Detroit Tigers Current 25-Man Roster Can’t Win a Championship

Jun 8, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers manager Brad Ausmus (left) and pitcher Justin Verlander (35) in the dugout prior to the game against the Toronto Blue Jays at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 8, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers manager Brad Ausmus (left) and pitcher Justin Verlander (35) in the dugout prior to the game against the Toronto Blue Jays at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports /
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We fans know that the Detroit Tigers have the potential to be champions, but not with the current 25-man roster.

There are several pieces of the roster puzzle that can easily be glued into place, but there are many pieces that just do not meet the needs of the team. There are no easy answers as to how to replace them due to contracts, lack of replacement options, etc.

Jun 8, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers second baseman Ian Kinsler (3) makes a throw to first for an out in the fourth inning against the Toronto Blue Jays at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 8, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers second baseman Ian Kinsler (3) makes a throw to first for an out in the fourth inning against the Toronto Blue Jays at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports /

One area of the roster that works just fine is the infield. Miguel Cabrera may not be the most mobile first baseman, but he gets the job done – especially at the plate. Ian Kinsler is Ian Kinsler. Jose Iglesias manages shortstop just fine and his bat is turning around and Nick Castellanos is maturing nicely. James McCann handles the duties behind the plate, despite his bat still being less than it was in 2015. (More on McCann later).

The three everyday outfielders are also doing their jobs well. J.D. Martinez, Cameron Maybin, and Justin Upton roam the grass with substantial playing ability. Martinez’s powerful bat is a necessity if the team is going to contend. Maybin needs to continue caring for his wrist and learn to hit the inside pitch. Upton needs to stop striking out.

There are also three starting pitchers who are perfectly capable of getting to the playoffs. Justin Verlander has proven he is for real and so has Michael Fulmer. We’ve all seen what Jordan Zimmermann can do.

Victor Martinez has been an outstanding DH hitting above average in all categories. As long as he doesn’t have to run far, he can continue to be a force on the team. I guess he just needs to hit more home runs.

Before addressing the real problems, these are a few more good players to notice. Even though the bullpen has issues, there are a few positives. One is Shane Greene. Since he returned to the team and placed in the pen, he has a WHIP of 0.47, allowing one run and two hits in 6.1 innings. The best part – he struck out 11 of the 21 batters he faced in those innings.

This next one might get a few arguments; but other than two games, Francisco Rodriguez has also been reliable. He has 19 out of 21 saves. He has faced 98 batters and K’d 24 of them. It might be time to drop the K-Rod nickname and just call him Frankie. Considering what the Tigers have had in previous years, K-Rod is an asset (and he keeps the games interesting).

May 22, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers relief pitcher Alex Wilson (30) and catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia (39) celebrate a win over the Tampa Bay Rays at Comerica Park. The Tigers defeated the Rays 9-4. Mandatory Credit: Leon Halip-USA TODAY Sports
May 22, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers relief pitcher Alex Wilson (30) and catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia (39) celebrate a win over the Tampa Bay Rays at Comerica Park. The Tigers defeated the Rays 9-4. Mandatory Credit: Leon Halip-USA TODAY Sports /

There are a few bullpen pieces who might not be great, but they aren’t horrible. Alex Wilson and Justin Wilson are generally reliable out of the pen. Although Alex Wilson is not pitching like he did in 2015. In four innings, Blaine Hardy has not earned a run, even though his WHIP is 1.50. And, Anibal Sanchez isn’t going anywhere, so we fans might as well cheer him on and hope for the best out of the pen.

Now, for the bad. Beginning with the infield. In the last 30 days, Jarrod Saltalamacchia has a pitiful slash of .103/.297/.103. It is my understanding that the Milwaukee Brewers are considering trading Jonathan Lucroy. We all know Mike Ilitch likes veterans with big bats and Lucroy can hit. His .311 batting average would be a nice addition to the Tigers. I’d be ok with McCann being the backup catcher for a while. Lucroy has a .345 BA against right-handed pitchers and a .204 against the lefties. Sounds like a great match with McCann. I’m sure Al Avila and Ilitch could compile something the Brewers brass would like.

May 15, 2016; Baltimore, MD, USA; Detroit Tigers shortstop Mike Aviles (14) reaches for a grand ball during the fifth inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Detroit Tigers defeated Baltimore Orioles 6-5. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
May 15, 2016; Baltimore, MD, USA; Detroit Tigers shortstop Mike Aviles (14) reaches for a grand ball during the fifth inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Detroit Tigers defeated Baltimore Orioles 6-5. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports /

Now for the rest of the position players: Mike Aviles and Andrew Romine. In all honesty, the two men are not terrible bench players, but they need to be used ONLY in the infield. Romine has no business patrolling the vast centerfield as well as right field and left field. Aviles showed off his cannon while manning right field at US Cellular Field, but he still has no business being out there. At the plate, Aviles is actually batting .316 in the last 30 days. Romine is batting .238 in the last 30 days. There’s a young man named JaCoby Jones tearing up the Triple-A pitchers, but according to the latest word from Al Avila, he will be staying with the Toledo Mud Hens for a while.

The big problem with the bench is the lack of a true outfield replacement. Tyler Collins has proven himself to be a bust and so has Anthony Gose, who is still batting under .200. The other option, Steven Moya, is really only good in right field but J.D. Martinez is better. The Tigers will not contend until they can find a quality bench player who can take care of center field.

The starting rotation needs two pieces. Mike Pelfrey‘s issues have been well-documented. He has pitched in 13 games and the Tigers have won four of them. He is credited with only one win. The Tigers currently have 32 losses, so he was the starting pitcher in 28% of them. In the last 30 days, he has an ERA of 3.79 and a WHIP of 1.54. 

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The other glaring problem is the fifth spot in the rotation. Matt Boyd is the latest innings eater, but with Pelfrey supposedly the “official” innings eater, Boyd needs to do better. And he isn’t. And he won’t. His true colors have become apparent – he’s good until the third time through the lineup. Just like Anibal Sanchez. The Tigers need to find a pitcher who can make it through more innings before completely falling apart. No team will get to the playoffs with guaranteed losses in 40% of their games. Daniel Norris is not the solution right now, either.

Finally, the bullpen, but where to start? The rotating door of pitchers suggests that the problem runs deeper than the men who are throwing the balls. Mark Lowe is probably the most glaringly obvious problem in the pen – mostly because he hasn’t been moved back and forth like the other pitchers. Buck Farmer is another issue. Has anyone ever said, “I’m so glad Buck Farmer is pitching today”? It’s doubtful. Pitchers like Bobby Parnell, Kyle Ryan, and Drew VerHagen should not show up in Detroit for a very long time.

A possible fix for the bullpen is the young Joe Jimenez. He has a very impressive 0.00 ERA in 23 games and 23.1 innings pitched. Unfortunately, he is only pitching in Double-A; so, we can’t expect to see JJ anytime soon.

Next: Jose Iglesias Has a Day

Unless there is a real miracle, like Mike Trout coming to Detroit to platoon with Cam Maybin or Jacob deGrom deciding on a whim to leave New York to come to Detroit, the everyday players will have to put everything they can into every game. Yes, there will be losses, but the wins will need to come when the good pitchers are in and the everyday players are feeling their best. As long as this happens, we can expect the Tigers to be buyers in the effort to shore up those weak spots.