After a short period of time with a record at .500, the Detroit Tigers have fallen below the magical number. The culprit: hitting and pitching.
The first two games against the Los Angeles Angels have again highlighted the big problems with the Detroit Tigers. What is different now is that the two problems have been addressed publicly.
In an article by Chris McCosky with The Detroit News, Brad Ausmus has made it clear that he has finally had an “intervention” with Justin Upton. And, ESPN reporter Katie Strang shared Ausmus’s thoughts about the struggling Anibal Sanchez.
In what has remained a solid theme in 2016, the hitting hasn’t supported the pitching and the pitching hasn’t supported the hitting. Doesn’t it seem like the Detroit Tigers are the only team that could still manage to lose a game after hitting five home runs? And, only in Tigerland could a pitcher throw seven shutout innings, only for the team to lose 5-1. The same problems keep occurring and it seems like no one is doing anything to fix it.
Pitching is an obvious weakness on the team. The shouts for Ausmus to be fired are returning (not that they left for very long), but could it be that other coaches need to go first? The bullpen has struggled for years, yet Mick Billmeyer continues to have a job. Billmeyer was once a pitching coach with the Phillies and Rich Dubee, the Tigers new pitching coach, also has experience with the Phillies. After the Phillies, Dubee worked with the Atlanta Braves minor league organizations – and isn’t Atlanta where baseball players go to pasture? It is Dubee’s first season with the team, so he gets some slack for that – but Billmeyer doesn’t seem to be able to solve the curse of the Tigers’ bullpen.
The other big issue is with hitting. There has been some consistency, now that Miguel Cabrera has come back to his form. Ian Kinsler and Victor Martinez are regular contributors, too. But, the J.D. Martinez experiment needs to be stopped – he is not a #2 hitter. And, Justin Upton hitting 1 home run for every 24 strikeouts is not encouraging. Add to that James McCann and his .150 batting average and Jose Iglesias‘s .211. When one-third of the team cannot get on base on at least a third of the time, no wonder the record is below .500.
So, the problems are there and they are very real. Team management and coaches do not appear to be going anywhere anytime soon. What solutions exist?
There are a few.
The first is to move Anibal Sanchez out of the rotation. His contract will keep teams from wanting to make a trade – unless they have the coaching staff that can solve his mental and mechanical issues – so he will stay within the organization. He might benefit from some time in the bullpen and we all know the team could use a pitcher or two who can throw strikes for an inning or even a batter. While $16 million is tad pricey for a bullpen pitcher, a little time in the pen might just help him get things right. Daniel Norris, Matt Boyd, or Shane Greene could all fill his spot in the rotation. And, Michael Fulmer is performing well enough to stay put.
The issue with Justin Upton might be more difficult to solve. He is even more expensive than Sanchez and his production is harming the team on a daily basis, rather than every five days. His salary makes him even more unlikely to be traded – he has not been performing at a $22 million pace. He won’t be sent down to Toledo – unless he goes on the DL, so the only option would be to put him on the bench – at least for a short time. There are plenty of players waiting in the wings who are hungry for the Big Show – Steven Moya, Wynton Bernard, and JaCoby Jones.
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Iglesias and McCann have other issues. They are both young and they both could easily be traded. Teams are always in need of catchers and shortstops. Iglesias has recovered from slumps and most likely he will get out of this one. If Iglesias needs some down time, Jacoby Jones could fill his slot – at least until he proves he cannot fill it anymore.
McCann needs to have more time on the bench. Jarrod Saltalamacchia is perfectly capable of playing more than one or two days in a row. If neither catcher can perform, then Al Avila needs to move them – and there are catchers that have proven offense and defense. One catcher who is excelling right at and behind the plate is Jonathan Lucroy, who will be a free agent in 2017. The Brewers catcher bats third and is currently hitting .299 with 9 home runs.
Now that the problems have been identified publicly by the men who are in control, it is time to get some real solutions going. The status quo just isn’t good enough. And…there’s Mike Pelfrey.