By: Kurt Snyder & Holly Horning
It’s Tuesday, so two topics will be tackled by our writers. With one-third of the season put to bed, it’s time to talk about who’s done the most and what’s on the to-do list for continued success the rest of the season.
Did Kurt & Holly share their answers (you should know by now)? Nope, they are seeing them at the same time you are. Here are this week’s Tuesday questions.
1. With one-third of the season now completed, who is the team’s MVP so far?
Thankfully this is a difficult question. Nick Castellanos has improved immensely at the plate. VMart has come out of the gate looking healthy, hitting for average and looking strong, all real good signs for him and this team.
But I cannot emphasize enough the continued contribution of Ian Kinsler. His home run production is back after taking a year off in the power department last season. He jump starts the offense every night from the leadoff spot and seems to never have a bad at bat.
Defensively, he continues to be one of the best second baseman in the league. And he’s part of one of the league’s best DP combinations. What more can you say? He’s a leader on this team and the MVP so far this season.
My MVP appropriately has 2 of the initials in MVP – VMart. And it’s no surprise that he’s back to his pre-injury form so shame on anyone who ever doubted his ability to perform well again.
Out of all the players who have been with the team for most of the year, he is leading them in all categories except triples and stolen bases – and just a tetch behind in HRs. His stats of .352/.394/.553/.946 are just magnificent and he is second overall in both leagues.
But it’s also what he brings to the table every single day that doesn’t involve a bat or a glove – the intangibles.
No one is more determined or has a better work ethic than Victor. But it’s his leadership, passion and determination that help this team immensely. Granted, he’s one of two visible leaders on this team and has his work cut out for him. Even last week, he was working overtime, after hitting a HR, to jump into the dugout (a cardiac moment given his knees) and let out a scream while gyrating to get and keep this team motivated.
Imagine how this team would behave if he wasn’t part of it.
2. Given the expected close race in the AL Central, what one thing must the Tigers have if they are to stay competitive?
Between the white lines, starting pitching will always be the key in how far a team goes and how long they play. The Tigers have struggled to find consistency in their starting rotation and have had to jettison Anibal Sanchez to the bullpen.
Michael Fulmer has been a tremendous add to the rotation. I felt he had a chance to stay once he was recalled and it looks like he won’t go anywhere anytime soon. So with Verlander, Zimmermann and Fulmer, all pitching so effectively, that leaves Boyd and Pelfrey to carry the load at the backend.
I am not sure how long we can count on Boyd and I really expect Daniel Norris to make some starts at some point this season. But the best case scenario for the Tigers is for Anibal Sanchez to get things ironed out and earn back his spot. He is key.
This is a good time to address Anibal’s issues. But even having said that, the Tigers will have their ears open listening for any opportunities to add starting pitching.
Sunday’s clincher of the series sweep against a top team was the first time the Tigers showed what they are capable of doing. I’ve always believed they had the talent, especially offensively, although I had some doubts about the pitching.
So many of the pitchers have changed from last year that I feel it will take some time to see where everyone fits in best. But between the recent moves in the rotation and bullpen, I think the team will eventually have what they need once everything has gelled and a few pitchers have recovered fully from their injuries and returned. For the first time in 2+ years, the Tigers now have depth.
So what they really need is a killer competitive instinct. They need more leaders on the team who don’t know the word “quit.” They need to find the people, methods and motivation to stay focused and grind out every inning.
They have been wildly inconsistent but managed to put it all together for 4 straight days. Playing to win every day will be the key to staying in the race which is a much better need to have than lacking talent.