The Detroit Tigers are a dismal 25-29, in 3rd place, and 6 full games back of the division leading Chicago White Sox in the AL Central. Tonight, the team opens a 3-game set with the Cleveland Indians. The series is an opportunity for the Tigers to nudge closer to the 2nd place Tribe in the standings and allow the team to set their sights on the White Sox. Can this happen with the current makeup of this team?
Here are 10 things you need to know about what’s going on in and around Tiger Town:
- I don’t hear this enough but Doug Fister’s injury is a cataclysmic event for the 2012 Tigers. With a healthy Fister all year long I suspect the Tigers would have an additional 4 wins right now, which would flip flop their record to 29-25. Without him, the rotation is stretched far too thin. If this playoff thing is going to happen again, it needs a dominant Fister for the last 3 months of the season. It’s really that simple.
- The pitching matchups for this series are Drew Smyly v. Ubaldo Jimenez, Max Scherzer v. Jeanmar Gomez, and Casey Crosby v. Derek Lowe. Do you honestly thing the Tigers can sweep this series? Jimenez hasn’t been good but Smyly has given up 15 earned runs in his last 20.2 innings. And as much as we all want it to click for Casey Crosby and for his arsenal to be commanding and dominant, he just isn’t ready. The best case scenario is that he pitches a strong game here and there while he’s up without total implosion.
- Nick Castellanos continues his steady climb up the Tigers’ minor league ranks. After hitting .405 in 215 at-bats with High-A Lakeland, he is now a member of AA Erie at just 20 years old. He sported a .461 on-base %, 17 doubles, 3 triples, 3 homers, 32 RBI’s, and a respectable 42:22 K to walk split. He had nothing left to prove in A-ball.
- The Tigers are patiently waiting for their first pick in the 2012 Amateur draft. Thanks to losing their first round pick in the Prince Fielder acquisition, the Tigers don’t pick until the 91st overall selection comes around.
- Brennan Boesch has a .229 average and horrid .264 on-base %. For those playing the “where will Quintin Berry play when Austin Jackson returns game”, look no further than Boesch. Heading into this season I would have never dreamed he’d struggle like this but his next stop just might be Toledo if he can’t get this thing turned around. An eventual outfield of Andy Dirks, Jackson, and Berry would not only be fast and athletic, but dare I say, good. You better get it rolling Boesch.
- Currently Miguel Cabrera is hitting .318 with 11 homers, 44 RBI’s and a .371 on-base % and somehow it feels like he’s just not firing on all cylinders yet. Through the same 54 games a year ago he was hitting .310 with 10 homers and 37 RBI’s so he’s actually ahead of last year’s pace. The big difference has been his refusal to take a walk in 2012. At this point last year he had 40 walks, this year he’s taken just 18. Prince Fielder is slightly off of his 2011 walk pace as well. It makes you wonder if they would be more patient if they had a higher level of confidence in the guy hitting behind them – Delmon Young.
- The last time Justin Verlander lost 3 straight starts, which he has just done, was back in 2008. That should give you an idea how ugly this thing has been.
- Get used to the name Bruce Rondon. He is the closer of the future for the Tigers. He hits triple digits on the radar gun and has been lighting up the stat sheet for Lakeland thanks to an increased ability to throw strikes in 2012. He is 1-0 with 11 saves in 17 appearances. He has K’d 26 to just 8 walks in 18.1 innings while surrendering only 11 hits. With Jose Valverde’s contract coming due at season’s end the Tigers will likely promote Rondon soon to see how he handles AA hitting, inching him that much closer to a shot in spring training in 2013.
- And from the “Just because it’s fun” department, AAA stud Brad Eldred is up to 22 homers and 61 RBI’s.
- Don’t let Andy Oliver’s AAA numbers of 3.99 ERA and 65 K’s in 58.2 innings fool you. He has 48 walks during that span. Jacob Turner rolled out his best start of the season for Toledo last night but still has just a 4.30 ERA and 19:15 K to walk ratio. Why is this all relevant? Because the Tigers literally have zero organizational depth when it comes to starting pitching, especially without Fister, which brings us full circle.