By: Kurt Snyder & Holly Horning
It’s Tuesday, so two topics will be tackled by our writers. Things have really turned around for the Tigers. This week, Kurt and Holly have questions to answer in the interests of determining if the turnaround is really what it seems.
Our writers do not share their answers. It’s important to repeat the mantra; especially this week.
Have the Tigers been playing better baseball or is their recent performance just part of that rollercoaster we’ve been seeing this year?
This feels different. The Tigers rollercoaster ride up to this point had all the inconsistency that you see in your typical .500 team. Stretches of poor pitching, poor hitting, uninspired play and lack of focus. A team that couldn’t get out of their own way.
But this streak of baseball has a buzz about it. There had been inspired play. They have pitched well and they have hit well when the pitching wasn’t there; and sometimes both at the same time.
They have made plays on the base paths and with defense. And frankly, they have done it against very good teams, something you never expected when they entered July. But they have beaten the good teams, both on the road and at home.
Knock on wood, I think the team has turned the corner and put it together with more consistent play. Credit two major reasons for their performance.
First, it’s not the usual suspects responsible for winning. The whole team has stepped it up whether on the mound, with the glove or at the plate – starting pitching is better, relievers are more dependable and outstanding plays are being made from behind the plate and all around the infield. But batters not named Miggy, VMart and Castellanos are making regular contributions, too. McCann, Salty, Collins and Iggy are just some of the guys playing with more intensity.
But the increase in performance is due primarily to a mental evolution. Maybe they have finally gelled as a team, considering that half the roster is new, or maybe they have realized that they have the talent to truly contend for a title.
Maybe Cameron Maybin is that energy and force, much like Gibby’s role with the Dodgers, who has been the sparkplug and pulled this team together.
But whatever it is, this team now has swagger and confidence which they haven’t had all year.
What has been the biggest improvement seen on this team lately?
You could certainly say the pitching. You could certainly say they have improved fundamentally. But the one thing we have battled all season is a lack of enthusiasm, passion and intensity. And this streak has been completely laced with it.
And you really have to give most of the credit to Cameron Maybin. He has been responsible for kicking this team in the butt and injecting fun into this roster. In sports, enthusiasm is contagious. Intensity can spread like wild-fire.
And it is the one thing that has held this team back. But they have been bringing it. Sure success can be exciting, but the Tigers haven’t shown a lot of that fire you need to really get where they want to get.
The Tigers have evolved from a disinterested, unfocused team into one that now isn’t afraid to challenge and fight. Games now are being won in the late innings when in the past, pitchers and bats went silent in the second half of the game.
JV is back to his ferocious bulldog ways which reminds us of what we used to love about him. Pelfrey and Rondon are battling, along with Greene, Boyd and Fulmer.
But also notice that runners who used to jog to bases – Iggy, Miggy, VMart and others – are now running at full speed. And making a difference in whether those games are won.
Maybin showed moxy by immediately stealing second base after getting plunked despite the blowout game making it unnecessary, followed by Miggy blasting his second home run while telling Cameron, “I got you.” No need to mention what Kinsler brings to the fight.
This team now has an intensity absent earlier this year. Let’s hope it continues.