The Detroit Tigers have an unexpected break due to a postponement of their series with the St. Louis Cardinals. Some players are welcoming the time while others may have lost momentum
Lay offs can be a help or hindrance. Just ask the 2006 Detroit Tigers, who swept the Oakland Athletics on Magglio Ordonez’s magical and memorable game four home run which propelled the Tigers to the World Series. Although it was exciting to see an underdog team like Detroit steamroll their way through the playoffs, the NLCS ended up going to a full seven games before the Cardinals were able to advance.
The Tigers finished the 2006 ALCS on a Saturday and would not start the World Series until the following Saturday. For a team with injuries or struggles, such a break would be welcomed; however, the team was absolutely sizzling and many, including some players, would contend that if they were able to start sooner, they would have had a much better shot at winning the World Series that year.
While the circumstances are completely different, the reality is the same: the 2020 Detroit Tigers have a break due to several positive tests in the St. Louis Cardinals organization. Before going any further, I must say that my hope and prayer is that every player and staff member within the Cardinals organization that has contracted this relentless virus makes a swift and smooth recovery. With such a reality at hand, though, the fact is that there are Detroit Tigers players that will be affected by such a stoppage in terms of their performance.
Baseball is a game of momentum; both on an individual basis as well as on a team scale. In a season which has already proven to be abnormal, there is a very real chance the Detroit Tigers we see on Friday in Pittsburgh will be vastly different from the Detroit Tigers we have watched over their first 10 games.
Beneficiaries of the Break
– Cameron Maybin
Maybin was placed on the 10-day injured list on July 31st with a right quad strain. The way it benefits Maybin is pretty simple: it gives him the opportunity to heal more quickly and get back with the team while missing the least amount of games possible. Although they may not make up these games with the Cardinals, it would still keep Maybin with the team for a higher percentage of the season opposed to Detroit playing them now.
– Joe Jimenez
The closer has made five appearances across the 10 games thus far and while results have been mostly positive, some late struggles coupled with a decrease in velocity could have been a sign of things to come for Jimenez. According to Statcast, Joe’s average fastball on his 7/28 outing was 94.7 mph. On 7/29 he was down to 93.8 mph on his fastball, then his most recent outing on 8/2 was 93.2. Of course, the sample size on the amount of fastballs he threw was small–averaging eight fastballs per outing over that span, but when the decrease in velocity also yields a decrease in results, it is fair to question if a break might be needed for him to gain some steam back on his fastball.
– Christin Stewart
The leash on left fielder Christin Stewart was short heading into the season and his start to 2020 did not do much to further his case as the left fielder of the Detroit Tigers. Stewart slashed just .200/.286/.360 across his 2020 campaign and has one home run on the year. It is difficult to evaluate or make any decisions based on any 10-game stretch, but it has become fair to question if Detroit would be better off with Travis Demeritte in left field, who has been a welcomed surprise both offensively and defensively since taking over for Maybin in right field.
Hopefully for Stewart, the break can serve as an opportunity for him to reset his approach, work on anything mechanically he needs to fix, or resolve anything physically that may be hindering his ability to play to his fullest potential.
Hurt by the Halt
– Casey Mize
Detroit Tigers fans have been clamoring for the call-up of super prospect Casey Mize ever since they noticed a random TBA listed as the starter for Sunday’s series finale with the Cincinnati Reds. Mize’s debut, spoiled by a combination of moisture and the impending delay afterward, will likely come a week or a week and a half later than anticipated, as Detroit opted for Daniel Norris to start instead.
– Daniel Norris
Speaking of Norris, Sunday served as his first start after battling his own war with COVID-19. The outing was less than stellar as one might expect him to be for his first start, but knowing the competitor Norris is, he is eager to go to the mound again and attempt to build off of his first outing to finally string together a successful and healthy season–something that has been a challenge since reaching the big leagues. The hope is that such a lay off does not hinder him mentally from dwelling on his first start, another facet of the game that has given him trouble in the past.
– Tyler Alexander
As we have already discussed, baseball is a game of momentum. Perhaps one of the only bright spots from Sunday’s back-to-back doubleheaders was Tyler Alexander’s historic performance where he broke the major league record for consecutive strike outs by a relief pitcher with nine. Nine in a row!
Alexander would have loved to take the confidence such an outing would develop and leverage it into a good string of appearances, but for someone who has never been known to be a strike out pitcher, it is questionable whether such momentum would exist a week or week and a half later, whenever he would make his next appearance.
Breaks matter in baseball whether we want to pretend like they don’t. Do not be surprised if the team you see in Pittsburgh on Friday is a lot different from the one we have witnessed thus far, for better or worse.