After being swept out of Los Angeles over the weekend, Monday was a much-needed day off for the Detroit Tigers.
Failing yet again to produce runs, the Tigers struggles have been the complete opposite of what most thought would be their strong point. In almost half of the games played this season, the Tigers have failed to score more than two runs. Regardless of how good your pitching may be, this is not a recipe to win ball games.
However somehow, through 52 games this season and basically the 1/3 mark of the season, the Tigers find themselves right in the middle of the AL Central. It’s not first place where most fans have grown accustomed to over the past decade or so, but for a team who has had so much difficulty producing on offense, they are very much still in this.
Last year, the Tigers were only 3 games higher in the standings through the same amount of games played. That team had a healthy Victor Martinez, Justin Verlander as well as Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello.
Even with those four names being participants last season, the one person who truly saved the Tigers 2014 season was Outfielder JD Martinez.
The emergence of Martinez was exactly what the Tigers were missing. After being dropped by the last place Houston Astros, General Manager Dave Dombrowski wasted no time in bringing him up to Detroit and getting him to work on a flaw Tiger’s scouts noticed in his swing. The results were career changing for JD. He went from being a failed prospect to a “late bloomer” all due to a little scenery change and some proper swing help.
This season however, JD has had a much more difficult time than his 2014 coming out year. Now tied for second in the American League in strikeouts, Martinez has shown signs of why Houston let him to go. The power numbers are definitely still there, but his consistency and plate discipline are all over the place.
It has me wondering: Who will be this years JD Martinez? A guy who comes out of nowhere to keep this team afloat. All they need is someone to step up, like Martinez did last season, to get the ball rolling. Here’s my list of candidates who I feel can change this team for the better.
Justin Verlander – He won’t help drive in any runs, however Justin Verlander’s presence on the mound could be the major difference maker. His rehab start in Indianapolis this past weekend showed good and bad signs, as Verlander showed no discomfort after 79 pitches. On the flip side, he only went 2 2/3 innings while giving up three runs to AAA hitters. If Verlander can come back and even be half the pitcher he used to be, this team will follow his lead and began to pick things up.
Yoenis Cespedes – Although he leads the American League in doubles, the Tigers left fielder has been a bit underwhelming since arriving in Detroit from Oakland in an off-season trade. Cespedes has not shown as much home run power as expected, and without Victor Martinez being around, that needs to change. Cespedes needs to start doing what he was brought here to do, and hit balls out of the park and while showing some flash. He won a game by himself last week, and he may need to do it a few more times in order for the Tigers get out of the AL Central.
JD Martinez, again. – Can lightning strike twice? I hope so. As noted above, Martinez has been figured out a bit by opposing pitchers after a break out 2014 campaign. But before last season, all pitchers had him figured out. The adjustments made by the Tigers staff to fix his swing were career changing for JD, so can they do the same with his plate discipline? If JD can get on base more while striking out less, things will turn around in a hurry.
Daniel Fields – Early this morning, the Tigers called up centerfielder Daniel Fields from AAA Toledo while Rajai Davis is on paternity leave. Now I know this is not going to move the needle for anyone too much, but does anyone remember what Quintin Berry did for this team in 2012? Berry wasnt the best hitter or fielder, but he provided the speed and energy that eventually propelled the Tigers to the World Series that season. If Fields can manage to stick around, it will be on the same basis.
This Tigers ship is sinking fast, but it’s not as bad of a leak as every thinks. A simple spark will get this team going towards the playoffs in hopes for another AL Central crown. Will it be one of these four? It better be, or look for the Tigers to be sellers at the trade deadline for the first time in a decade.