By:  Holly Horning & Kurt Snyder

Well, consider one hurdle cleared. Battle 1 between the Tigers and Indians went Detroit’s way. What a difference a year makes!

Winning the 3-game series brings about a question, one that will take all season to answer. But let’s take a quick bite out of it.

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

After the series win in Cleveland, are the Indians still the better team? Explain.


Maybe. No. Still too early to say. All of the above. But most definitely better than last year especially since the Tigers won their first series against the Indians in almost 1.5 years.

This weekend’s win gives us hope; proof that the Tigers are looking to get that Cleveland monkey off its collective back and hope for the future of the team, especially for young pitchers by the name of Norris and Boyd.

The Indians are essentially at full-strength this year with the Tigers suffering more injuries and doing more with less given the absence of JD Martinez and now the annual concern over Miggy. Heck, they even have an outfield problem similar to the Tigers.  Advantage: Tigers.

But I would grade each team on 4 other factors with 2 of them being malleable over time. The first is the mental game as seen in Saturday’s blowout game with many of the Tigers yukking it up in the dugout while their opponents, ahead by a touchdown, were laser-focused on the game with every player wearing his game face.  Advantage: Indians.

The second is (surprise!) the bullpen, that Achilles heel for the Tigers for over 10 years now. Their closer is a ticking time bomb given his age and arsenal while on the other hand, the Indians have one of baseball’s top ranked bunch of relievers with Andrew Miller ranked #1 and Cody Allen sitting at #8. And we know what impact bullpens have on winning.  Advantage: You have to ask?

Third on the list is the manager. While Brad has improved substantially this year, he still is not the savvy, experienced skipper. Contrast him to Terry Francona, arguably 1 of baseball’s top 3 managers and an impressive winning record with scores of WS wins. Advantage:  the Tigers’ former third base coach.

And finally, it’s all about starting pitching – left-handed pitching to be precise and the soft spot in the Indians make-up at the moment. They simply cannot hit it and one of the reasons why Daniel Norris and Matt Boyd were successful this weekend. JV lost his game because he was a RHP but also the one pitcher in MLB who has gone up against Cleveland the most. Forget the “stealing signs” excuse – every analyst on Monday morning dismissed it immediately as not remotely credible.  Advantage: Tigers.

The next time these two teams face each other, the Tigers are expected to have 3 RHP starting those games. If each team has 2 clear advantages which results in a tie, we can only hope that Brad thinks carefully about who will pitch in them, especially JV.


Well, it will take more than one series to determine who has the leg up this season. The end of Game 1 and all of Game 2 looked a lot like last year’s nightmare season series. But moving on from Saturday’s disaster and bouncing back with a solid outing on Sunday to take the series said a lot.

Is the proverbial monkey off their backs? Well, baby steps, ok? It was a good start. When their starter pitched well, they won. When their starter didn’t, they lost. Jim Leyland’s, “you are only as good as the next day’s starting pitcher,” rang true every day in Cleveland, and Brad acknowledged that heading into Saturday.

Offensively, the Tigers are getting the big hit. They homer every single game and continued it all through the Cleveland series, with amazingly, 2 of them coming from Alex Avila.

Cleveland still has the better bullpen, but Andrew Miller got nicked up by the Tigers on Saturday, something you never saw last season.

Last season, the Tigers were not only beaten continuously by the Indians, they were bruised and battered, and never seemed to come close to being able to compete with them. There was a large chasm between the overall talent of both teams and an even bigger gap between the talents of the 2 managers.

This season? Well, the sample size is 3 games, but outside of the Verlander anomaly, the Tigers played to their strengths and their manager is becoming more of a strength than a weakness.

So who’s better? Well, Cleveland is. They came within a whiff of a World Championship, so until they are knocked out or until the Tigers wrestle the division from them, they don’t give up their throne. But there are many battles to come.

10 thoughts on “TWO FOR TUESDAY

  1. What I’ve learned so far this season is that the Tigers don’t have the market regarding complaints about coaching. The Cleveland newspapers (and Boston papers) are rife with posters taking issues with perceived gaffs by Francona (and Farrell).


  2. The Indians are still the better team. They play with a fiery sense of purpose & have a superior manager & bullpen. While I’m encouraged by the series win, the Indians will remain a millstone around their neck until the Tigers consistently prove otherwise.


  3. I think it is too early to tell and would call it a “draw” so far. Possibly the arrow is pointing up for the Tigers, but only time will tell.


  4. “There was a large chasm between the overall talent of both teams” ?? Where? The BP, yes, any where else, no. They performed better, AGAINST THE TIGERS, but not against the rest of the league. Real ML manager over Brad but not better talent at most positions.


    • I agree. The difference between the teams is not in their raw talent but in the way the talent is turned into runs scored and prevented. The Indians seem to be much better than the Tigers at scouting their opponents and preparing for specific games.


  5. One factor not covered was defense. Both teams have excellent catching, and the Tigers infield is almost as good (Assuming The Third Baseman Formerly Known as Nick has really improved). But the Indians outfield is much better, especially once JD returns. It is a long shot the the Tigers can keep up with them over 162 games.


    • If they played .500 against the Tribe last year they win the division (probably), not the Indians. They were a better team than Cleveland in pretty much all but 18 games last year, nothing close to the dominance of talent some think they saw. As it was last year, the only difference between these teams will be health (and a real manager maybe).


  6. I think the Indians get the nod for the best team. But the Tigers are catching up. Avila Jr. is one of the reasons. He reversed his number(13-31) and is doing much better so far this year. Who knew?


  7. Still so, so early, but better to win than lose of course, even at this point. I felt in the off-season, and still feel now, that if they had improved the bullpen, we could be right there with Cleveland. The bullpen is still a big problem. I like Alex Wilson, but he and Justin Wilson wore down over last season and the same thing can happen this year. Jimenez is the only possibly help available.


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