Miguel Cabrera. Duh. Max Scherzer, of course. Victor Martinez, another no brainer.
When the fan voting was finally over, the Detroit Tigers had three players selected to the 2014 All-Star Game in Minnesota: Cabrera coming off an MVP season, Scherzer after his Cy Young season, and Martinez who has continued his torrid pace since July, 2013.
Let’s take a look at these guys by the numbers through the first half of the season.
Cabrera is batting .308 along with 14 home runs and 68 RBIs through 85 games of the campaign. For any normal human these numbers would be stellar; however Cabrera is no normal human. Ever since he hit a walk-off home run in the first game of his career it was clear that Cabrera was made from something other than just bones, tendons and ligaments.
To open the season, Cabrera had one of the worst months of his professional career. By April 21, Cabrera was barely sitting above the Mendoza Line, hitting just .206, with one home run and six RBIs through 16 games. Over his next 69 games, Cabrera returned to his usual self. Hehit another 13 home runs and 67 RBIs to remind us of his half-bionic, half-human tendencies.
Cabrera is the game’s most dangerous hitter since Hank Aaron, and even though he is not having his best season, he is still deserving to be in the All-Star Game. Let’s put it this way, from his 2013 MVP season, his hits, home runs, RBIs, batting average and slugging percentage have all dropped, but he is still projected to finish with over 30 home runs, 120 RBIs, and hit .315.
Scherzer turned down $144 million after his Cy Young award-winning season because he felt he was an even better pitcher than that. So far, Scherzer has been correct.
Scherzer has had an up-and-down season, much like the parody that has been going around the Major Leagues. When he is good, he is really good. When he is bad, well let’s just say his numbers are almost as crooked as his devastating slider can be.
Through nine starts, Scherzer was even better than in his unbelievable Cy Young campaign. He was 6-1 with a 1.83 ERA and 73 strikeouts compared to just 20 walks. It appeared as if he was on his way towards what could be another Cy Young season, but as the Tigers’ struggles continued, so did Scherzer’s.
From May 19 to June 18 the Tigers had a league worst 9-20 record, and starting pitching was one of the biggest reasons to blame. In his six starts during that span, Scherzer gave up an unfathomable 30 earned runs. During the stretch, he had games of four, four, five, seven and 10 earned runs, as he saw his ERA more than double from 1.83 to 3.84 after his June 17 start.
Yet, Scherzer has turned it around and brought his numbers back into masterful form. Scherzer is 10-3 with a 3.47 ERA, and with Justin Verlander’s struggles, has taken the role of ace for the time being. Detroit is going to need Scherzer to be the Scherzer of 2013 if they hope to make it to the promised land.
Last, but certainly not least, Martinez. One of the most interesting storylines heading into the season was: would Martinez be able to pick up the slack from Prince Fielder leaving?
Martinez has undoubtedly answered that question in the first half of 2014.
Martinez has exploded, resuming his old spot behind Miguel Cabrera, and is having, without a doubt, the best season of his already impressive career. Martinez’s career .304 batting average and .370 OBP are both up over 20 points to .328 and .391, respectively, and he is just four home runs shy of tying his career high (25).
With Martinez’s power numbers rising, it makes it all the more impressive that his batting average is up. In general, when power numbers go up, strikeouts also go up. Martinez has bucked this trend in a major way. Martinez has 21 home runs and just 23 strikeouts. To compare this to who is widely considered the best hitter on the planet, Cabrera has 14 home runs and 55 strikeouts.
What makes Martinez’s performance so impressive is he does it from both sides of the plate. He is a .303 hitter from the left and .395 from the right. The large gap in these splits can most likely be attributed to the amount of at-bats from each side, but no matter how you look at it, a switch-hitter at above .300 from both sides of the plate is scary good.
HONORABLE MENTION: Rick Porcello made the American League Final Vote, as he is having the best year of his career. While being on a pitching staff with two previous Cy Young winners (Scherzer and Verlander), and another starter with a no-hitter to his credit (Anibal Sanchez), the fourth starter can be easily overlooked.
Not for this 25-year-old right hander. Porcello has embraced his role and takes the ball every fifth day and goes out to give Detroit the best chance to win.
During the Tigers’ rough month, Porcello struggled as he saw his ERA climb from 2.91 to 4.04 from May 17 to June 9. Since then, Porcello has been a different pitcher altogether. Pitching coach Jeff Jones, manager Brad Ausmus and Porcello all agree that this has stemmed from Porcello’s ability to finally consistently keep his sinker at the bottom of the zone. He did that in his last start of June, and first start of July as he became the first Tiger pitcher since the great Jack Morris to throw back-to-back shutouts.
Porcello is currently sitting at 11-5 with a 3.53 ERA. Even though he has numbers almost identical to Scherzer’s, Porcello is looking to get to the first All-Star Game of his career, and will need the fans’ help to do it.
Porcello will have to wait until July 10 at 4 p.m to hear if his name will be called to join his teammates in Minnesota for the 85th All-Star Game.
Tony Garcia is the host of Tiger Talk for Impact Sports.