By: Kurt Snyder & Holly Horning
The Tigers, as all of you know, have slipped a season high 7 games out of first place. It has been a team scrambling to get moving, but a critical injury to their best player will really challenge their resolve.
There is still plenty of time and games against the Royals and Twins to get back in the race. But right now, their best chance to be a playoff team is via the Wild Card.
So, the Tigers are going to have to gather the troops and compensate for the Miggy loss, which brings the obvious question:
With the injury to Miggy, are the Tigers still viable candidates for the post-season?
With over 2 ½ months to go in the season, there is no doubt they are still candidates, at least for the Wild Card race. As much as I hate a scenario that puts them in that game, I guess it beats not being in it.
So, on July 9th, absolutely they are a viable candidate. But not knowing what strategy they will take at the trade deadline, makes it a tough question to answer.
If they attack the deadline as buyers the way they have the last few seasons, it will mean another top starter is headed here and maybe more relief help. It’s what they need with or without the Cabrera injury.
Knowing that both World Series teams last year were Wild Cards is incentive enough to go for it and get them into that game. But you have to be careful. The Oakland A’s were one of baseball’s best teams last season and made a deal for John Lester, feeling as if he was the final piece of their puzzle for a World Championship.
But losing Yoenis Cespedes seemed to really mess with their chemistry. The move ended up pushing them the other way in a big hurry, as they experienced a free fall from a big division lead and into the Wild Card game, where they lost to the Royals. It was an amazing fall from grace.
So knowing that, Dave Dombrowski may end up being at his creative best this year at the deadline. He may try a little bit of both, buying and selling, knowing in the back of his mind, that the Wild Card mountain is the more manageable climb for this year’s version of the Tigers, based on their results thus far. The Tigers need to fortify their farm but also need another #1 starter to get them into “the dance.” It may cost them a front line player.
But if they can make a deal to ensure that 1 of 2 top starters would be available to pitch (meaning David Price and another top pitching acquisition) in a Wild Card game, they would be tough to beat in a winner take all scenario.
In the end, pitching is the way to keep this team afloat while Miggy heals, rehabs and gets back in the 3 hole. His injury certainly makes the challenge more difficult, but they have enough to be a Wild Card team.
But I believe his prolonged absence makes the division title a task almost unattainable.
Absolutely, but it’s going to be close – and it may not be pretty. But Mr. I, after having spent a gazillion dollars over 24 years, did not get where he did by giving up at the first sign of diminishing odds. He still wants that ring and this is still a year where that window remains open.
As supporting evidence, numerous media are reporting that the Tigers are scouting starting pitching, currently the weakest link on the team. Now, if we could only read reports about relievers, too…….
The good news is that Miggy will only really be gone for 5 weeks of playing time, given the perfect timing of the All-Star game. The Tigers need to figure out how to hold on for that period and at least not lose any more games in the standings. The Royals have yet to take a prolonged stumble and given that all teams experience this at least once, they are due for theirs.
What shows promise is how the Tigers have responded to Miggy’s departure to the DL. In the first five games, they have scored 6, 8, 5,12 and 6 runs, more players are stepping up their game and the team is playing more cohesively. The Tigers have always been one of the leaders in many of the league’s offensive categories. Implementation, not actual offense, is the problem.
But the basic premise of championship baseball means a playoff team is not defined by one player. The loss of Miggy really shouldn’t bring the entire team down. We’ve seen clubs like the Cards and Giants go on to win the World Series despite each having three starting lineup players and pitchers lost to the DL.
Winning the division, I believe, will be a real stretch. But the key will be the Wild Card. Currently, the Tigers remain a manageable 2.5 GB. Last year, two Wild Card teams, not division champs, met in the World Series. Let’s hope Nietzsche was right when he said “That which does not kill us, makes us stronger.”