By: Kurt Snyder & Holly Horning
With Tuesday upon us, it’s time to answer 2 more questions. As usual, the answers have not been shared between our Odd Couple of writers.
So here are 2 questions to ponder after a half-dozen games.
1. The year is off to a promising start. What is your biggest concern for the Tigers going forward?
With the Tigers scoring so many runs early in the season, the offense can blind you to the troubles still unsolved within the bullpen. And it’s kind of a waterfall of issues as bullpen trouble can be reduced by starting pitchers that are able to go late in games.
It’s what makes David Price such an important piece to the Tigers championship puzzle along with Anibal Sanchez. But, can we expect Simon and Greene to consistently pitch deep into games? I don’t think so. They have ability, but Simon was not able to be consistent for an entire season for the Reds last year and Greene is just a kid. He has potential but has much to prove.
So, all of this makes it more and more important to have Justin Verlander healthy and pitching again; and pitching through seven innings. It’s a lot to ask of a guy who is just trying to get himself back on the mound at all, but we have to have him if we are going to succeed in October.
The ultimate goal of course is to have 1 or 2 relievers emerge as unexpected contributors to bridge the gap to the late innings or become late inning success stories themselves.
Kurt’s gonna hate me, but I simply can’t pick one. My first concern is how well the Tigers manage their injuries. Brad doesn’t seem to have enough influence yet to get players to sit when they are obviously less than 100%. We saw that when he had to ask Omar to convince VMart to leave the game. And Miggy is running with a hitch in his step and favoring his other leg. Can these two, along with Iggy, JV, Anibal, and Avila make it through an entire season without missing significant time or playing at half-speed?
And as we saw last year, the Tigers got off to a good start and played a new game that included incorporating more speed and better base running. But then, it did a disappearing act. Can Brad keep the team motivated to maintain this season’s new habits not just for April, but for the next 5 (and hopefully 6) months?
2. What or who has you most excited about the future of this season?
When the Tigers signed Prince Fielder in 2012, it was an insurance policy, albeit an expensive one, for Victor Martinez who had suffered a season ending knee injury. The prospect of Fielder batting behind Cabrera was an exciting one.
But Prince, when the chips were down, was not able to compensate for Miggy come playoff time. Both slumped in the World Series in 2012 and in 2013 when Miggy was injured, Prince again could not pick up the slack as we lost to the Red Sox in the ALCS.
This year, Miggy has 3 dangerous hitters behind him, three! And we are already seeing what is possible for this season as the lineup has proven to be very formidable.
Victor Martinez, J.D. Martinez and Yoenis Cespedes would be dangerous by themselves in the middle of any lineup. But put them all behind the greatest hitter in the game and now we are talking about something that will make them an incredibly tough out in October. It’s an offense that will be hard to stop with all the speed in place around them.
Keep them on the field and the sky is the limit.
I’m going to go against convention and say that, as a female, daily infield acrobatics with a golden glove take preference over “digging the long ball.” I am positively giddy with excitement over having Iggy back and watching him rack up more great defensive plays than any other player in both leagues. It’s been years since the Tigers have been known for their gloves.
Iggy will help take the Tigers out of their perpetual bottom-feeding defensive rankings. He makes everyone else on the field a better player and solidifies that crucial up-the-middle strength which is a key to post-season baseball. He has energy and attitude that is contagious to his teammates.
And he brings other benefits, too. David Price should be smiling this year after his reported unhappiness with last year’s shoddy defense. And dare I say it? To Generations X, Millennials and Generation Z, Iggy may force them to debate the older generations over which infielder really has the best claim to wear the #1 jersey.