Tigers Baseball Outsider

a thinking fan's perspective

Saturday, May 14, 2011

At the 40 Game Mark

Sparky Anderson passed away in November of last year. The boys of the Old English D are sporting crests on their sleeves to commemorate his passing.

One of the Sparky traditions that continues on is his concept that after 40 games you should have a good idea of what type of team you have.

Now’s a great time to do so – if you’re the Director of Marketing for the Tigers.

The boys are hot. The hottest team in baseball – enjoying a 7 game winning streak. They have won 10 of their last 11.

Justin Verlander pitched a no hitter against the Toronto Blue Jays – then followed it up by pitching his next game against the Kansas City Royals with no hits into the sixth inning.

The whole starting rotation has actually been great through all forty games to date - Max Scherzer leading the way with only having no losses to his credit. And now Phil Coke is also starting to get into the rythm of the new role of starting pitcher.
Victor Martinez is hot – and taking advantage of opposing pitchers fear to pitch to Miguel Cabrera.

Austin Jackson has rebounded and is backing his strong defense up with great hitting in these last 15 games.

Alex Avilla – a player I berated heartlessly at the beginning of this season as one of the worst decisions made to allow him catch every day despite poor hitting in the preseason and opening games of 2011 has proven me to be … well … dead smack wrong and clueless.

I say that proudly by the way.

But the first 25 games of this season – save one series with Chicago – stunk.

There was the kerfuffle deciding who would play second base – Tiger veteran Carlos Guillen injured (and still recovering) and Scott Sizmore not yet ready to come back up – second base was plattooned by Will Rhymes and Ramone Santiago.

Not a long term solution.

I remember when Will Rhymes was sent back down to Toledo to bring Scott Sizemore up. Pat Caputo – Sports writer and columnist for the Detroit area’s Oakland Press, and host of the blog Open Book, wrote a post titled “Change at second base could just be the start for slumping Tigers”.

The Book on Sports was right – that was indeed the when the turning of the tide began. After that the Tigers took on and won series against the Yankees, Twins, Blue Jays, and AL Central second place Royals.

But we still have 122 games left to play – almost two thirds of the season.

And we do have to expect this hot streak will slow after a bit – although I hope it’s not too soon.

But at this point of the season, with the bats hitting and the pitching strong, I think indeed the Tigers are the best team in the Central division.

I think Cleveland has already started to slow – and perhaps as early as next weekend our beloved Detroit baseballers will indeed be in first place.

And will remain there until the All Star break.

Sound familiar? We’ve danced to this song several times before in recent seasons.

It’s not the first 80 games you have to worry about. It’s the second eighty.

And if Jim Leyland and Dave Dombrowski want to keep their jobs – there can be no second half rapid decline of lethargic play and continual losing streaks busted up by the odd win here and there.

So I can’t tell you with any confidence today just what this means to the Tigers final standings in the opening days of October.

We all have our hopes and we all have our opinions.

What do you think?

Will the Tigers lead the pack until the All Star Break – then sputter in the second half?

Will there be a trade of significance? Will we get a left or right fielder? Will Brandon Inge be replaced – his average is below his career level – which is not a lofty bar to shoot for.

What do you think?

Leave a comment below and let’s talk this season out.

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