The Detroit Tigers have 22 games left in the regular season and a 6.5 game lead in the division. Here are the top storylines that remain:
Miguel Cabrera’s health
Perhaps no single storyline is more critical than this one. Cabrera’s quest for a 2nd straight Triple Crown is on hold once again as he recovers from a few different ailments. Why he was put into Tuesday’s game when he wasn’t 100% healthy was simply confounding.
Hopefully the Tigers take a more careful approach with their franchise player in the coming weeks as he has the skill to push this team to win after win come October, if he’s healthy.
The Solution: Rest him the remainder of this week and see if he is good to go on Monday in Chicago. If he’s not, simply wait longer so that he can be active for the season’s final week in order to get ready for the postseason. Personal accolades should be removed from the equation at this point.
Jhonny Peralta looms
It’s almost hard to believe that Jhonny has already served 31 games of his 50-game suspension. Jose Iglesias has certainly looked like the answer at shortstop and is hitting enough to keep the gig. So, how important is Peralta’s bat? Remember he was hitting .305 with a .361 on-base% and 54 RBI’s at the time of his suspension.
Perhaps a platoon would work? Peralta mashed lefties with a .347 average while Iglesias has had the better season v. righties (.324 avg. to .286 for Peralta).
Would a Peralta return hurt the locker room? This has to be weighed heavily by the Tigers. The bottom line hasn’t changed though. Win a World Series or label the season a failure. By all accounts, Jhonny manned up and apologized. The Tigers seem to have the type of locker room that would welcome him back with open arms if need be.
The Solution: Peralta is eligible to return for the final 3 games in Miami, and the Tigers should let him. With Cabrera’s health issues Peralta could serve as the 3rd basemen in a pinch come playoff time. In games that he starts at shortstop, give him the first 7 innings and let Iglesias mop things up at short as a defensive replacement. If Jhonny returns in Miami and it becomes readily apparent that it was a bad idea, then simply don’t add him to the playoff roster.
Many fans lost their marbles on Wednesday night as the Red Sox lit up the Boston sky with eight home runs, and rightfully so. But what we learned from that game is nothing that we didn’t already know.
- Rick Porcello still isn’t ready for prime time. And he isn’t penciled in as a starter in the playoffs anyhow, so no harm done.
- Al Alburquerque, Jeremy Bonderman, and Evan Reed shouldn’t be considered vital to the Tigers’ postseason roster plans. Alburquerque and Bondo can pitch in mop-up duty but any other role is currently beyond their pay grade.
The Big 4 in the bullpen (Drew Smyly, Bruce Rondon, Jose Veras, and Joaquin Benoit) are more than capable of handling the last few innings that Detroit’s elite starting staff can’t finish in a given playoff game.
The Solution: Nothing to see here. Move along.
Justin Verlander & the playoff rotation
His next walk will mark the 2nd most he’s ever had in a season. Clearly, he isn’t what he was in 2011 and ’12, but with a 3.59 ERA, 175 K’s, and a 12-10 record it could be much worse. At present, Verlander slots in as the #3 starter in the playoff pecking order behind Max Scherzer and Anibal Sanchez. It would be major folly for Jim Leyland to line it up any other way, despite his loyalties to JV.
Scherzer and Sanchez can match up pitch for pitch with any other teams’ 1-2 punch when the lights shine brightest, and probably outperform them. Verlander has a handful of starts left to get his mind right, which seems to be the main thing plaguing him.
Even in his current state of occasional disarray, he makes for a mighty handsome #3 starter.
The Solution: Take comfort in knowing that there is a new #1 in town and that the rotation as a whole isn’t much different than its dominant form seen during 2012’s playoff run, the order in which the players appear just needs to be shuffled a bit.
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