Ian Kinsler’s Improved Play a Good Sign for the Detroit Tigers

Ian Kinsler may have just provided the Detroit Tigers the spark the team so desperately needed.

The second baseman went yard twice against the Seattle Mariners to give the Tigers a much needed win. The victory leveled Detroit’s record at 46-46 and instilled some hope into a situation that hasn’t been ideal.

Kinsler tends to go cold in the second half after strong starts to seasons. Case in point, his first-half, career batting average and OPS? .284 and .818. His second half numbers? .257 batting average, .714 OPS.

However, just as the Tigers have struggled in the first half, so too has Kinsler. The second baseman hit .283 in April/March before slumping to .262 in May and .242 in June. Again, just like the Tigers’ season, Kinsler’s recent play may be a sign of things to come.

The former Texas Ranger entered Monday’s contest with a scorching .328 batting average in the month of July.

His renewed offensive prowess will only benefit the Tigers.

Manager Brad Ausmus has written a number of different players’ names in the first two spots of the batting order. However, the one constant has been Kinsler. Whether hitting first or second, Kinsler has maintained the role of table setter.

Thanks to his recent hot-streak, he could be setting the table much more often. If Kinsler can consistently reach base with the hitting acumen he’s shown in July, the Tigers offense shouldn’t have problems down the stretch—Miguel Cabrera or no. Kinsler’s ability to reach base will present more RBI opportunities for hitters like Victor Martinez and Yoenis Cespedes. Additionally, with bottom-of-the-order hitters Jose Iglesias and Anthony Gose reaching at high rates, Kinsler will have a fair share of RBI opportunities himself.

This improved offense will help cover up the starting pitching struggles the Tigers have experienced as of late. More runs won’t mask the issue outright, but it will help.

For the Tigers, and their fans, Ian Kinsler’s tear at the plate is hopefully a sign of things to come. If anything, Monday’s game is the beginning of something special.

All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.

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Detroit Tigers: Series Against Mariners is a Golden Opportunity

Things aren’t going according to plain in Detroit. Not a single soul thought the team would be below .500 this far into the season. Sure, the starting pitching would be taking a slight step back, but the defense would be much better, as would the bullpen. And oh yeah, the offense would still be dynamite.

But the Tigers started to miss breaks, for lack of a better term (you know, the opposite of catching breaks). Victor Martinez struggled out of the gate before missing a chunk of time on the disabled list. Justin Verlander was on the DL for the first two months of the season and has been up-and-down upon returning. Both Alfredo Simon and Shane Greene scuffled mightily after encouraging starts. Anibal Sanchez struggled initially (before settling down) and Miguel Cabrera is on a long, injury induced break.

Yeah, things aren’t great in Motown.

Throw in the potential free agent departures of David Price and Yoenis Cespedes as well as the fact that the Tigers will enter the week 10.5 games behind Kansas City in the Central and you have even more uncertainty.

But hey, the Mariners are coming to town!

The Seattle Mariners, owners of the American League’s worst record, come to Comerica for four games. Detroit went into cavernous Safeco Field just a few weeks ago and turned the pitcher’s park into a launch pad for home runs.

Detroit will face the same team that served up all those bombs, without Felix Hernandez. King Felix started at Yankee Stadium on Sunday, meaning he’ll miss the series. Instead, the Tigers will face Hisashi Iwakuma, Taijuan Walker, Mike Montgomery and J.A. Happ.

During the series in Seattle, the Tigers scored 14 times combined against Iwakuma, Walker and Happ. They plated five against both Iwakuma and Walker, while they put four across against Happ. Happ’s home ERA is 2.66. His road ERA is 5.59.

Throw in a suspect Seattle bullpen and an offense that is Nelson-Cruz-and-no-one-else, Detroit has a major chance to get back into the thick of things. While Detroit is 10.5 games back in the division, they are a much more manageable 4.5 games back in the wild card.

This could be there chance to get on a roll and reenter the playoff race, if not the division race. Crazier things have happened.

All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.

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Detroit Tigers: Miguel Cabrera Replacements

The Detroit Tigers earned a vital win on Friday to break out of a slump, but they may have sustained a potentially crippling injury. The key word here is “crippling,” because while Miguel Cabrera’s likely six-week absence might be detrimental to the Tigers hopes this year, it also might rally the team together until Cabrera returns.

The unlucky part of the situation is the severity of the injury. It will keep Miggy out longer than a quick trip to the disabled list, meaning the Tigers can’t just can cobble together internal replacements to bridge the gap. The injury is short enough  from a time standpoint that it prohibits the team from moving for a replacement that brings a similar skillset— like when Prince Fielder was signed to make up for the loss of Victor Martinez.

Detroit can’t acquire a player of Cabrera’s ilk who plays first base, because they won’t have anywhere to put him when Miggy returns. A bench/platoon power hitter would be ideal. That way the player can shift to the bench as pinch-hitting option number one.

Finding that player is the tricky bit. Internal options are scarce and the trade market isn’t exactly swimming with loads of options either.

Jefry Marte was called up from Triple-A as the corresponding move when Cabrera hit the DL. Marte hit .277 with Toledo this season. He isn’t necessarily a prolific power hitter, with 13 being his career high. Those 13 bombs have come this year, in only 77 games. Still, Marte is a third baseman and doesn’t play first. You get the feeling he’d be the first one heading back to the minors once another addition is made.

So who would that addition be? It remains to be seen.

Mike Hessman is a phone call away in Toledo. However, while he has plenty of power, he’s a career .233 hitter in the minors and is 37.

Other than Marte and Hessman, the internal options include playing other hitters out of position at first. Alex Avila and his sudden defensive wizardry could receive more starts, especially if James McCann continues to play well behind the dish. Another player that could be shoehorned into the slot is Andrew Romine, who is quietly hitting .314 in 53 games.

Outside of those underwhelming (compared to Cabrera of course), options, there’s always the trade market.

There aren’t that many enticing options on the market, but the upside to that is the team won’t have to sacrifice too much to bring in a replacement.

Adam Lind may be the most expensive in terms of what it would cost to acquire. The former Blue Jay and current Brewer is hitting .295 this season, mainly against right handed pitching. Lind destroys/mashes/obliterates (you get the point) righties to the tune of a .308 batting average and a .927 OPS. If the Brewers were in the American League, they’d have the league’s worst record. Only the Rockies, Marlins and Phillies have fewer wins in the National League. To put it plainly, the Brew Crew are putrid this year. Dealing a 31-year-old who belongs at designated hitter in the AL may be the best move for Milwaukee.

For as much flack as the Tigers’ minor league system takes, they have a number of catching prospects and relief pitching prospects who could be moved. A rebuilding team like Milwaukee can use all the young pieces it can get. They’ve already reaped the benefits of bringing in former Tiger Hernan Perez, who’s hitting .362 in 26 games. Perhaps they’d be open to acquiring more Tigers players.

Coincidentally, the other first baseman on the market come from the NL’s other cellar dwellers. The Phillies’ Ryan Howard and the Rockies’ Justin Morneau could both be moved. However, Howard is a .220 hitter this year and led the league in strikeouts in 2014. Did I mention he also has a monstrous contract? The Phills would probably eat a considerable amount of Howard’s salary, but Detroit can likely find better production elsewhere—minus the salary commitment.

If healthy, Morneau would provide a solid addition. He’s experienced a career renaissance in Colorado, hitting .319 last season and .290 this year. Morneau isn’t the MVP candidate he once was, but he’ll more than likely give you a high batting average, 20 home runs and 80 RBI over the course of a full season. Adding Morneau would continue the Tigers’ recent trend of bringing in former Minnesota All-Stars to bolster their team. Morneau would join Torii Hunter and Joe Nathan as recent former Twins to suit up for the Tigers.

There’s also the wild card factor to consider with general manager Dave Dombrowski and the Tigers. No one really tabbed Detroit as front runners, or even contenders to trade for Cabrera or David Price. Going purely on that, Dombrowski might pull the unexpected.

Regardless of what route the Tigers take in attempting to replace Miguel Cabrera, it won’t be easy. The team isn’t stocked with trade chips, thus making the task tougher.

There are few positives to be had. Victor Martinez is beginning to regain his hitting stroke while J.D. Martinez continues to mash home runs. Victor and J.D. aren’t alone. Anthony Gose, Romine and Josh Wilson are all providing above-average production for hitters generally confined to the bottom of the lineup.

Still, Cabrera is the league’s best hitter and one of the best hitters of the century. He’s impossible to replace. The Tigers will certainly be tested with their best player out, but they have enough talent to stay in contention and make a run.

All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.

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Detroit Tigers: Victor Martinez’ Recent Hot Streak a Good Sign

The Detroit Tigers haven’t been themselves offensively. Sure, they still possess one of the deepest lineups in the league, not to mention the game’s best hitter (Miguel Cabrera), but the team hasn’t shown the offensive firepower that has been a hallmark of years past.

A lot of this has to do with Victor Martinez struggles. Not that its V-Mart’s fault, but he hasn’t been himself since offseason surgery. The Tigers haven’t been themselves either. They entered Sunday with the Majors’ 12th best offense in terms of runs scored. Not a particularly bad distinction, but it looks worse when as a team, the Tigers have consistently been one of baseball’s best offensive units in seasons past.

To give you an idea of how Martinez hasn’t been himself, here are two different players.

Player A: Two home runs, 22 RBI, .321 OBP, .319 slugging percentage.

Player B: One home run, 19 RBI, .330 OBP, .383 slugging percentage.

Player A is Martinez. Player B is Ben Revere, a player with three career home runs and little power (extra base hits included).

Never the most prolific power hitter, Martinez only has the two home runs this season. Still, his other numbers are more troubling. The Tigers DH’s .243 batting average and .321 on-base percentage are a far cry from his statistical output from last season when he lead the league in on-bae percentage and finished second in MVP voting.

However, things seem to be turning around for Martinez, and this can only mean good things for the Tigers.

In eight games since returning from injury, Martinez is hitting a very characteristic .333 with seven RBI (including one home run). During that span, he has collected three hits on two occasions, while chipping in with two during another game.

In his first 34, pre-injury games, V-Mart put up seven multi-hit games. In eight games since returning, he already has three.

Martinez’ hot streak doesn’t necessarily mean he’s back to his old self, his on-base and slugging percentages over the tear aren’t close to his usual numbers, but the hot streak can only be positive for the Tigers as they look to catapult themselves back into the American League Central race.

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3 Stats from the Detroit Tigers 8-7 Loss vs the Chicago White Sox

  • Two

The number of strikeouts by Tigers reliever Bruce Rondon in his first appearance of the year. The flame-throwing reliever struck out both batters that he faced. He’ll play a vital role in the Detroit ‘pen moving forward.

  • Zero

The number of runs allowed by Rondon, Blaine Hardy, Alex Wilson and Joakim Soria. This seems to be part of, if not all of manager Brad Ausmus’ preferred group when the game is on the line. Joba Chamberlain lost the game for the team by allowing three runs in the tenth.

  • Three

The number of hits by both Jose Iglesias and Victor Martinez. It’s business as usual for Iglesias this season, but a positive sign for V-Mart, as he seems to be turning a corner.

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3 Stats from the Detroit Tigers 8-2 Loss vs the Cleveland Indians

  • Zero

The number of at-bats by Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera. Miggy received a rare day off.

  • Three

The number of strikeouts by Tigers outfielder Yoenis Cespedes. With Cabrera getting the day off, everyone moved up a spot in terms of the usual middle of the order. This meant Cespedes hitting cleanup behind Victor Martinez. The outfielder had a single hit in four at-bats, striking out three times.

  • Five

The number of strikeouts by starting pitcher Buck Farmer. Farmer, making a spot start, allowed eight hits and two walks to go along with the five runs (all of which were earned). On the bright side, the youngster did strike out seven Cleveland batters.

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3 Stats from the Detroit Tigers 7-3 Win vs the Cleveland Indians

  • Zero

The number of walks by Tigers starter David Price. The Detroit ace fanned seven batters, allowed one run and nine hits while handing out a grand total of zero free passes. He moved to 7-2 on the season with the win.

  • Five

The number of RBI by the middle of the Detroit order not named Miguel Cabrera. Victor Martinez, Yoenis Cespedes and Nick Castellanos combined to go five-for-twelve at the plate with five RBI and two runs scored.

  • 157

The total number of pitches thrown by the Tigers.  Included in the total number of pitches was 1.1 combined innings of relief from Al Alburquerque and Tom Gorzelanny. The duo didn’t allow a base runner and struck out one batter between them. Alex Wilson allowed three hits and two runs (both unearned) in one inning of relief.

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3 Stats from the Detroit Tigers 8-5 Win vs the Cleveland Indians

  • Three

The number of this and runs scored by Tigers leftfielder Yoenis Cespedes. After J.D. and Victor Martinez went off at the plate, it was Cespedes’ turn against Cleveland. The outfielder also scored twice while registering zero strikeouts.

  • 1

The number of innings thrown by reliever Blaine Hardy. Hardy, who came on in place of starter Kyle Ryan, picked up the win, his third of the season. He lowered his ERA to 2.61 while tallying a single strikeout.

  • One

The number of Tigers without a hit. Ironically enough, the only Detroit hitter held hitless was J.D. Martinez. Martinez went yard three times in his previous game, but failed to extend his hot streak. He drew a walk and struck out twice.

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3 Stats from the Detroit #Tigers 12-4 Win vs the New York Yankees

Rejoice! The stats are back. After a short hiatus, these kind of pieces are back to stay at Know Hitter. Here’s three stats from Detroit’s triumphant 12-4 victory against the Yankees.

  • Three

The number of home runs by J.D. Martinez. Safe to say the dude was on fire. He drove in six runs on the say, propelling the Tigers to the win. The outfielder has never hit more than two bombs in a game, but on Sunday he mashed three.

  • Four

Victor Martinez is officially back ladies and gents. V-Mart posted a very… well, V-Mart stat line during Sunday’s win, going three-for-six with four RBI and two runs scored. In typical fashion, he didn’t strike out once. Like J.D., Victor also went yard. Although in Victor’s case he was limited to one home run. Still, a fantastic day at the plate for one of the league’s best pure hitters.

  • One

The number of times Miguel Cabrera failed to reach base. Miggy collected two hits and two walks, while scoring two runs. He’s hitting an absurd .346 on the season.

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Five Stats from the Detroit Tigers 4-0 Loss to the Oakland Athletics

  • Four

The number of hits by the Tigers. This simply isn’t going to cut it against most big league opposition. Detroit also drew a singular walk to add to its baserunner total.

  • Zero

The number of hits by shortstop Dixon Machado in his Major League debut. He saw a total of eight pitches and grounded into a double play.

  • One

The number of Tigers with more than one hit. Tyler Collins accounted for half of the Tigers hits with a 2-for-4 showing at the plate. He’s now hitting .267 on the season. On a day when Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez were out of the lineup, Detroit couldn’t get the rest of the team to generate any offense.

  • 2

The number of innings pitched by Tigers starter Shane Greene. The former Yankee allowed eight hits and four runs while striking out four.

  • Two

The number of strikeouts by Alex Wilson in only an innings of work. Wilson and Blaine Hardy combined to throw 2.1 innings of shutout ball once Greene departed.

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