A renewed bullpen. Unlikely hitters. Struggling veterans. The Detroit Tigers is a team that is showing its age and its youth.
Despite the fact that the media has been commenting on the age of the Detroit Tigers for several seasons, it is becoming clear that the old guard is finally making way for the new. The young players are simply making the older players look, well…older.
It is almost as if the Detroit Tigers is split into two groups – those under 30 and those over 30 – and the young guys are dominating in almost all areas of play.
It is no secret that the most recognizable names and faces on the team are having some difficulties getting the job done. Miguel Cabrera (33) is not seeing the ball and Justin Verlander (33) is missing his pitches. Even the experienced Francisco Rodriguez (34) is not pitching like he has in the past.
There are, of course, a few notable exceptions. Ian Kinsler and Jarrod Saltalamacchia, ages 33 and 30 respectively, are leading the team in home runs. Kinsler is playing like he is still in his 20s. The man never seems to age. And, Saltalamacchia, who will be 31 in May, is the surprise of the season.
It is odd to think that Cabrera and Kinsler are nine months apart in age, simply because of their extreme differences in physical condition. Cabrera’s birthday was just a few days ago. Verlander is also 33 years old. Kinsler will be 34 in June.
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The elder statesman of the team, Victor Martinez – the only man born in the 1970s on the team, is not performing as well as he has in the past. While he has significantly improved over 2015, his .265 batting average is not up to his typical standard of performance.
Interestingly, Kinsler and Saltalamacchia have the same amount of home runs (9) between the two of them then the rest of the everyday players have combined. This includes the “heart” of the lineup with Cabrera, V-Mart, and J.D. Martinez.
Other than Kinsler and Saltalamacchia, the players who are having the biggest impact on the team are the young ones. For example, Nick Castellanos – who is only 24 years old – is dominating the plate. His .357 batting average is second only to 28-year-old J.D. Martinez. They both have hit two home runs.
Jose Iglesias (26) is another young player who is outperforming the older group. His plate appearances, baserunning, and defensive plays have protected leads in several games. All signs are pointing to a maturation that was not evident in previous seasons and his consistency in all aspects of the game is significant.
There are two notable young position players who are struggling with at-bats: Anthony Gose (25) and Justin Upton (28). Gose’s .222 batting average shows his weakness at the plate, but his performance in the outfield has been more than acceptable. Upton has been striking out more often than he should. His current average of .245 is well below his career average of .271 and his full power has yet to show up.
The other young players who are leading the team to victories are those in the bullpen. The majority of the bullpen pitchers are all under 30 years of age. Kyle Ryan, Drew VerHagen, and Justin Wilson are proving to be reliable in the late innings. Alex Wilson, who will turn 30 in November, was lights out in his first appearance – picking up right where he left off in 2015.
The two youngest pitchers in the starting rotation have also seen success. Jordan Zimmermann, who is 29, still is without an ERA. Shane Greene, who struggled in the last game, is 27 and still has time to prove his value. Mike Pelfrey is all of three weeks older than Anibal Sanchez. The two 32-year-old veteran pitchers have both struggled with command, forcing their teammates to help keep their ERAs at relatively acceptable levels.
Even though the word on the street is that the Tigers are getting old, all signs point to success from the younger players who are showing what they can do with consistency, know-how, and power.
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