Tigers’ opener rained out; glass still half-full

This was where the story of the opening game of the 2017 Detroit Tigers season was supposed to go.

But the game was rained out, and will be made up today at 2 p.m.

And so, for at least one more day, the Tigers are still undefeated, on top of the American League Central Division and the joy of Opening Day remains.

Unlike News Advocate sports writer Brian Fogg, who in this space yesterday told you all about how they would not win this year — he’s obviously too young to understand the whole “optimism on Opening Day” thing — I think the Tigers have a good chance of getting back to the playoffs.

The Tigers have acquired a reputation of being a club of aging stars, but that is a misnomer. The only player on the Opening-Day roster past his prime is 38-year-old Victor Martinez, and that’s what the Designated Hitter position is designed for.

There is no reason to believe that V-Mart will do anything but continue to punish baseballs this year, especially since the hernia that allegedly hampered his production last year has been repaired. I say “allegedly” because he popped 27 home runs in 2016, the second-best yearly total of his career, and drove in 86 runs in 154 games played.

Yes, he is a liability on the basepaths. So was Babe Ruth. As long as he can trot 360 feet at a time a couple dozen times a year, his speed can be somewhat less than blazing.

Miguel Cabrera is still the best hitter on the planet, and is far from “aged” at 33. He’s still on the short list of preseason favorites for the batting title.

Defensively, the Tigers have arguably the best double-play combination in baseball in Ian Kinsler (who could be considered an elder player at 34, but who put that label to rest with his performance in the recent World Baseball Classic) and 27-year-old shortstop Jose Iglesias.

Nick Castellanos may very well have a breakout year. Casual fans may be sick of hearing that after years of his being labeled The Next Big Thing, but he is still only 25. Before suffering a broken hand last August, he was on his way to having that breakout year in 2016. His struggles batting against major-league right-handers are past him, as his over-.300 average against them last year shows.

I think this is the year when he goes from solid contributor at the plate to the kind of hitter that opposing teams have to plan around.

JaCoby Jones has the look of a player ready to make the step from one-game wonder to solid major-leaguer,

Almost as anticipated as the game on Opening Day was the news that the unfortunate J.D. Martinez, who wil start the season in the Disabled List but who  was scheduled to get the cast on the foot removed on Monday. If he simply duplicates his numbers from the last two years, the Tigers batting order will again be one of the most dangerous in baseball.

After a slow start in 2016 Justin Verlander was Justin Verlander again, back to his Cy Young/MVP unhittability, and the anchor of what could be an intimidating starting rotation.

Michael Fulmer was a revelation last year, which he started in the minors and ended as AL Rookie of the Year, but after that the Tigers starting pitching is rife with question marks. Jordan Zimmermann has had a bit of a tough spring, but he still has good stuff, certainly adequate for a third or fourth starter. Matt Boyd and Daniel Norris are young pitchers, 26 and 23 respectively, who have shown flashes of talent at the major-league level. If they can produce consistently — granted, a big “if” — starting pitching will be a strength of this team.

The one source of concern is, once again, the bullpen. Anibal Sanchez has worked himself out of a starting spot, but could have found his niche in long relief.

Other than that, relief pitching is the team’s biggest weakness. The Tigers missed out on the playoffs by less than three games last year, and it was fairly easy to point out games that the team had in the bag that the bullpen blew for them.

Every team blows saves. If the Tigers can keep them to a minimum, they should be right in the thick of the playoff hunt in the fall.

In the meantime, I’m going to enjoy the spring and summer, which are rumored to be right around the corner.

Scott Yoshonis is the Sports Editor of the Manistee News Advocate. Scott can be reached at 231-398-3112 or syoshonis@pioneergroup.com

avatar

Posted by Scott Yoshonis

Scott is the sports editor of the Manistee News Advocate. You can reach him at (231) 398-3112 or syoshonis@pioneergroup.com.

Leave a Reply