Hunter – Grade A minus – He, like Jackson has paved the way for the middle of the order. The .315 batting average has exceeded my expectations and the power numbers (7 HR’s and 44 RBI’s) are pretty much what I thought we’d see. He has been brutal defensively on plays running toward the wall in right but great on plays coming in. But that’s just nitpicking. He’s been a star.
Miguel Cabrera – Grade A+ – .365 avg., 30 homers, 20 doubles, 95 RBI’s, 244 total bases. Ridiculous. He will battle Chris Davis most of the 2nd half not only for Triple Crown honors but also for the shot to win back-to-back MVP awards. If only Cabrera called Camden Yards home like Davis does he’d probably have at least 5 more homers and 10-15 more RBI’s. Can you imagine? Hopefully voters consider that.
Prince Fielder – Grade B minus – Prince gets paid a lot of money to mash homers. So far he only has 16, which puts him on pace for well under 30. His .267 average and 69 RBI’s are solid but he has experienced some prolonged slumps at the plate this year. The Tigers will need him hot come playoff time.
Victor Martinez – Grade C+ – VMart finished the 1st half on a tear to bump his average up to a respectable .258. He has 8 homers and 50 RBI’s as well, which is right on target with preseason expectations. Some of his early struggles were linked to bad luck as he has hit the ball hard all year. Regardless, Detroit needs Victor to be a .300+ hitter and my guess is we’ll see that and more the rest of the way.
Jhonny Peralta – Grade A – What a comeback year for Peralta, and thankfully for him it’s coming in a contract season. With the dearth of quality shortstops likely available this offseason, you can be sure that Jhonny is going to get paid. The only devil on the shoulder as I type this is the looming PED scandal hammer that will be dropping any day now. Jhonny is hitting .303 with 8 homers, 25 doubles, and 46 RBI’s so far, more than earning his All-Star nod.
Andy Dirks – Grade C minus – Dirks has essentially received regular playing time this year and is hitting just .243 with 15 extra-base hits over 276 at-bats. Detroit could use his bat to be more impactful in the 2nd half. If it’s not, Avisail Garcia or Nick Castellanos very well may steal some of his playing time. Or worse yet, Dirks could become trade bait. His glove in left is solid and his intangibles are tremendous, but he’s gotta hit.
Alex Avila – Grade C minus – He isn’t graded any lower simply because of how he handles the pitching staff. Detroit’s starting 5 all have an extreme comfort level with Alex. His bat however, has been horrid. He enters the break with a .177 average, 5 doubles, 6 homers, and a minor league stint under his belt. He has gone from one of the top up and coming catcher’s in the game to a questionable piece of the long-term future of this franchise.
Omar Infante – Grade B – Omar has been steady and should be back from the ankle injury soon. His .309 average and 26 extra-base hits are more than the Tigers really needed from him. He has been decent defensively but has had throwing issues while trying to turn the double play. Hopefully he locks that down as more serious baseball rapidly approaches.
Matt Tuiasosopo – Grade A – Really, what more could you ask for from a reserve? In just 85 at-bats this guy has managed to stay laser focused to the tune of a .329 average and 6 homers. He brings an impact bat to the box every time he steps in.
Brayan Pena – Grade B+ – Pena has been stellar as a backup and even filling in for Avila while he was hurt/demoted. He has hit .279 and played solid defense all the while bringing a winning personality to the locker room. Detroit couldn’t be happier.
Don Kelly – Grade B – His defensive versatility is an asset, albeit slightly overrated as he rarely plays anywhere but corner outfield. He had a brutal start to the season offensively but has pushed his average all the way up to .252 while hitting 4 homers due to his recent hot streak. He has been nearly everything the Tigers need him to be.
Ramon Santiago – Grade C – Santiago, even with his recent increase in playing time while Infante has been out, only has 81 at-bats on his ledger. He’s hitting just .160. It’s hard to get too upset with him given the sporadic starts that he receives but he will need to pick it up some in the 2nd half.
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