Old English Report: The Detroit Roller Coaster

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You thought the Old English Report was gone? Think again. The Tigers, although the most frustrating team in the league, haven’t caused me to break my computer yet.

Michigan’s favorite roller coaster ride kept things typical to the overall season this past week, achieving another 3-4 week. You couldn’t ask for more of an up-and-down season than what the Tigers have given fans, as they still have yet to turn the corner and get on that one hot streak that propels them to a wild card spot–or even better, the top of the AL Central. On the flip side, they haven’t had a solid losing streak since the abysmal stretch at the beginning of May where the team won just once in a 12 game span, leaving fans wondering, “when will the pain end?”

Overall Record: 51-48

Games out of First: 6

Games out of the Wild Card: 4

*All offensive numbers as of July 24 (post game one)

The Power of Positivity

Coming out of the All Star break, ESPN’s Buster Olney released his second half strength of schedule rankings. The Tigers found themselves right at the top with the second-hardest second half schedule behind the New York Yankees.

There is a silver lining in all of this, as Detroit also has the most home games remaining of any other team with 36 (they have already played six games at home in the second half). Comerica Park has been kind to the Tigers as they’ve gone 26-19 when playing in the D.

It doesn’t matter how you want to look at this, this is the Tigers’ time to prove they can run with the best of them. If they miss the playoffs, fans will certainly point fingers and say it’s because they had a tough schedule. But in reality, the teams they will play in this second half (Boston twice, Houston, Texas, Baltimore, Kansas City three times, and Cleveland twice) are the teams that could very well end up in the playoffs. The Tigers don’t deserve to be in the playoffs if they can’t win these key series.

Unacceptable Performance

On no planet should the contending Tigers drop two of three games to the Minnesota Twins, and in no universe should they be held to one hit by Tommy Malone until the ninth inning. In a rigorous second half, it is imperative these “gimme games” are won.

The Dog Days

The dog days are those hot summer days where teams are right in the middle of the season, trying to find a way to stay fresh and compete everyday.

Two guys who haven’t been able to stay fresh are the two big boppers Detroit needs in order to win, those being Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez. Cabrera has recently gotten things going again, but from July 1 up until the Minnesota series (July 18), he was hitting .214 in July. Miggy has picked it back up now, sitting at .286 with six RBI for the month thanks to some productive games. Also, on July 22, he finally cashed in with the bases loaded for the first time all season on a hit that gave him his 1500th career RBI, a true milestone.

Yet Martinez continues to struggle, sitting at a dreadful .164 for July. This brings us to the next point…

Is Victor Martinez Worth Having in the Lineup if He’s Hitting Under .300?

This is not the most favorable hot take, or for that matter even a realistic take, as most teams would love to have a designated hitter batting in the upper .200s. But as the aging Martinez struggles at the plate in the middle of a playoff race, you have to wonder what he brings to the table.

There’s no arguing he’s one of the greatest pure hitters in the game, and his sweet swing is the reason he is still able to have an All-Star caliber slash line at the age of 37. But 69 percent of his hits are singles, and for a guy who has lost the Tigers about 5.3 runs this season due to his base running, that’s not necessarily a good thing. Trying to get V-Mart home is quite the odyssey. Singles that would normally score a guy on second are not a thing for Martinez. And deep gappers that may score a guy from first in some instances leave fans worried if he can even be safe at third. With Martinez and Cabrera on the base paths at the same time, Nick Castellanos (the No. 5 hitter) could find himself stuck behind worse traffic than the 405 freeway in Los Angeles at rush hour.

Advancing guys on the basepaths has been a major issue for the Tigers. Moving a guy up 90 feet really is a huge difference over the course of a game, and Martinez is the posterboy for this larger problem. We already know V-Mart isn’t running or fielding, so if he’s not hitting, what is he doing?

Can Pudge Come Out of Retirement?

Platooning both James McCann and Jarrod Saltalamacchia at catcher has worked fine for the Tigers defensively, and the two are some of the best game managers in the MLB. But in terms of actual hitting, it’s like the Tigers are batting eight out there.

The duo’s July numbers are representative of how bad they’ve been at the plate all season. McCann is hitting .182 with only two RBI and 15 K’s while Salty is hitting an abominable .077 with 14 K’s.

This isn’t something you can go out and trade for, as McCann is the guy for the future. But both are below the Mendoza Line, where executives start to wonder if all the other skills and intangibles they bring to the team are really worth it.

Anibal Who?

Anibal Sanchez made two starts this week. One was pretty good, and the other wasn’t awful–nor deserving of tweets saying Detroit will automatically lose if he’s on the mound.

The Tigers got six innings out of him in both go’s. Tigers starting pitchers not going at least six innings in a game has been an issue plaguing the team, primarily the bullpen, all season and is the reason why ideas like a seven man pitching rotation have surfaced the internet. On top of that, Sanchez had only allowed three and four runs in those two starts, keeping his squad in the game. The strikeout stuff seemed to be working again as he added 15 K’s to his name this week.

This by no means is an ideal situation for any team, but if Sanchez can keep his team remotely in games for the rest of the year, this is an offense you can lean on to pounce right back on the opposing pitcher.

This Week’s Game’s for the Week of July 25 (all times Eastern)

Monday 7:00 p.m. at Boston Red Sox on ESPN

Tuesday 7:10 p.m. at Boston Red Sox

Wednesday 1:35 p.m. at Boston Red Sox

Friday 7:10 p.m. versus Houston Astros

Saturday 7:10 p.m. versus Houston Astros

Sunday 1:10 p.m. versus Houston Astros