The Blue Jays start their last series before the break tonight, with the first of four against the Tigers.
Detroit is second in the AL Central, 6.5 games back of the Indians. They have some work to do if they want to catch up.
They are scoring well, sitting tied with us for fourth in the AL with 4.92 runs per game. Their problems have been on the other side of the ball, they are 11th in the AL in runs allowed per game, at 4.80 (we sit second at 4.18).
This afternoon (way too late really) I sent off questions to Rob Rogacki manager of Bless You Boys, SB Nation's Tigers blog, and he was up to the challenge, sending back the answers in less than an hour. Thanks Rob.
With Daniel Norris and Jordan Zimmermann hitting the DL, who is taking their spots in the rotation? What are the injuries and how long will they be out?
Zimmermann's trip to the DL was a bit of a surprise for Tigers fans, but is apparently due to a neck strain that the Tigers knew about for a couple weeks now. He had been struggling over the past month-plus, potentially related to a groin strain he suffered back in May, but was showing relative signs of improvement in a handful of June outings. Norris suffered an oblique injury in a start against the Indians on July 4 and was placed on the DL a day later.
Luckily, neither starter projects to be out long. The Tigers have hinted that Zimmermann may be ready to return shortly after the All-Star break, and all signs point to Norris coming back not long after. The timing of their injuries was relatively fortunate for the Tigers, as having four days off while the two out allows them to juggle their rotation and prevent as many Anibal Sanchez starts as possible.
What will the Tigers be looking for at the trade deadline?
Pitching, pitching, and more pitching. The Tigers' starting rotation has been an Achilles heel all season, with Mike Pelfrey and Anibal Sanchez ranking among the worst pitchers in all of baseball. Pelfrey has limited his messes for the most part, and is coming off his best start of the season in a win over the Rays last weekend. Sanchez, on the other hand, has been shuttled between the rotation and bullpen despite earning nearly $16 million this season.
As for potential targets, who knows? Stars like Julio Teheran and Sonny Gray are certainly off the table given the sad state of the Tigers' farm system, and even cost-controlled options like Tampa's Jake Odorizzi or San Diego's Drew Pomeranz will likely be too expensive for their blood. That leaves low-cost options like Philadelphia's Jeremy Hellickson, Oakland's Rich Hill, or another bargain bin starter if the deal is right.
Or the Tigers could bolster their bullpen at the deadline and move Shane Greene back to the rotation, but that is far from a perfect fix.
Miguel Cabrera (who, like our Edwin Encarnacion and Martin Russell, was recently ejected from a game for the offense of being right, showing up Umpire Vic Carapazza) is the Tigers lone All-Star, are there other that you expected to make the team?
There are several Tigers with compelling cases for All-Star consideration, but the AL is so loaded at several positions that there isn't necessarily a slam-dunk snub to be found. Ian Kinsler is probably the biggest omission, though he was included in the AL Final Vote (and could probably use the four days off).
Michael Fulmer has the best resume in terms of old-school stats, while others like Victor Martinez and Nick Castellanos have also put up solid numbers. Francisco Rodriguez may actually be the most likely to earn a last-minute invitation, as he is tied for second in the AL with 23 saves.
You have an old friend of ours, Mark Lowe, and he's not doing well (a 10.33 ERA would suggest that's an understatement). What is wrong with him? Is like likely to be released?
What isn't wrong with Mark Lowe? His velocity has declined, he isn't fooling hitters, and opponents of all shapes and sizes are squaring him up with regularity. He currently owns the worst ERA in baseball among pitchers with at least 20 innings pitched, and is already looking like dead money despite being under contract through 2017. Sadly, his excellent 2015 season with the Mariners and Jays is looking like the exception rather than the rule, and fans have long since given up on him. Management hasn't yet, but I can't imagine they will allow him to be a drag on the roster for much longer.
Can we have a quick scouting report on the starting pitchers the Blue Jays will face?
Reports of Justin Verlander's demise have been greatly exaggerated. While he has a rather pedestrian 4.11 ERA, his peripheral numbers are better, and he has been as dominant as any AL pitcher in large stretches this season. Baseball Prospectus' Deserved Run Average (DRA) is particularly smitten with Verlander, putting him at 2.81 for the season.
Mike Pelfrey has been the opposite. His 7.56 DRA is fifth-worst among MLB starters this season, and only a hair better than the pitcher he replaced: Alfredo Simon. Pelfrey defenders have praised his ability to "keep his team in the game," but this largely depends on relievers wiggling out of jams when Pelfrey is pulled from a game with runners on base. Both he and Verlander have been more homer prone than in years past, which doesn't bode well for a four-game series in a very hitter-friendly ballpark.
The Tigers have not announced their starters for the final two games of the series, but all signs point to Anibal Sanchez and Matt Boyd getting the nod (not necessarily in that order). Sanchez has been brutal this year, allowing a 6.52 ERA and 16 home runs in just 78 2/3 innings. Boyd has been similarly homer-prone in his brief stints at the major league level, and currently owns a 6.44 ERA and 5.08 FIP in 29 1/3 innings. Winning either of those games would constitute a minor miracle given how well the Jays have been hitting recently.
The Tigers are 6.5 games back of the Indians....what do you think of their chances of catching up? What where do they have to improve?
There is no way the Tigers catch their division rivals if they can't figure out a way to start beating them. The Tigers are an unfathomable 1-11 against the Tribe this season, and have played as badly as that record suggests.
On the flip side, the Tigers have been very good against non-Cleveland teams this season, compiling a robust 44-29 record and +53 run differential against the rest of baseball. They have won their last 10 games not involving the Indians, and finally (hopefully?) broke through with a win over Cleveland on Wednesday. The Tigers also have a slew of home games to look forward to in the second half, and could fix their biggest hole with the right deal(s) at the trade deadline.
Whether they catch Cleveland or not, I think they will be in the playoff hunt for most of the season, especially if other teams in the race (Kansas City, Boston, Seattle, etc.) continue to fade.
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