By: Kurt Snyder & Holly Horning
Today’s topic addresses the Tigers’ playoff chances should they get healthy. The Tigers have battled their fair share of injuries but become a much better team should some starters return.
Kurt and Holly have not shared their answers to this Thursday question, but both can’t wait to see what the other has to say.
There are still 4 starting players on the DL. Will their return boost the team’s chances enough to gain a playoff berth?
Well, let’s first look at who they are. In the starting rotation, the Tigers have gone weeks now without Jordan Zimmermann and Mike Pelfrey. In the everyday lineup, they continue to be without Nick Castellanos and Jose Iglesias; with Iggy being the closest to being back.
Quite frankly, the Tigers miss all of them. However, they have developed quite a bit of starting pitching depth as the 3 rookies have all been asked to contribute and have, with Fulmer, of course, becoming a force.
Sanchez and Boyd have been real wild cards of late. And knowing that they have starters pitching well, the team can afford to wait on Zimmermann. He will be needed most when they begin to reduce Fulmer’s innings.
Defensively, the Tigers need Iggy to return, although I must say, Aybar has certainly held his own and McGehee has been pretty solid at third; nothing spectacular but solid.
Moving on, they miss Castellanos’ bat and with Upton now finally becoming the threat we’ve been waiting for, getting Nick back could really help the offense load up and carry this team on nights when their starters aren’t as sharp. Unfortunately, the timetable for his return is pretty late.
I don’t think there is any question that getting healthy would give this team an excellent chance of earning a playoff spot, especially given the schedule. It’s the weakest schedule of any of the contenders, so the Tigers have a real shot at making a run and getting in.
So there is much to be gained from the starters we are missing. The return of most of these guys gives the Tigers a shot, which is all you can ask for.
In the meantime, the team must continue to take advantage of a light schedule and hopefully get some people back when it’s time play Cleveland again.
But don’t forget the elephant. I am only signing up for a playoff appearance if they get healthy. Because remember, once they get there, and the games get tight, the team will be overmatched at the manager position. But you knew that.
If you had asked me just a couple of weeks ago, when the Tigers were 2 games out of first place and a game out of Wild Card contention, I would have said “yes”. But now I’ve called in a man of the cloth to help increase the odds because I don’t like what I see.
A lot can happen in 2 weeks and despite what was deemed an easy August schedule, the Tigers are playing under .500 ball, now 6.5 games back (through Tuesday) and 3 games out of the Wild Card with other teams hot on their heels.
But it’s just not losing ground. The Royals have been sneaking up on the Tigers, having won 9 games in a row and a measly one game from replacing Detroit in the standings and Wild Card.
In 10 games out of the month’s 20, they’ve scored 2 runs or fewer. Yes, some of these can be attributed to the injuries but also to Justin Upton’s lack of performance, the absence of situational hitting, the pattern of being unable to score other than via the HR and Miggy hitting .133 with the bases loaded.
Let’s also take into account that half of the players on the DL are pitchers and only one of the disabled is dependable with the bat.
It is rather ironic that currently, pitching is not the problem with the team – offense is. So having Zimmerman back is a positive step forward but how likely is he to return to his old self after taking off nearly 2 months from pitching? His earliest return date is September 10th with only 3 more starts likely.
There is no estimated return date for Pelfrey, who, realistically offers a marginal advantage at best. And as we head into September, it is more likely that with Zimm’s return, Michael Fulmer may be shut down.
Iggy is expected to return this coming weekend and while he’ll shore up the team defensively, he’s not likely to make a significant difference with the bat.
Castellanos may just be the most important teammate to get back. Unfortunately, while the Tigers are saying a “minimum of 4 weeks”, doctors say the healing process takes 6-8 weeks. That would put him at the third to last week of September – and without any ability to garner rehab starts. I would not be surprised if we didn’t see him for the rest of the year.
Pitching has been one of the team’s strengths this month even without 2 of their starters. Quite frankly, their best chance of grinding out wins is for the team to keep Cameron Maybin healthy – they win significantly more games with him in the starting lineup.
Pass the bubble wrap please!