By: Kurt Snyder
Every month, I publish my list of 20 thoughts. And each and every month I have a holdover. The holdovers represent a thought important enough to keep thinking about and stressing for another month.
I have considered holding over Anibal Sanchez as the Tiger’s most important Tiger, every month, knowing full well the importance of having him healthy, strong and the dependable starter we have been used to seeing in the past. He’s the one Tiger pitcher that we hoped would be the difference; the guy to keep things interesting this season; not difficult once again.
All winter long, as I contemplated who the most important Tigers would be, there were 4 names. The list always starts with Miggy, eventually includes VMart and must include JV. But Sanchez is the wild card; the difference maker. One the Tigers need to round out a solid top of the rotation. Well number 3 was never more important given how poor number 4 and 5 have been.
Verlander is slowly but surely getting his act together, juggling between dominance and inconsistency. Zimmermann has yet to give up a run as a Tiger and is 3-0. I don’t have many superlatives to help build that case. The numbers tell it all.
But then there’s Anibal. I go all the way back to Baltimore in 2014 when after suffering from injuries, his only contribution would have to come from the bullpen in the first round of the playoffs. The Tigers were in need of someone who could bridge the gap to the ninth or finish games altogether. Their bullpen was in shreds.
I remember it well; it was maybe the last time Sanchez was described as dominant. Since 2014, we’ve been waiting for that dependable guy to return. Without him, any kind of meaningful run for contention in the Central will be a problem.
We could be reaching an uncomfortable crossroad in the Tiger rotation. Sure Mr. Ilitch thinks a pile of money can thrust his team into contention every year, but he’s spending a lot of money on guys who have seen better days; guys in the latter years of their contracts.
The Tigers are counting on guys who have already given them everything they had. Sure, there are players who have much more to give, but there are others whose time may be nearing an end. There were times when they had their best as Tigers, but the team could not take advantage.
Anibal Sanchez has been a very good pitcher for the Tigers, one they felt they could not afford to give up when he became a free agent. So his career continued in Detroit. But he is showing signs of decline. And decline is not a word normally used to describe your number 3 starter. A number 3 is a guy you count on in the playoffs. But who can realistically see Sanchez heading to the mound in October, given what we have seen the last couple of years, give or take?
On the bright side, the Tigers did themselves right by bringing in 3 young starters to fortify their farm system and maybe even their starting rotation this season. Yes, I fear they will be called upon sooner than we would have liked. The feel around here just doesn’t scream contender, does it?
All the moves the team made in the off-season were expected to breathe life into the roster. We have seen it in the bullpen as Wilson and Lowe have certainly been what the doctor ordered. But some have shown up here wondering what hit them. KRod still needs to shed the curse of Tiger Closers Past and Justin Upton needs to turn in his defective bats that showed up in Detroit with holes in them.
And Anibal Sanchez? Well, in April, we’ve got early concerns. The guy we need so much may have already given it all. So when 20 May Thoughts roll around, will Sanchez be listed again as the most important Tiger starter? Yes, assuming he’s still in the rotation.