By: Holly Horning & Kurt Snyder
When’s the last time the Tigers played the White Sox and Cubs back to back? It may be something to look up just for kicks and giggles.
Finally, it appears the Cubbies are pretty serious about winning while the Sox, though just as serious, are floundering quite a bit this season, and they helped get the Tigers out of a heck of a funk.
So what was there to take from these last 6 games with the Chicagos? Well a number of things, but let’s see what H&K found hidden in the weeds.
During these two series, there’s been lots of speculation about whether Simon, Sanchez and Greene will perform at their previous levels. Unlike previous years, the Tigers’ rotation has been unpredictable this year – a roller coaster of up-and-down performances. Fans wondering about bad trades and whether Jeff Jones and Brad Ausmus are up to the task.
But the light bulb went on when I listened to a program on Thursday with former pitchers-turned-analysts. They were discussing how a lack of offense can seriously impact starting pitching. They said the two are inextricably linked.
They went on to explain that when a pitcher is confident of his batting lineup, he prepares his strategy, arsenal of pitches to use and his mental game. His goal is to go out and pitch to the best of his ability.
But when a team has a hard time giving the pitcher run support, that’s where the pitcher’s plan changes. Stress is added to his performance because he now believes he needs to pitch “perfectly” and not allow a run.
In turn, they shared that the whole mental game changes. The added pressure alters the pitcher’s timing and sometimes, the mechanics of his delivery. The mental focus is diminished and they are less likely to challenge batters as aggressively.
In the 64 games they have played so far this year, the Tigers have scored 2 or fewer runs in 27 of them. That’s 42%! And it just may be a significant reason we are seeing these unpredictable performances.
After a mind numbing 8 game losing streak, the Tigers went to Chicago searching for anything positive. And well, things went pretty well, as they won 2 out of 3.
However, it was definitely a missed opportunity for a sweep. Soria got bit by a ninth inning game tying homer in Game 1, followed by that odd walk off HBP.
The bats came alive the next 3 games which will always be a good combo when paired with 3 good pitching performances from Price and Simon and finally Anibal Sanchez.
It was a much-needed stellar performance by Sanchez to open the Cubs series in Detroit and things looked like they might get rolling again for the Tigers; until the next night of course.
Shane Green is in a funk we can’t afford. So, we will have little patience for a Verlander transition period and Sanchez will need to put some more of those starts together like he had the other night against the Cubs. We can’t slip anymore in the standings.
Jim Leyland always said we are only as good as the next day’s starting pitcher, and I believe that to be true. Even when we struggle to hit, when we pitch, we find a way. Our pitching will always be what carries us, even though the City of Chicago got a major dose of Iggy, who is trying real hard to carry the team himself.
Iglesias was dynamite in Chicago against the Sox. And we cannot discount how valuable he is to our pitchers. He continues to shorten innings and make jaw dropping plays. In the end the Tigers won 3 of 5, with starting pitching and Iggy carrying the load.