By: Kurt Snyder & Holly Horning
Today’s topic addresses the Tigers’ roller coaster ride of a season and their continued attempts to become more consistent.
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.
Since late August, the Tigers have gone 10- 3, including 2 winning streaks of 4 games. Have they finally solved their rollercoaster ways or is this simply a result of the teams they have faced?
After a crushing defeat, my answer can get clouded with emotion and disappointment, but tomorrow it could all get washed away with a tidy victory. Is that what makes a season like this a roller coaster ride?
Most people who get on a coaster are nervous at first, but can’t wait to board. They are excited by the anticipation; even the fear they enjoy. But in the end, they are overjoyed by what took place; like they had conquered something great. There is relief and the desire to do it all over again.
It kind of describes a World Series Champion; a team who took it all on, stuck with it, enjoyed the ride and emerged victorious at the end.
Even baseball fans experience some of those elements, depending on their allegiance, of course; not everyone emerges happy. Most emerge with disappointment because only a select few teams advance to the Holy Grail of the post season; only a select few accomplish something they can hang their hat on. And only 1 team at the end can say they conquered all of baseball.
We can’t go through a season and try to determine why a team wins or loses based on their opponents. Every game matters. Every win counts the same. Every loss counts the same.
So I would like to offer my own question. Are the Tigers a complete team? I wonder because we have elements (psst …bullpen) causing a lot of doubt once again.
Are they ready to ride this to the end or are they considering getting out of line? Pressure will mount as we get closer to the end and it won’t matter if we are on the field with Minnesota or Cleveland.
We are going to find out what kind of guts some of these guys really have; here ends my non-answer.
This has really been the most confounding year performance-wise for the Tigers. Too many possible factors to cover in this particular blog but there are some hints as to what changed for the team starting in August.
Let’s start with what’s not been an issue in the roller-coaster performance – injuries, believe it or not. Early in the year, there were few of them, yet the team had problems stringing a series of wins together. Now, given that the team had been riddled with them, they are playing some of their best ball.
Starting pitching has also improved since the All-Star break. Justin Verlander has put up the best stats of any pitcher in MLB since the Mid-Summer Classic. Three of the original starters have had their issues yet their replacements have done solid jobs at keeping their team in the game.
On the other hand, the Tigers have been lucky in facing teams with horrible pitching, both starting and relieving. And that’s certainly helped sustain some winning streaks.
But there are 3 other factors that bode well for stabilizing their performance. First, Justin Upton has settled in and started to post numbers more in line with his previous track record. How many games has he won so far for the team, especially late in the game?
And enough cannot be said about Cameron Maybin. Stats show it’s not even close how many games the Tigers win with him in the lineup. Since his return mid-August (from one of the latest multiple injuries), it’s no surprise Detroit has become more consistent. They had a losing record for the first couple of weeks in August and then turned it into a winning month with him back in CF and at the plate.
But the most visible sign that this team is evolving in positive fashion is their new ability to come from behind late in the game. For most of the year, they were scoring early and then the bats were silent mid-point and on. And the analysts say that is a key of a truly talented team.
If Upton keeps it up….if Maybin stays in the lineup…..and if starting pitching remains strong, then maybe, just maybe the Tigers will perform at more consistent levels. This week’s upcoming match-up with the Orioles will be the litmus test…