By:  Kurt Snyder & Holly Horning

Saturday’s segment is a day to touch on as many issues as possible. With 159 (86-73) games behind us, readers have the opportunity to read and think about a number of different topics. With the Tigers still in the hunt for the Wild Card heading into the final 3 games, our writers will certainly have a lot to talk about.

Kurt  and Holly don’t share and it’s only for the readers’ benefit. It almost always translates into a wide array of thoughts. Suspect nothing different today.



With the season winding down, Miggy has been dominating at the plate. But there are still numbers to suggest he isn’t as clutch as some would like. Well, poor us; we are stuck with a guy who’s numbers have now climbed to .315, 38 home runs and 108 RBI’s; what a disappointment; pretty silly isn’t it?


Let me dust off my disdain for interleague play. When the commissioner takes another look in the offseason, I would be surprised if he doesn’t tweak the schedule so interleague play is done before September. For the Tigers to finish the season on the road in a National League city, having to sit their full-time DH, and send their pitchers to the plate, all while battling for a playoff spot, is beyond crazy.


It’s quite amazing to think once again about the caliber of pitching the Tigers have had over the last several years; pitchers that have left and some who are still in Detroit. It’s a reasonable bet that both Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello will win each league’s respective Cy Young awards. Boston felt they still needed an ace when they acquired former Tiger David Price, but another former Tiger, Porcello, decided he would lay claim to that title, winning 22 games so far this season; remarkable.



What a genius move by Bud Selig in his decision to create the wild card playoffs by generating more and longer fan interest – and baseball profits. One week ago, there were still a whopping 18 teams technically in the mix and now, with only 3 games left, there yet remains 7 in addition to those who have already won their division. But do most fans like that the World Series is now more about who is hottest instead of who is best?


The Tigers outfield has taken a dramatic turn for the worse defensively this year and there are few signs that the solutions will be found in the minors anytime soon. Non-Tiger broadcasters threw up (both literally and figuratively) stats on the screen that showed their efficiency rank was 19th in MLB. However, the worst stat was their runs saved: a -54 runs which ranks 28th.


On Monday night, we watched a lone Tiger, JD Martinez, still in the dugout wistfully watching the Cleveland Indians celebrate their division title. The next night, Kirk Gibson made a point about how Sparky required all of his players to stay and watch the opponents celebrate. He said it made the fires burn brighter and was a teaching lesson that helped players focus on winning the championship down the road.


By:  Holly Horning

It seems that the Tigers’ playoff chances change every other hour which is why we’re not extensively writing about it until we get closer to a resolution. Heck, who would have thought that potentially this season may include an extra regular game – a tie breaker game – on a day many of us expected to be a critical look-back on the season?

Which is why, today, I want to address a crucial piece of the team’s strategy for this year, next year and hopefully more years to come. Michael Fulmer.

Are you the only one confused about his stated pitching limits? Hmmm, I didn’t think so. But I do think that much of the social media dialog was effectively squashed with the Tigers being particularly fuzzy about their strategy towards using him with two different statements from Brad and Al Avila.

Surprisingly, this is actually a very good thing – to take away the controversy and focus from a team trying to make the playoffs. It appears the Tigers learned a lesson watching the chaos with the teams who had to do the same thing with Stephen Strasburg and Matt Harvey. Teams that had to beg fans to leave it alone because the players had a hard time concentrating on winning their games.

For the purposes of this blog, we’ll skip over the discussions about protecting young arms. Discussions based upon accumulating evidence that year-long pitching and harder throwing damages arms that aren’t yet fully developed. Let’s wait and see what comes out of this topic which will be addressed in this winter’s CBA meetings.

In Fulmer’s case, he pitched just south of 130 innings last year. His first injury-free year. The Tigers initially stated that they were going to keep him near 150 innings this year which is the common recommendation. After last night’s game, he sits at 171. The guidelines currently in place identifies 180 innings as the extreme of the spectrum.

While the Tigers did state they would lengthen the time between starts and also pull him early, they have only made good on the first part of their promise.

There have been games in which he should have been pulled early but wasn’t. One in which he pitched a complete game. A game that was a blowout. A game in which he should have been pulled but was allowed to finish because his manager’s rationale was based upon lots of family and friends in the stands who had traveled to see him.

A couple other games in which he didn’t have good stuff and the Tigers were at a serious run deficit. And then Wednesday’s rain-shortened game in which he was universally described as having an “off night” and “command issues” – making 68 pitches in 3 innings and narrowly avoiding a bases-loaded mess. And despite that, he was brought back out after the rain delay while his opponent wasn’t. Even the national and local broadcasters were surprised at the move.

So while the Tigers have stretched out his starts, they haven’t really watched his innings which now run 20+ over their stated limit. Could a number of factors be reasons why? Could the reasons have changed – and continue to change?

Could the continued loss of Zimmermann and ineffectiveness of Sanchez and Pelfrey have altered the plan?

Could Fulmer’s longer innings be a result of trying to avoid using that “box of chocolates” bullpen?

Could Brad have a difficult time pulling a pitcher or saying “no” when his pitcher says he feels fine and want to return to the game?

Are the Tigers trying to help Fulmer’s chances to win Rookie of the Year over late-comer Gary Sanchez?

Do the Tigers want to help Fulmer qualify for the ERA title?

Has word come down from above to ignore inning limits because the Tigers need all hands on deck to win a wild card spot?

Or, do the Tigers realize that they have no playoff chances unless Fulmer is pitching?

Have we seen Fulmer pitch his last game of the year or could we see him make an appearance in a tie-breaker game? And if the Tigers should advance, what happens then?

Is the risk of overuse worth winning a playoff spot? Is it worth the risk of against-the-odds success? Is it all worth risking the future of a tremendous arm?

Lots of questions but no answers. I just hope the Tigers take the long-view instead of rolling the dice on an uncertain October.


By:  Holly Horning & Kurt Snyder

Today’s topic is a good one. It is centered on the return of Nick Castellanos to the lineup after missing 46 games with a broken hand. Our writers will share their thoughts on this development which should be interesting.

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.

What’s your take on the sudden, surprising return of Nick Castellanos?


When Nick’s hand was broken, doctors said that it would take an average of 8 weeks to heal, putting his return near the very end of the season, if at all. As late as last weekend, Ausmus indicated that he still wasn’t sure if Nick would be participating again this year and if so, it would be in Atlanta for the last series of the year.

Then something interesting happened. Nick’s agent got involved – making lots of phone calls and being publicly vocal about how Nick was ready to return. How much of a noise did he create? Enough to make the perpetually calm Brad Ausmus ticked off enough to make a public comment criticizing Nick’s rep.

Then, the next day, Ausmus mentioned the possibility that Castellanos may be able to return for the last game against Cleveland on Thursday. But on Tuesday, one day later, we read that Nick is rushing back on a plane in order to make that night’s game. Plane travel that was arranged by Mr. I.

And for the 2 innings since his arrival, Nick was like grass-on-dirt with Ausmus – pestering him non-stop about getting in the game.

But was Brad going on the progress reports from Nick’s rehab in Florida? Was he trying to be careful about not exacerbating Nick’s injury? And how much influence did Castellanos’ agent have with Al Avila and Mr. I? Is it a coincidence that Nick was reactivated from the DL less than 36 hours after it was reported he was making a push for Nick’s return?

Was it all about Nick getting back into the game? Or did it have to deal with a sense of urgency coming from Al Avila and Mr. I? Did they see that Brad did not have the highest level of urgency they needed when it came to winning a playoff spot?

Did Mr. I or Al – or both – override their manager in order to ensure the Tigers pulled out every available stop that is a required step in playoff baseball?

The percentages of success seem to change every hour for our Tigers. And it’s conceivable that Nick could be that factor that pulls them into October.


What was it a week ago that Nick couldn’t get through batting practice without pain? And now suddenly, he’s ready to go?

If we have learned anything about how the Tigers handle injuries, well, let’s just say their track record has not been good. They failed miserably in handling Jordan Zimmermann, bringing him back too early, which promptly sent him back to the DL. Then for Round 2, they threw him back in the fire, again too early, not ready to pitch, and he got hammered and hasn’t started a game since.

Now here comes Nick, back in the lineup. Does this smell of desperation to you, maybe at the expense of Castellanos? He did look good at the plate Tuesday night, doubling in the 8th inning in pinch hit duty. So maybe the Tigers judged this one correctly.

Well hold on, there I was Wednesday night, writing of course, Nick’s at the plate and I hear Gibby say, “looks like he felt that one.” What? He felt pain?

This is the same team whose manager, on the same night, decided that Michael Fulmer should come back to pitch after the 45 minute rain delay. He wasn’t effective before the rain delay and you could argue he should have come out then. So for him to return after the delay made no sense, and frankly makes you wonder, once again. The Tigers flat-out, do not protect their players, and as a fan, you hope you’re not the only one who notices.

Gibson said Ausmus “smartly” removed Fulmer from the game after he started to get in trouble again. “Smartly” was the word he used. You judge the intelligence, I can’t anymore. The Tigers are now rolling the dice again with two emerging young players, Castellanos and Fulmer – someone please explain it.


By:  Kurt Snyder

My dad spent half of his career with the Tigers working in the Scouting department. So of course, he evaluated a lot of young talent. He found himself gravitating towards young catchers, mostly because he was one himself having spent time catching in the Cincinnati Reds farm system.

But as his career with the Tigers evolved, he grew to appreciate young pitchers. Guys who could throw hard. Guys who had “great stuff” as he would often put it.

And when a young, talented pitcher would struggle and fans would complain about his performance, he would invariably defend them by saying, “you never give up on a good arm.”

He loved to watch Nolan Ryan pitch but he had an affinity for the young pitchers who would arrive with so much promise, so much talent, whether they were Tiger prospects or not. Guys like Frank Tanana and Jack Morris and Roger Clemens. I guess it was his scouting background that stuck with him even after he began managing Tiger Stadium.

What he hated most was when some of these young prospects, with all the talent and all the potential in the world would get hurt; never recapturing the dominance they had displayed each time they pitched.

Mark Fidrych was one of those pitchers. It bothered Dad so much when Fidrych got hurt and never regained the magic he exhibited in that special year of 1976, when he won 19 games in a rookie season that included being chosen to start the All-Star Game for the American League.

Dad considered it such a waste for pitchers with so much talent to have their careers cut short due to injury. He loved the game so much. He loved watching players develop and become stars.

But I can’t imagine how Dad would have reacted to the news this week of the death of Jose Fernandez. He would have loved to watch him pitch. He would have loved his arm, his “stuff.” And he would have loved his story about how, after so many attempts to get to America, he finally made it.

Dad was a sucker for an emotional, feel-good story and Jose Fernandez certainly had that; a young phenom who only wanted to pitch in the big leagues. In America. Unfortunately and tragically, the storybook tale began in a boat and ended in a boat; an event that fans in Miami and all of baseball will never forget.

Being American League fans, we weren’t exposed much to the fun loving personality of Fernandez. And it was that personality which endeared him to his teammates, his manager, the entire Marlin organization, the city of Miami and all of baseball.

At just 24, his immense pitching talent and his light hearted personality made him one of the best pitchers and ambassadors for American baseball. The sky was the limit for this kid.

Baseball is an incredibly difficult sport. Dad always told us that to be able to hit a baseball is the hardest thing to do in sports. Especially when faced with a pitcher blessed enough to throw so hard and the ability to move the ball around like it was on a string. Jose Fernandez was that kind of pitcher; a repertoire consisting of an explosive fastball and what they called a “wipe out” curve or slider.

More than any other kind of game, Dad appreciated pitching duels the most, when pitchers were at their best and all their stuff was working. Their talents were on display. There was nothing like it in his eyes. When we would ask him about the best games he remembered, most featured tremendous pitching performances. They were the greatest memories of the game for him.

Even at just 24, Jose Fernandez had given baseball so many memories. He had impressed so many people, both with his talents and a big hearted and bubbly, full of life personality.

But he is now suddenly gone. Many people will suffer over his loss. All of baseball will suffer. He will be remembered eternally as the Marlins go on to retire his number. But he had so much left to give. To baseball and to people. What a horrible, horrible waste.


By:  Kurt Snyder & Holly Horning

It’s Tuesday – the last Tuesday of the regular season. Where did the time go? With the season drawing to a close, our writers at Totally Tigers will tackle two topics.

Remember, Kurt and Holly do not share their answers. So, it will be interesting to see the range of perspectives on 2 entirely different questions.

After this weekend, what occupies your mind more, the upcoming week or the off-season and why?


Where Holly and I differ and what makes us a good fit for a blog partnership is, I look at signs for optimism. I look for things we should be encouraged about. I look for things that could spark a run of victories, while Holly admittedly, has more guarded optimism.

But I can’t watch this team anymore. I can’t watch how our pitching staff is mishandled. I no longer have the optimism. And I am no longer focused on the standings and this season.

So much is capable of happening for this team, still. Anything is possible. But you can’t successfully overcome poor game management within your own dugout for very long; and Al Avila will get a firsthand look at a well-managed team in Cleveland, one that fosters success not hinders it.


I tend to be a positive person and while I’ll take each game this week one at a time, and not yet ready to officially write off the Tigers, I haven’t been given definitive proof that the team has upped its game beyond this year’s performance trends.

Part of me wants what happened this season to become crystal clear and leave no doubt in Al Avila’s mind what needs to be done this off-season.  After spending the past 11 years waiting, watching, waiting, hoping, waiting and praying for the Tigers to ascend to that best of all places, I am unfortunately, thinking more about what needs to be done after the season ends.

And it’s all because that clock hasn’t been ticking louder than it has all this year.  Detroit has a number of long-standing issues that have plagued the team for over a decade now.  And I simply don’t want to see this Tiger dynasty go down as one of the top two in baseball history to never have capitalized on their greatness.

Al Avila entered the GM job with not much time to get acclimated before he had to make some crucial roster decisions.  Now that he’s been in the job for just over a year, this will be the most accurate time to see what kind of a GM he will be.

Will he simply shuffle the roster around and fine-tune the starting pitching and bullpen?  Or will he dig deeper and address the real reasons why the team finds it so difficult to sync their play and score runs consistently?

Has Justin Upton’s resurgence justified his signing?


Upton has proven his appeal and he has lived up to what was expected, finally. We knew he was a good ball player. But who was comfortable with the possibility of him being under contract for 6 years with the Tigers?

He is a big name player; a prototypical signing for the Tigers. But in the interests of keeping some of their other players around, like JD Martinez, who is one of their most consistent offensive stars, the Tigers really can’t afford for Upton to pick up his own option at the end of next season.

It’s much more important for the Tigers to keep JD in Detroit. And the signing of Upton puts that at risk. So even with Upton coming on and how exciting his production has been, I don’t believe bringing him on board was such a good thing. Frankly, we needed more starting pitching depth before we needed a high-profile, potentially long-term, offensive signing.


It’s nice to see Upton start to perform more consistently and get some timely hits. But it appears from the interviews with Mr. I that his signing was done for attendance reasons more than anything else. And while high attendance is required for the Tigers in order to meet those extremely large contracts, his signing means the Tigers are facing a “Sophie’s Choice” at the end of 2017.

The Tigers’ payroll will crest in the 2018-19 seasons with 4 players earning some of the highest salaries in the business. Sports economists will tell you that major-market teams can’t afford to have more than 2 athletes making $25+ million/year. The Tigers, a smaller market will have 4 making $25 million and up to $32 million – and an additional one, Upton, very close to the $25 million mark.

This really means that the Tigers cannot afford to add yet another player who will certainly command a very high salary. JD Martinez. His contract expires at the end of the next year and he will certainly want much more than what the Tigers are paying Upton for a lesser bat and glove.

The future of the outfield is looking very uncertain currently where all 3 positions may be filled with new players for the start of 2018. Do we really want to keep a streaky guy with no consistency playing LF or would we rather keep the guy with the best glove and bat?


By:  Holly Horning

You didn’t think the Tigers could go free of controversy until the end of the season, did you? Yes, just when some of us started to think that the team had finally settled into a winning groove, did defeat get snatched from the jaws of victory on Saturday.

With the score 4-2 in favor of the Tigers, they managed to lose the game 7-4 in which their closer, KRod put 5 men on base and gave up 5 runs before being pulled. But is Rodriguez solely to blame?

Despite the fact that the Tigers’ RISP was 5-for-18 and they left 14 men on base – while loading the bases twice without scoring – let’s focus solely on the issues surrounding that day’s pitching.

There are always going to be instances when the closer has a bad day. But it’s how the team and manager react, and how quickly, that can make the difference. Many have a valid argument that Brad dropped the ball by keeping KRod pitching until the game was out of hand. And it just wasn’t the fans. The commentators broadcasting, as former pitchers, also noticed and questioned the non-move.

Some could make the case that Rondon should have stayed in. Afterall, he mowed down all three batters in the 8th on 12 pitches – 9 of them strikes. But others could argue that relievers need to know what innings they will pitch so they can prepare both mentally and physically.

But are either extremes the best way to go? Is there another way to manage the bullpen? And should there only be one way to use your relievers?

In a recent study based upon Baseball Prospectus stats, the trends of how bullpens are managed are traced. Starting with the philosophy of the “7th inning guy” to the “8th inning guy” and finally to the “9th inning guy.” Now, managers are using their best relievers in the most high-leverage situations and aren’t afraid to pull them quickly if they’re not on their game. Bruce Bochy and Joe Maddon are today’s managers who work more from their gut and from what they see rather than a set philosophy.

Statistics that will either inspire exploding heads or put readers to sleep are thankfully omitted here. I read them so you don’t have to….. And these stats were calculated and a list of the managers since 2000 was developed that ranked them according to best bullpen management. It is no surprise that the best tended to be younger overall and had won numerous distinctions and championships. Topping the list was Joe Torre followed by Ozzie Guillen, Joe Girardi and Bruce Bochy.

These guys all shared a common factor – using relievers based upon the situation and not the inning. They also weren’t afraid to mix it up when warranted.

The bottom of the list was more interesting. Filled for the most part with older managers who believed in having relievers strictly assigned to specific innings. Jim Leyland ranks 4th from the bottom. The list also showed that managers who practice this old-style strategy and then changed to the more modern one, rose in the rankings because their effectiveness increased.

And in case you were wondering, Brad Ausmus, who practices the innings-based role, did not qualify for the list. However, Bud Black (who turned down the Nationals job and remains available) ranks as one of the savviest bullpen managers.

However, successfully managing a bullpen doesn’t fall solely on the skipper. The GM, pitching coach and bullpen coach should be held responsible, too. Yes, the talent contained in the bullpen does matter, but it’s also about how well that talent is used and managed.

So while Leyland is no longer manager of the team, the question to ask is how much information and advice did he share with Brad?

Ausmus is young and supports using analytics, but his bullpen management is definitely old-school. Is this difference in generational thought a result of being an inexperienced manager or copying/learning from the previous one? Could the belief in this outdated system also be coming from the bench coach – who worked for years under the former skipper?

Whether or not Ausmus stays, the true indication that Al Avila will be looking to strengthen and update their strategies will be based upon whether the Front Office decides to replace some old faces with those that are younger and from outside the organization.

Can Avila break the tradition of intense loyalty to former managers and players? Stay tuned.


By:  Kurt Snyder

If there has been one constant throughout this season in the Tiger bullpen, it has been the success and resiliency of Francisco Rodriguez. Sure, losses are never bigger than in the last week of the season when you are trying to make the playoffs, but everyone needs to take a breath.

Fans again want KRod’s head; they have made generalizations about how long it has been since the Tigers had a dominant closer. But, if there has been one reliable force in the bullpen, it has been KRod. So enough.

Yes,  the Tigers are teetering on the fence, where just a stiff breeze one way or the other could make the difference between making the playoffs and not.  Saturday’s game could indeed become damaging if we let it.  But this is when you find out about your team. Their ability to bounce back will never be tested more.

With 1 more game versus the World Champion Royals, there can be no more whimpering about Saturday. There can be no losing streaks. Teams that go on losing streaks at this time of the season when they are on the outside looking in, will watch the playoffs on TV.

With less than a couple of handfuls of games remaining, losing streaks have to be over now. Every game is now a must win. Beginning Monday, all focus shifts to the Indians with more than occasional glances at the Orioles as they play a huge series versus the Blue Jays in Toronto.

Back at home, after hopefully having finished off a series win over KC, the much awaited 4 games against the Indians begin on Monday. It’s a great time for this series.

The Indians have been the team standing in the way of the Tigers all season, winning all but 2 games in 2016. For Detroit, it has been no way to perform against the team you need to catch. And it has been that poor head-to-head record that has made all the difference.

So the Tigers have some scores to settle with the Indians. They have demons to exorcise. And after getting pounded by the Indians all season, Detroit has never had more incentive to fight back and finally inflict some damage.

Sure, Cleveland has all but salted away the division. They have dominated the Tigers in every way possible. But I feel the Tigers were disrespected during that last game in Cleveland. So there is plenty of incentive. The umpires are going to have to stay on top of these games; because there has been some bad blood brewing for a week since these teams last faced each other.

It is a reasonable bet that the Indians will clinch the division at Comerica Park. And the Tigers need to fight hard not to let that happen. A sweep is a lot to ask, but again, losses really cannot be tolerated any longer. Not against Cleveland, and not against the Royals on Sunday.

So expect an epic battle when the Tribe comes to town.  As Mickey Redmond likes to say; this is no place for a nervous person.


By:  Holly Horning & Kurt Snyder

Saturday’s segment is a day to touch on as many issues as possible. With 153 (83-70) games behind us and just nine games to go, readers have the opportunity to read and think about a number of different topics.

Holly and Kurt don’t share and it’s only for the readers’ benefit. It almost always translates into a wide array of thoughts. Suspect nothing different today.



It took me 1.5 years but I’m finally truly appreciating what Andrew Romine brings to the game. Utility players get no respect but this guy has stepped up to the plate, gotten some timely hits, runs well and has played every single position for the Tigers this year except catcher. Given the significant number of injuries in 2016, where would the Tigers have been without the ability to plug him in anywhere?


Rut roh, Gary Sanchez is gaining ground on Michael Fulmer for Rookie of the Year Voting. His stats, even given a smaller sample size, are jaw-dropping while Fulmer’s are not as impressive as they were earlier in the season. And the one with the most momentum may gain the advantage and the support that comes from playing for a NY team and a biased NY-centered media.


Daniel Norris revealed in a radio interview this week that Justin Verlander is working overtime to help him, Fulmer and Boyd with their pitching. JV attends every throwing session of theirs, reviews all their video and tirelessly mentors all three. Performance on the mound is only one aspect of a great player and JV has shown us all that he brings the same intensity and talent to the game on the days he’s not starting a game.



Justin Upton’s turnaround at the plate over the last month has been truly electric and well, shocking. Three days of rest to clear his head and bam, he’s been crushing the baseball ever since. Outside of a still relatively low batting average, his offensive numbers now reflect the type of production that was expected when we signed him.


If you haven’t been to a game yet this season, I would pick one of those Indian games next week at Comerica Park. Those beanball antics in Cleveland last Sunday are not going to be forgotten and I would anticipate things could get a little dicey. Until proven wrong, I still see that final game in Cleveland as the pivotal point in the season; one that finally shook this team up and turned things around.


I know there is plenty of work yet to be done, but do you think Brad has looked ahead to make sure he lines up Justin Verlander for the start in the Wild Card game, should they get there? I’ll be right back … going to check … hang on a second. Ok I’m back … as the schedule shakes out right now, JV would pitch next Tuesday versus Cleveland and the following Sunday in Atlanta; meaning if Brad leaves things alone, Michael Fulmer would pitch in the Wild Card game, hmmmm.


By:  Holly Horning

How many of us were amazed when Miguel Cabrera manufactured a run almost entirely by himself the other night? He stretched what normally would have been a single into a double and tested the arms of two outfielders to score a run. And he did it on an increasingly “barking” bad ankle.

Media reports afterwards all referred to Miggy as one of the smartest players out there. Not just with a bat and a glove, but also on the bases. Not with speed, of course, but with the ability to read opposing players and game situations. Being smart on the base paths only has a partial relationship to speed.

So why now?

The most obvious answer would be this home stretch of baseball where the Tigers cling to the hopes of a Wild Card ticket, along with a number of other teams all clustered within a game of each other and seemingly changing every couple of hours.

Yes, this was really good to see. Especially good to see Miggy trying to rally the troops and do something out of the box that would help solve this dearth of run production lately.

But don’t you also want to ask why we haven’t seen this type of aggressiveness from the entire team throughout the season? Why they didn’t do this earlier when maybe they had the chance to stay closer to the top of the AL Central?

Why is this now being practiced in game # 151? When they have already played 150 games and only had 12 more left?

And how would this team have shaken out over the course of this year if they had been practicing smarter and more aggressive running since April?

We know that every year, for what has seemed like a decade, the Tigers announce that baserunning will be addressed in spring training. Coaches have been brought in to work with everyone on how to run better and more instinctively. And every year, we think that there will be improvements.

But the fact is that the Tigers, for both 2015 and 2016, have gone from a merely bad team to baseball’s worst baserunning ballclub. And it’s not even close. We tend to see the most obvious mistakes – when runners are thrown out. But the most insidious stat is their inability to take extra bases on their hits. Bases that the majority of teams are able to take with some regularity. Some refer to the Tigers’ talent as station-to-station running. We painfully remember it from the playoffs when Jim Leyland was at the helm.

For two years now, Detroit has only been successful 34% of the time in trying to stretch out a hit while running.

Could this simply be that too many of these guys who are known for the long-ball simply can’t respond and run fast and well because of their size? Could part of it be due to the manager’s philosophy on base running? The same principles that got Rajai Davis benched for running on his own last year? The same guy who refused Detroit’s offer to return and instead headed for speedy Cleveland? The same guy who leads the AL in stolen bases and single-handedly has only 17 fewer than the entire Tigers team put together?

Or could some of the issues be related to the two coaches who oversee the team’s baserunning? What about this long-standing issue that the Tigers ignore teaching and enforcing the fundamentals?

And what about motivation? Which brings us full circle and back to Miggy’s magnificent manufacturing.

Will his success inspire the rest of the team? Will others step up to the challenge? We’ve got 10 more days to see.


By:  Kurt Snyder & Holly Horning

Today’s topic centers on the health of Victor Martinez and the Tigers’ plan for him going forward. It’s a difficult time to lose key components of the lineup, but it will be something the Tigers will need to address in the final weeks of the season.

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. So without further ado…

How should the Tigers handle Victor Martinez for the rest of the season?


Before the beanball festival on Sunday, the general consensus among fans has been that the Tigers need to consider swapping VMart’s place in the lineup with JD Martinez. But Brad has been adamant about not doing that.

I think it has been quite amazing that, for the most part, Victor has been able to stay in the everyday lineup. I think it’s amazing that he has been able to retain his power. But of late, getting hit on those knees has really taken its toll.

With just a couple of weeks left in the season, Victor being injured and out of the lineup is a blow for the Tigers, still very much in the Wild Card race. But his inability to run and now hit is really something to ponder and opens up an opportunity for JD to audition in that cleanup spot behind Miggy.

In the past, it has been critical to the Tiger lineup that VMart be the one to protect Miggy. Pairing Cabrera with a high average, switch hitter with power has indeed made it a difficult proposition for opposing pitchers. But it’s only been true when both were healthy.

Watching Miggy run the bases lately is proving that he is finally healthy in the month of September. He is still the one guy they cannot afford to lose. But watching VMart on the bases has been painful and now more than ever has contributed to the Tiger offense slowing to a crawl.

Obviously JD will continue to hit behind Miggy while VMart is out and looks to be a much better scenario. If the new lineup indeed improves productivity, Brad will have no choice but to move Victor down in the lineup if and when he returns.

VMart hitting in the bottom third would add a skilled hitter they haven’t had further down in the order, and his latest injury may facilitate that move; a potential blessing in disguise.

Of course, all of this is contingent on an actual return. We have seen Victor writhing in pain way too many times dealing with injuries to those knees, with this latest HBP perhaps being the final straw for him.

If that is indeed the case, the Tigers will swap around the DH position depending on the pitching matchup like they have been doing the last couple days. Again, another luxury that hasn’t been possible with a full-time DH in the lineup.


What the Tigers do with VMart will depend upon how close they remain in an attempt to secure a wild card spot. Currently, Victor is trying to recover from being hit on the right knee twice in less than a week by pitchers from the same team and is, according to a team statement, having trouble even walking given a very swollen knee.

Over this season, despite VMart’s ability to stay healthy over the winter, we’ve seen him noticeably decline on the basepaths. We’ve learned that his knees are once again bothering him more since the end of last month which helps explain the sudden decline in his stats. His BA has dropped over a 100 pts. and his OPS over 300 pts.

Since his first plunking, he’s hitting a jaw-dropping .118 and a measly .404 OPS. Teams know he’s hurting so why keep him batting #4 when JD Martinez currently would make for a more challenging cleanup hitter? An MLB program identified JD this week as one of the top 5 most productive hitters since the All-Star break, hitting .365 with an astounding 1.035 OPS.

Arguments can also be made for other hitters to take the #4 slot. The point is that VMart is not currently capable of that role and one of the reasons why the Tigers have an increase in poor RISP numbers and a problem scoring since late August. This is starting to resemble the issues the Tigers had with him early last year and required Mr. I to step in to help facilitate change.

If the Tigers want to play for that wild card spot, they need to update their lineup strategy that reflects today’s changes. With Victor out of the lineup on Tuesday, they moved JD into his former spot and it turned out well. But when Victor is able to return, he needs to be dropped in the batting order.

However, is Brad capable of telling his strong-minded veteran that he’s changing his role? That will be telling of both men.

But should the Tigers find themselves on the outside looking in at some point this month, then it’s time to start using your 40-man roster as it was intended. Depth for injuries and for teams to start to get a closer look at their promising rookies.

Tyler Collins, Stephen Moya and JaCoby Jones could all use more experience in advance of next year. And quite frankly, it would serve the team well to showcase some players for the trades that need to happen this winter. Especially since the farm system remains tapped and maxed-out payroll is unlikely to bail out the team with new free agents.