Detroit Tigers 2016: Position Player Locks, Uncertainties and Likely Departures

Somewhat recently, Know Hitter looked at the pitchers that are locks, uncertainties, or likely departures ahead of next season.

Now it’s time to look at the hitters, where there are much fewer uncertainties. This doesn’t mean changes won’t come about for Detroit, but most of the offense is expected to stay put.


James McCann

McCann was extremely impressive as a rookie. The young backstop hit .264, while also committing zero errors in 114 games. He looks like he’ll be in the Motor City for the next decade. He may not have the offensive acumen of Ivan Rodriguez or Alex Avila (before injuries took their toll), but if he can continue to gradually improve upon his .264 batting average, he has a chance to be special. McCann also hit five triples, a pretty spectacular number for a catcher.

Miguel Cabrera

Come on, too easy.

Ian Kinsler

The former Texas Ranger has quickly become one of Detroit’s most indispensable players. He’s provided elite defense (2.9 and 2.5 dWAR in his two seasons in Motown) while at times carrying the team offensively. Kinsler managed to drive in 73 runs despite an early power outage that saw him hit only three home runs through June. You can make the case that with the exception of J.D. Martinez, Kinsler was the Tigers’ MVP last season.

Jose Iglesias

If a guy can do all this (see video below) and hit .296, you’ve got a keeper for the next decade.

Nick Castellanos

At only 23-years-old, Castellanos has already driven in 139 runs in the big leagues. Some prospects don’t even reach the Majors at that age. While a .255 batting average is nothing to write home about, Castellanos showed flashes of brilliance and greatly improved defensively. He also managed to increase his total number of hits, doubles, triples, home runs, RBI and walks. Kid’s got a bright future.

J.D. Martinez

Maybe we’ll call the Tigers’ MVP award race a tie and hand it to both Kinsler and Martinez. For his part, Martinez proved that 2014 was no fluke. The former Houston Astro snagged a spot on the All-Star team in addition to a .282 batting average, 38 home runs and 102 RBI. Like McCann, Iglesias and Castellanos, you can plug him into the Detroit lineup for the better part of the next decade.

Anthony Gose

Gose only hit .254 for the Tigers, but provided solid defense while stealing 23 bases. He platooned with Rajai Davis in center field last year, expect a similar platoon predicament for Gose next season. The speedy outfielder will likely serve as the team’s primary source of speed.

Victor Martinez

V-Mart struggled last year, hitting .245 in 120 games. The designated hitter’s power numbers were down as well with only 20 doubles, 11 home runs and 64 RBI in those contests. With his massive contract, Martinez isn’t going anywhere. Despite the struggles, look for the Tigers’ DH to bounce back next season.

Andrew Romine

Romine seems a solid bet to make the roster thanks to his ability to play around the infield. He also adds a bit of speed (10 stolen bases) off the bench.

Tyler Collins

Even if it’s as a bench bat, Collins has proved he belongs on the team next season. The outfielder hit .266 with a .732 OPS in 60 games. As it stands, he may be the best bench bat the Tigers employ.


Dixon Machado

Even if Romine makes the team, fellow infielder Machado stands a good chance of making it as well. The middle infielder’s defense has been big-league ready for years, and he showed promise in limited cup of coffee.

Rajai Davis

Davis would certainly make sense as a bench bat/pinch runner, but another team offering more cash and playing time may come calling. Additionally, the Tigers may opt for a different alternative to Gose in center. The fact remains that Davis is still a fit for the club if the stars align. It would shock no one if Davis is once again wearing an Old English “D” in 2016.

Steven Moya

Moya has all kinds of potential thanks to his famous power. He needs to work on his plate discipline however, and may be better suited at Triple-A Toledo for a season before joining the Tigers for good in 2017. If he shows well in the minors, a mid-season call up certainly isn’t out of the question.

Bryan Holaday

Whether Holaday makes the team or not is probably entirely dependent on whether new general manager Al Avila signs another catcher to backup McCann. If no other backstops are brought in, expect Holaday to serve as McCann’s deputy in 2016.

Jefry Marte

Another young player who showed flashes of potential, Marte may find himself in Triple-A. His power would certainly help the Detroit bench, but with Romine able to handle both of the positions that Marte plays, the former Oakland Athletics farm hand could be with Toledo. Still, if Marte tears it up in Spring Training, the Tigers will have a tough decision on their hands.

Likely Departures/ Departures

Alex Avila

Avila’s father/Tigers GM Al Avila has already stated that he doesn’t see resigning Alex “as a priority.” In other words, it appears that the younger Avila has played his final game with Detroit. He’ll likely sign elsewhere in search of more playing time.

Josh Wilson

Wilson was outrighted by the Tigers and elected free agency as opposed to staying in the organization. The infielder hit /316 in a 21 game cameo for the Tigers, driving in five runs in the process.

All stats courtesy of unless otherwise noted.

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Detroit Tigers Lineup vs the Texas Rangers 8/21/15

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Detroit Tigers: Ian Kinsler Is Having A Backwards Season… And That’s Just Fine With The Tigers

Ian Kinsler tends to be an extremely good baseball player in the first half of every season. And while he doesn’t fall off the face of the earth in the second half, historically, his numbers drop. Kinsler has 405 career first-half RBI, but only 281 career second-half RBI. He’s a career .284 hitter in the season’s first half, but only a .264 hitter in the second half.

This season has been different—much different.

The second baseman went 0-for-4 with a strikeout in a 9-3 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates, dropping his average to an uncharacteristically low .258. This was a major flip-of-the-script as far as Kinsler was concerned. The former Texas Ranger generally puts up lower (comparatively) numbers in the second half—not the first.

Luckily for the Tigers, Kinsler took off after that. He collected three hits, including a double, while scoring a run, driving in another. He’s hit an absolutely scorching .385 (!) since with five home runs, three triples, 14 doubles and 31 runs scored in 41 games. Over that span he’s struck out a relatively low 19 times. You want another stat? Ok, here’s another one—his OPS since July 2nd is 1.002.

Kinsler hit so well that manager Brad Ausmus moved him down to the third spot in the order in an attempt to re-solidify the offense. The hot streak couldn’t have come at a better time. Miguel Cabrera went down only a few days after Kinsler started raking and only returned recently. Throw in Victor Martinez’ struggles (.240 batting average, .698 OPS since July 1st) and you start to wonder where Detroit would be without their second baseman.

If Monday’s rain delay-induced marathon was any indication, Kinsler isn’t slowing down. The four-time All-Star’s stat line: 5-for-5, three runs scored, two RBI and a home run—all the while seeing a joint-team high 25 pitches.

With Cabrera back in the lineup Kinsler is back in the second spot in the batting order, but that hasn’t slowed him down. In the four games since Cabrera returned, the second baseman is hitting .389 with four runs scored and three RBI.

With Cabrera hitting .333 since his return, not to mention an absurd 1.167 OPS, Detroit will be hoping the Kinsler-Cabrera two-headed monster in the team’s top third of the order will mean more runs and a push towards the playoffs. An offense can only do so much, but when a team has a catalyst displaying the hitting acumen Kinsler has shown as of late, it certainly doesn’t hurt.

All stats courtesy of unless otherwise noted.

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The Detroit Tigers Aren’t Out of the Playoff Race Yet

Entering Friday, the Tigers sat an uninspiring 13 games out of the American League Central lead. However, they also began the day only five games back of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim for the second wild card spot.

Why is this important?

Because Miguel Cabrera is back.

The slugger returns from a lengthy disabled-list stint and immediately gives the Tigers a massive shot in the arm (understatement of the century).

Cabrera’s numbers on the season? A .350 batting average, a .456 OBP, a 1.034 OPS (!), 15 home runs, 54 RBI and 32 extra-base-hits.

Yeah, he’s going to help the Tigers.

Detroit opens a three-game set in Houston against the Astros on Friday before facing the Cubs in Chicago before returning home to face Texas. The former Marlin slots in at third in the Tigers’ batting order. His arrival means the red-hot Ian Kinsler (.374 batting average, .979 OPS since the start of July) receives more at-bats in the second spot in the order. It also means less pressure on Victor Martinez and J.D. Martinez, who slide down the order. At the very least, Cabrera moves everyone but Kinsler down in the lineup, thereby lengthening it considerably.

To put Cabrera’s importance to the team in perspective, his WAR is 4.0. That’s for wins above replacement. Four wins. Add four wins to the Tigers and they would be .500 on the season.

Not only is Cabrera back, but Bruce Rondon is pitching like the pitcher most thought he would become. Rondon owns a 1.80 ERA over his last 11 appearances, striking out 14 batters in ten innings in the process.

Rondon’s resurgence gives the Tigers three dependable, late-inning arms at the end of games. With Rondon, Alex Wilson and Blaine Hardy, there less of a need to feel anxious when the Tigers close out games.

Further stats of note on Rondon? His FIP (Fielding independent pitching—basically an ERA that the pitcher can control) is 2.43, lower than every reliever the Tigers have used this season. He’s also allowed only three base-runners (one hit, two walks) over his last six outings. He’s struck out 40% of the batters he’s faced over that span. In terms of his last six outings, Rondon’s opponents are managing a .259 OPS.

If he continues to pitch like that down the stretch in save-situations, the Tigers are going to be tough to beat.

The tricky part of the wild-card situation is that the do have to beat a number of teams (at least in the standings) in order to make it into October. The Texas Rangers, Minnesota Twins, Baltimore Orioles and Tampa Bay Rays all sit ahead of Detroit in the wild card race. That’s not to mention the New York Yankees and the Angels, who lead the race. Even with all those teams ahead of them, the Tigers can take solace in the fact that all of them (with the exceptions of Tampa Bay and Texas) have struggled as of late. New York and Baltimore are both 4-6 over their last ten respective games while Anaheim is 5-5. Minnesota is the fastest sinking ship in the harbor with a 3-7 record over the team’s last ten contests.

With Miguel Cabrera back in the fold and the back-end of the Tigers bullpen gaining some much needed consistency, the Tigers aren’t out of the playoff picture yet, not even close. Throw in some uncertainty ahead of the team in the standings and Detroit has the potential to make some noise down the stretch and once again make the postseason.

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Detroit Tigers Lineup vs the Kansas City Royals 8/12/15

Here’s the Detroit Tigers’ lineup as Daniel Norris takes the mound in Kansas City against the Royals. 

(RELATED: Tigers must stop being patient with the bullpen).

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Detroit Tigers: Predicting the Lineup in 2020

After trading David Price, Joakim Soria and Yoenis Cespedes (in that order no less!), the Detroit Tigers are seem to have an eye on the future. The team will still be ultra-aggressive in winning in the short-term, but the trades of the impending free agents signal that the team is at least conscious of building a long-term winner that is more sustainable. Here’s a look at what that future might entail. Without further ado, ladies and gentleman, you’re 2020 Detroit Tigers (as it stands right now anyways…).

  • C: James McCann

Anyone under the impression that James McCann would take time to acclimate have been dead wrong. The catcher has lived up to his reputation defensively—he leads all catchers in fielding percentage (0 errors) while grading out well in defensive metrics. McCann also has thrown out 45% of would-be base stealers. The 25-year-old is hitting .282 with 22 extra-base-hits and owns a 1.3 WAR as a rookie. The Tigers seem set behind the plate for the next decade.

1B: Miguel Cabrera

By this point, Miguel Cabrera will be one of the game’s greatest all-time players. He isn’t going anywhere, regardless of his salary.

2B: Dixon Machado/ JaCoby Jones

Here’s where it gets interesting. Ian Kinsler will be 38 by this point, and the Tigers have two excellent converted shortstops ready to take the reins. Machado is currently at Triple-A, and is a plus-plus defender while Jones is at Double-A and has tantalizing potential.

Machado has already earned a cup of coffee with the Tigers this season and with a .267 batting average in the high-minors, there’s hope that he’ll offensive potential to go along with his excellent defense.

While further down the minor-league ladder, Jones possess just as much potential as Machado—if not more. The former third-round pick has raw power to go along with elite athleticism and plus-plus capabilities on defense that allow him to play most positions. This will obviously be the case with Jose Iglesias entrenched at shortstop, so expect Jones to be in the Tigers lineup come 2020, if not much, much sooner. The prospect is off to a strong start in Double-A after hitting three home runs in one game soon after arriving from Pittsburgh.  

SS: Jose Iglesias

When a 25-year-old shortstop can do this

And this

Then you’ve clearly found a keeper. Throw in the fact that Iglesias is hitting .318 this year (and in the process earning his first All-Star nod) and you might just see him in a Tigers uniform in 2025, let alone 2020.

3B: Nick Castellanos

Nick Castellanos is finally starting to become the hitter everyone thought he would be.

While his .237 batting average this season is far from encouraging, his recent numbers are. The third baseman is hitting .276 with seven home runs, 24 RBI and an .846 OPS since June 23rd.

Castellanos still has work to do in terms of reaching full potential, but the fact that he has almost surpassed his home run and RBI totals from last season is an extremely good sign moving forward. It seems like he’s been around for ages, but Castellanos is still only 23-years-old. When he reaches his prime, he should be a more-than-competent middle-of-the-order bat.

LF: Anthony Gose/ Christian Stewart/ JaCoby Jones

Again, another tough decision. Gose will only be 29 in 2020, so he’ll likely still be with the team if he performs well. But, by that time he’ll likely have shifted to left in order to accommodate top prospect Derek Hill.

Stewart is one of the team’s better outfield prospects. He may not be on Gose’s level defensively, but it seems that his offense will be his meal ticket in the bigs. Jones’ potential won’t be recounted again, but put it this way—he can be a plus defender in the outfield as well as the infield.

CF: Derek Hill

Hill isn’t going to be a power-hitting player in The Show, but he’s got plenty of speed to help him reach the bigs and stay there. Hill has what scouts would call “plus” speed. The prospect also possesses good plate discipline. He’ll be a dangerous leadoff-type hitter for the Tigers for years to come—not to mention a strong defensive centerfielder.

RF: J.D. Martinez

Maybe the biggest lock here not named Miguel, J.D. Martinez isn’t leaving Detroit any time. Right now its probably a safe bet to assume he’ll be with the team until he retires. The Tigers will need protection for Cabrera once Victor Martinez retires/departs, and they already have that in J.D.

Fun fact: J.D. Martinez has homered in three consecutive games three different times this season.

DH: Steven Moya

If Moya can put it together in Triple-A, this job’s his. Dude can hit the ball a mile.

Bookmark/subscribe/follow/keep on eye on Know Hitter over the next few days—coming soon, predicting the Tigers pitching staff in 2020.

All stats courtesy of unless otherwise noted.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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