We are exactly 30 games (EDIT: Post was written prior to game 31) into the Tigers season; and our boys of summer are right smack dab at .500 with a 15-15 record. Obviously, the season has been somewhat of a disappointment thus far, especially from an offensive standpoint, but I have little doubt that we will see the offensive explosion sooner rather than later.
-Jackson has been quite the pleasant surprise. He’s still striking out too much to be considered “ideal” for a leadoff hitter, seeing as his strikeout percentage is at about 23%. But along with the strikeouts, he has increased his walk percentage, good enough for 2nd on the team in terms of total walks. Even with the high strikeout totals, his OBP is .391, which I will gladly take any day of the week and twice on Sundays. All you need to do is watch an at bat when Jackson gets 2 strikes on him to see the improvement. His approach is night and day better compared to last season. He’s fouling off more pitches, and his hands are much, much quicker to the ball than they were last season.
-Boesch has been a disappointment. Plain and simple, I had high hopes for him batting 2nd in front of Miggy and Prince. Boesch’s biggest issue has been well documented in that his strike zone recognition is horrendous. Swinging at balls, looking at strikes, etc. This is an issue that can be attributed to “pressing” at the plate, something every hitter goes through from time to time. I have faith that he will figure it out, but for the time being, hitting 2ndis out of the question. Luckily, Leyland recognized this as well and moved him down in the lineup.
-Cabrera is experiencing something similar to Boesch. He is pressing at the plate, and while that leads to a near-Mendoza line average for Boesch, Miggy can still hit .270 while struggling mightily. I’m no hitting coach, but I see a few slight mechanical flaws with Cabrera’s swing. When I am working with hitters, I use Cabrera’s swing as the ultimate perfection example. Lately, however, he’s pulling off the ball ever so slightly, which is leading to weaker contact. When you don’t keep the bat in the hitting zone for as long as possible, you “pull off” the ball, which results in “rolling over” the ball. This is why you see so many weak groundouts to the left side of the infield from Cabrera. His front shoulder is pulling away from the ideal swing path just slightly early, which causes the swing to lose power in addition to hitting the top of the ball instead of the center. It’s a very, very slight mechanical flaw, but one that impacts him heavily.
-I’m not going to spend a lot of time on Prince. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the guy, despite the fact that he’s seemingly in the midst of a power outage. I will say, however, that from a coach’s perspective, Prince’s “scooping” style at 1st base when trying to catch bad throws is absolutely 100% fundamentally perfect. It is a joy to watch, and I urge everyone to pay closer to attention to that in the future.
-What can be said about Drew Smyly other than “wow”? I know I’m going to sound a lot like every other Tigers blogger in the world, but the kid pitches beyond his years in terms of poise and pitchability. He throws breaking balls in fastball counts, pitches on the corners, and understands that he cannot simply overpower everyone. For comparison, what Smyly is doing in terms of pitchability in his rookie reason took Justin Verlander 4 seasons to figure out.
-Speaking of Justin Verlander, the ace has been his usual ace self, with the exception of the other night in Seattle. He’s been the victim of some bad luck, as his offense hasn’t been able to show up to get him the wins he deserves. But as most educated baseball fans understand, the win statistic is garbage anyways.
-I’ve been impressed with Porcello. He really had one bad night against Texas, but other than that, he’s definitely taken a step forward in his development. He specializes in my favorite pitch in baseball, the sinking fastball. When he throws it with good velo, ideally 92-94, the bite on the pitch is remarkable. When the pitch is down, hard, and moving, Rick becomes nearly unhittable. The arm side run on the pitch has improved as well, which is why I believe he has increased his effectiveness against left handed hitters. When the pitch was simple sinking, lefties could still tee it up because the swing path of a left handed hitter generally favors pitches low in the zone. With the increased arm side run, lefties are making weaker contact because rather than the pitch simply being down in the zone, the pitch is down and away in the zone.
That’s all I have for now everyone. Please comment on the post and let me know what you think, or feel free to tweet me @B_Sakowski. Go Tigers!!!