ONE TOPIC – TWO TAKES

By:  Kurt Snyder & Holly Horning

Sometimes fans overreact to team and player performances during the spring. But spring training does give you clues that may shed light on how healthy a player is or how effective they will be when the real season starts. So this brings about an interesting question.

Kurt and Holly have not shared their answers, and that’s the best way for our readers to get the best bang for their buck. So here we go.


Yes, it’s just spring training, but it does offer clues to the season. With less than 2 weeks before Opening Day, what is your overall impression of this team so far?


KURT

Key injuries always seem to dictate which direction this team heads. It’s a shame that this is the first thing you think of when you have to form an overall impression. But injuries, especially early ones, often plague the team before they can even get started; and true to form, JD’s foot is dominating the news from Lakeland.

They will scramble to sort out their outfield situation, which isn’t ideal, but these things continue to happen to the Tigers; how they overcome this will help define the team’s success.

With all that being said, some things have been quite encouraging.

Starting pitching will be our strength. If you can base anything on spring training performance, it’s quite evident that JV is ready. He looks dominant and ready to roll.

The other standout in the rotation has been Matt Boyd. This guy seems to be on the rise and he appears to be ready to take that next step. But we will have to see how it translates beginning next month.

And finally, you always look for signs early in the season for someone to emerge; someone unexpected. Will it be a rookie? Will it be someone acquired in a trade? Every successful team has at least one unexpected contribution; someone impactful who helped to make a difference between winning and not. The Tigers will certainly need a few to emerge; but I would like to focus on one possibility.

Anibal Sanchez – one very lost and perplexed pitcher for most of the spring, spent a bullpen session with his manager, Brad Ausmus. An adjustment was made with his arm slot which included an experiment with holding the ball further away from his head before cutting it loose. Ever since, Sanchez has been virtually unhittable. It’s been a small sample size, 9 innings I believe, but most importantly, he has shown some life.

We have been waiting for Brad’s leadership qualities as a former catcher to blossom for the benefit of this team, and this would be a huge step in the right direction.


HOLLY

This is a very different team since mid-March than we saw in February and even earlier this month. It wasn’t about the string of losses and the worst spring training record in baseball – it was about a team that simply didn’t mesh at all with pitchers who couldn’t find the strike zone and hitters who couldn’t make contact with the ball.

They were a team that couldn’t string 2 wins together until a week ago and were getting blown out of games by a wide margin – but now, they’ve won 7 of their last 9 with consistent run production and better pitching. It appears this team is finally starting to gel. Thankfully.

Starting pitching is the least of my worries with JV, Fulmer and now Boyd doing well. Zimmermann and Pelfrey are still TBD but the significant improvement to Sanchez’s pitching is going to complicate the final rotation selection. If he continues down this impressive path, the Tigers are going to keep him as a starter instead of making him the world’s most expensive reliever at $22 million.

When it comes to hitting, that’s a tougher subject to critique given that a huge chunk of the players in Lakeland won’t be making the roster because of the mass exodus to the WBC. And that’s probably my biggest complaint – to allow your most important players to take an extended leave of absence in your final year of solid competition. Once they return, there is still the time needed for them to once again get accustomed to their teammates and the rhythm of play.

Fifteen players and assorted coaches are gone with 2 guys who are pivotal to winning – Miggy and KRod – who, of course, got injured. Other teams refused to allow their top players to compete because of these reasons. And the injuries have started earlier and with greater frequency now that Collins, JD, Iggy, Fulmer and Castellanos, who are suffering from nagging injuries (or worse), have been added to that list. And the season hasn’t even started.

Aside from some promising rookies, the situations of the infield vs the outfield are as different as black and white. One offers comfort while the other induces nightmares and unfortunately, the latter may just get worse. The injury to JD may set off a chain reaction where the Tigers are forced to keep certain players over the preferred ones in order to fill holes that have no other options.

And that’s the most interesting thing about the team this year. They have gone from what was expected to be mostly straightforward decisions into a complicated scenario based upon unexpected resurrections and injuries.

Ideally, you always want to be able to formulate your roster based upon talent and not upon situations that force you to make decisions because of the money involved or the lack of depth.


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      More CF shopping rumors

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      Jones imitating Kinsler

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      JV’s killer commercial

      What JV and Lolich have in common

      The New Kaline mural

      Bat flips have been replaced with ????

      McCann’s interview evaluating all the young pitching talent

6 thoughts on “ONE TOPIC – TWO TAKES

  1. With Collins injured again, Mahtook virtually hitless in Lakeland and Jones apparently headed to Toledo, It’s possible the replacement for Maybin in centerfield will be Romine, arguably the most consistent hitter on the team based on his exhibition season performance. That would leave the job of roving infielder to Machado.

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  2. I think they will be battling KC for second place. The lack of offense for several games at a time will bite them again this year. The pitching won t be good enough to overcome the lack of offense.

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    • But guys, our blog states exactly that. We also specifically avoided making conclusions and emphasized impressions. And JV, Fulmer, Norris, Boyd, Martinez, Castellanos, Upton and half a dozen others might disagree with you about the most important players missing from the team. 🙂 – Holly

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  3. There’s not much to add to the discussion as the analysis here is spot-on. I will add an observation of my own. Justin Upton has finally shed the newbie mask. Having his head in the game & his heart in the dugout should translate to positive contributions earlier this season.

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