By: Kurt Snyder & Holly Horning
As you can see we have settled on Tuesdays to appropriately ask 2 questions. Once again, since we really don’t like to share, we did not show each other our cards beforehand.
So, on Opening Day, we certainly needed a question pertaining to the Tigers’ fine opening victory at Comerica. And secondly, we asked a question pertaining to any evidence of a new strategy or just more of the same from last season.
These will be interesting … so read on….
What did you find surprising from the win on Opening Day?
Well, there was a lot to be happy about today. Complete game shutouts are not something you associate with Opening Day, but David Price darn near got one, coming up just one batter short. It was an impressive yet surprising performance by our ace. Certainly, him pitching brilliantly is not a surprising event having watched him for so many years, but to do it right out of the gate, pitching into the ninth is pretty darn impressive.
But the most pleasant surprise for me was the debut of our “new” shortstop. Jose Iglesias kicked off the season with 2 hits to go along with 2 stolen bases; certainly a very encouraging sign going forward. He is so important to this team. The importance of his defense cannot be overstated but getting on base so he can use his speed adds another sorely needed dimension.
The opener was pretty perfect so it’s harder to find something that either didn’t work according to plan or was a pleasant surprise pulled out of a hat. That is, other than Avila getting 2 RBIs. All along, the Tigers said they would have great pitching, some thumping bats, more speed and better defense. They didn’t lie – at least today.
So it comes down to the small bits that we need to select. I have to go with Brad’s decision not to pull VMart for a pinch runner after he got on base in the 8th. The chances of Victor getting another at-bat were very low, but the chances of him re-injuring his still-recovering knee were much higher. It was mentioned that VMart made his playing preferences known which only makes me question just how much influence and confidence Brad has with running this team. Is it really worth taking unnecessary chances with your second-best hitter?
2. Are we seeing last year’s formula or a sneak peek at a change of strategy?
We got off to a great start last season running and we did that today, getting 3 stolen bases. But I would also love to believe that this team will begin to work on more disciplined hitting. I have always been envious of the Red Sox strategy of making pitchers work, but most importantly it has been important to use the whole field. Constantly trying to pull the ball drives me nuts.
Both J.D. and Avila were quite effective (2 opposite field homers) hitting the ball to the opposite field. Alex has always been at his best doing that in previous seasons, so working on that again would be refreshing to say the least. It’s definitely a trait I would love for them to pass around the lineup.
I think we are finally seeing the evolution and hopefully harvest of what Dave Dombrowski set out to do after 2013. Some spectacular catches today by 4 players supporting the desire for better defense. While there are fewer concerns with run production, I did notice many of the Tigers were forcing higher pitch counts from the opposing pitchers. And Price continued that Tiger tradition of pitching domination. We’ll just have to wait and see how the other 4 perform, especially given that two of them are brand new.
The team is younger in 5 defensive positions and overall, more athletic. The biggest difference seen is the speed on the base paths and also in the field. Three stolen bases alone in the first game and runners finally taking those extra bases. Unlike last year, I hope Brad keeps enforcing the need for speed.
For an “Odd Couple,” we sure our demonstrating some of the same wavelengths, which should really be quite scary for Holly, considering who she has to work with. On the other hand, Kurt, you’re smarter than you look!