Detroit Tigers: Injuries Catch Up With Team as Struggles Mount


There’s no ignoring how bad the Detroit Tigers have been recently. They’re now in a seven-game losing streak and fresh off a sweep against the Oakland Athletics. Yes, a team with one of the worst records in baseball and in the cellar of the AL West.

They have simply looked lifeless in the past week or so. They look like a team that’s pressing and the mental mistakes are starting to take a huge effect on each game.

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If Tigers fans thought getting swept by the Los Angeles Angels was bad, the Oakland series has to be much worse.

They blew the first game in the 7th inning when Ben Zobrist would hit what was eventually a game-winning grand slam. This came immediately after fielding mistakes from both Ian Kinsler and Nick Castellanos that inning.

Then the next few games they were shut down by Sonny Gray and Jesse Hahn.

And again, this was against a team with one of the worst records in baseball. The A’s have lost an awful lot of games this year, but the Tigers somehow made them winners.

It just hasn’t looked like the same confident Tigers teams of past years. The same team that won four straight AL Central crowns.

One thing that’s been a huge blow to this Tigers team has undoubtedly been all the injuries. In past years the Tigers have been generally healthy, especially for their and superstars.

Players like Justin Verlander, Miguel Cabrera, and even Prince Fielder (when he was with the team) rarely ever went on the disabled list. They were their superstar selves and the Tigers could rely on them.

Now, though, the injuries are really starting to creep in and make their mark on this team. The DL is filled with guys who could (and should) help out the team in their respective roles. Verlander, Victor Martinez, Alex Avila, and Bruce Rondon were all projected to be huge contributors to this squad in some way, shape, or form.

While critics might point out to Verlander’s 4.54 ERA in 2014 and say he wouldn’t help the team, but they’d only be partly right. Verlander was hampered by injuries all year and his ability to eat up innings would help.

Eating innings has the spillover effect onto the bullpen and the days following his start. It’s hard to watch a starter barely last four innings and exhaust the bullpen. For as much as Verlander has struggled, he still topped 200 innings in 2014.

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  • Adding another veteran to this clubhouse will also only help. Verlander’s wish to win is well-known and, with his fiery will, it might add another dynamic to this reeling squad.

    The starting rotation too hasn’t been lighting up the world on fire. Shane Greene has struggled with consistency all year and his hot start to the season seems more than ever like a fluke. Coupled with Anibal Sanchez’s overall ineffectiveness and this rotation is in shambles.

    It’s hard to see Verlander not adjust his pitching style after such a down year in 2014. He’s the type of guy to be able to succeed too. He’d seem to do anything if it means that it’ll help him win games.

    Velocity isn’t the only indicator of Verlander’s overall success. He has four good pitches (fastball, curve, change, and slider) that he can mix and match to be successful for a long time in the Majors.

    Another guy that the Tigers have really relied upon to be productive is Victor Martinez. After tearing his meniscus with such little time before the season started this should have been expected. He couldn’t put as much weight on his left leg as usual which led to him struggling to hit left-handed.

    The Tigers sorely miss Martinez’s presence and veteran leadership now that he’s on the disabled list. While he’s unlikely to duplicate his career 2014 year it would help if he can bat somewhere around .300 in the middle of the order to drive in runners.

    His veteran presence around the locker room could prove useful as well. Kinsler somewhat calling out Castellanos recently doesn’t make anybody look good. Martinez usually has something to say that would calm down the locker room some.

    Then there’s a guy like Rondon who seems to be routinely injured. He missed all of 2014 because of Tommy John surgery and so far he’s missed the 2015 season with arm soreness too.

    While it’s really hard to constantly rely on a guy like Rondon, the Tigers will still be needing him. The bullpen has looked adequate so far, but teams can never have too many reliable pitchers. If Rondon can come in and lock down that 8th inning role — instead of the team relying on Joba Chamberlain — a lot of Tigers fans would rejoice.

    Also to be considered is the eventual return of Alex Avila. Avila’s been the most controversial player among Tigers fans recently. Some people love him but a lot of people hate him because of his bat.

    The thing about Avila’s bat though is that he’s average to good against right-handed pitchers. In his Major League career he’s hit .256/.359/.433. It’s against left-handed pitchers where he struggles most of the time. He’s hit .211/.297/.309 against lefties, almost a .200 drop in OPS between the two.

    But that’s where a guy like James McCann comes in. The platoon with McCann and Avila is ideal. McCann doesn’t hit righties nearly as well as he hits lefties.

    Another reason that many fans don’t take into consideration is how much better Avila makes his staff. This isn’t a knock on McCann in any way, it’s simply that Avila’s pitch-framing abilities and game-calling abilities are so much more advanced as a veteran.

    With Avila being a free agent at the end of this year, a team will understand what he brings to the table and offer him a fair deal. Personally I hope the Tigers offer Avila a cheap, reasonable contract to compliment the platoon with McCann.

    The rookie McCann has been more than solid this year. His 100 OPS+ indicates that he’s been right around a league-average hitter in his debut season. For the back-up catcher coming into the season that’s surely impressive.

    But Avila’s on the team for a reason. And it’s not because his dad is in the front office. He brings a legitimate aspect to this Tigers team and that needs to be acknowledged. In a platoon role Avila is valuable, especially with a young guy like McCann.

    The best news though is that our injured Tigers seem to be getting better. If everything goes well all four Tigers discussed might be back with the team within the next few weeks.

    With the team’s recent stretch any help they can get will be important. The fact that these guys can be game changers helps them a lot more. It also helps that this team is just too talented to continue losing in this way. It’s one of many slumps a team will go through over a long, grueling 162-game season.

    Now, your thoughts. How do you feel about this Tigers team so far ? Which player do you think will have the biggest impact once they rejoin the Tigers? Whatever the case, the Tigers will need to start playing better if they want to capture that 5th straight AL Central crown.

    Next: Does Brad Ausmus have what it takes?

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