By: Holly Horning & Kurt Snyder
We will take the opportunity in this week’s 2×2 for a little status report. In order to do this, of course, as you have figured out by now, we need to ask ourselves a couple of questions.
These questions appear to be slam dunks with only one real answer. But you never know. Let’s take a look.
What is the Tigers’ strongest asset so far this season?
Day in and day out, it is Iggy. While no words are needed for Miggy, Iggy shores up that crucial up-the-middle defense and plays a much bigger and more complicated role in defense. He is the glue that holds it all together. He is also the much-needed savior of Castellanos.
Remember how many shortstops the Tigers had last year? And also one of the reasons why the Tigers ranked near the bottom in team defense for more years than we care to admit. But this year is different – the team currently ranks #2 in the AL in defense and that’s not a coincidence.
A poetic reminder that the best double play combos for the Tigers have worn #1 and #3. Iggy and Kinsler are creatures of beauty. More fans are now appreciating what Iggy brings to the game with his glove (and don’t forget his bat!)and when he plays, he almost always hits the top ten defensive plays on MLB TV.
Holly is going to hate this, but I am going to have to cheat on this one. Without question, the answer is Miggy. But you can’t spell Miggy without Iggy and the Tigers combination of Miguel Cabrera and Jose Iglesias is the Tigers’ strongest asset. Sorry, but I just can’t separate these two.
We have had Cabrera for quite a long time now and we have exactly zero championships to show for it. But it seems we have always suffered defensively and the deal that brought Iggy to Miggy is finally paying off after we all suffered through a season without the best shortstop on the planet.
A healthy Miggy and a healthy Iggy for the rest of the year may take this team a long way. It’s a lethal combination of great offense and great defense that will forever bond these two together as the Tigers strongest asset.
And they surprise us every day as both have excelled on the other side of the ball as well. Miggy continues to play a fine first base and Iggy, well, just keeps proving all the doubters wrong as he is still hitting well over .300 and continuing to get on base. It’s the Tigers 2-headed monster that just may make the strongest difference this season.
What is the weakest link in the team so far?
For once, I don’t have to say the bullpen. But sadly, it is Nick Castellanos.
Nick’s taken significant steps backward in all offensive categories. The primary reason why the Tigers have refused other teams’ trade offers was the potential power of his bat in a period where offense remains down overall in baseball. And whether that is due to sophomore slump, his mental game, ineffective coaching or over-valuation, no one knows.
Defensively, Castellanos has improved significantly, ranking second in MLB for fielding percentage but some of this is attributed to Iggy’s help. What is most telling is that in late innings with the score on the line, he is still replaced by Wilson or Romine. And he’s generally the only player who is replaced defensively.
Offensively, Nick ranks at the very bottom of all MLB third basemen. But the harsher story is his ability to kill rallies, many of which involve bases-loaded situations.
This one is easy and I will cut to the chase; it’s Nick Castellanos. In spring training, it was quite evident that Nick’s goal in the off-season was to get stronger.
Nick’s strength and the reason the Tigers haven’t dealt him away like most of the rest of their top prospects, was his ability to hit. But surprisingly, we are still waiting for him to get going in 2015. I felt he had a solid first year offensively and was excited about a big jump in batting average and power this season.
But I wonder if the added muscle may have slowed down his bat a bit. I don’t suspect any other reason other than maybe teams have made adjustments he has yet to figure out, which is a possibility.
But sometimes getting bigger is not always a good thing and Nick may decide to get leaner instead of meaner after this season. That’s if he’s still around by then. Young Tigers tend to become trade bait around these parts.