Justin Verlander won his 20th game of the year today, allowing four runs in six innings pitched. Despite not having his best command of his pitches today, he was fortunate enough to gain enough run support to get the win. There still is no question that Justin Verlander is the MVP of the 2011 Detroit Tigers, but the real question is whether or not he’s the MVP of the American League.
I know I proposed the question about a week or so ago, and I think Verlander has done nothing to hurt his chances by winning again today. It’s rare for a pitcher to win the MVP award, but in my opinion (as well as some others), I think it’s fair to say he deserves it. Without Verlander, the Tigers would be at best a .500 team, but instead they currently find themselves with a seven game lead over the Cleveland Indians (7.5 over the White Sox). You could take the best player out of every team, and no team would be hurt more, than the Tigers hypothetical loss of Verlander. One statistic that a lot of people use, is WAR (wins above replacement), which predicts how many more games a team wins because of them having a certain player. According the the WAR grid (link here), Jose Bautistia has the highest WAR for the 2011 season, with eight. A lot of sportswriters argue this means he’s the most valuable player. They fail to mention that this statistic is not kept for pitchers, though. I’m sorry, but you can’t convince me that Verlander has only allowed the Tigers to win eight more games than his potential replacement.
Simply put, Justin Verlander is more important to the Tigers then anyone else is to their respective teams in the American League. If that doesn’t make you a MVP, then I don’t know what does.
The Tigers won tonight, but it was admittedly a bit unexpected by me. Despite Brad Penny falling behind the overwhelming majority of hitters he faced today, he still managed to only give up one run in six and a third innings pitched. The Tigers found themselves without their setup guy and closer, yet still managed to find a way to close out a win against one of the best left handed pitchers in the American League. Sure, Detroit only managed to score two runs today against David Price, but it proved to be enough to get the win. It’s not easy to win series on the road in late August, but the Tigers find themselves with an opportunity to do just that tomorrow, as they look to win the first three of four games in Tampa Bay…and if Max Scherzer looks anything like he did his last start, it shouldn’t be hard.
So the Tigers managed to sweep the Indians this weekend, putting themselves now 4.5 games ahead of the Indians, and 5 games ahead of the White Sox. Although Sunday’s game wasn’t exactly pretty, they still managed to get the win, and that’s all that matters at the end of the day.
There’s certainly a bit of cause for concern for Detroit, seeing as they nearly managed to squander a seven run lead. For whatever reason, Porcello continues to be inconsistent lately, and that makes me wonder if it’s something more psychological than mechanical. From the outings he’s been successful, he’s had command and sharpness to his pitches, but when things are going bad…well, it’s not pretty. The most important thing for a pitcher who primarily throws sinkers, is to work at the hitters knees, meaning to throw the ball consistently in the bottom of the strike zone. Once you start elevating your sinkers, they tend to flatten out and basically turn into a batting practice fastball. It could be that Porcello is having trouble finding a consistent grip, or he’s not getting on top of the ball enough (hence where the sink comes from). Hopefully he can get it figured out sooner rather than later, because even though it’s unlikely he’ll be a starting pitcher if the Tigers make the playoffs, we need him to pitch well now so we can make it there first.
It’s never good to see your team giving up 13 hits in a game, but I guess if you can manage to do that and still get a win, you’ll take it.
As I mentioned in my last blog, the Tigers needed to look at this series against Cleveland with basically a playoff mindset. The Tigers weren’t going to win two out of three games, (especially without Verlander pitching at least one) by playing anything other than playoff caliber baseball. After the first two games of the series, the Tigers have now expanded their lead in the American League Central to 3.5 games, by beating the Indians two games in a row.
There’s a lot of things to mention, such as Scherzer and Fister both having quality starts, while being under a great deal of pressure. Brandon Inge made his return to Detroit, and made an impact rather quickly, hitting a home run to left field in his first at bat since being recalled. I know that there’s a lot of love and hate for Brandon Inge, but I think a lot of people fail to realize all of the positive things he does, that fail to get attention. He’s been very actively involved in the community, regularly making visits to children hospitals throughout the state. He’s been a great teammate, is still an above average defensive player, (he did have the highest fielding percentage of all American League third basemen last year, and arguably should have won his first gold glove) has a quality clubhouse presence (both in Detroit, as well as both of his stints in Toled0) and is actually the only Tiger who makes Michigan his home year round. Is he the greatest third baseman in baseball? No, but he’s definitely a positive contributor, even when he struggles on the field.
Overall, things have been going well the last two days for Detroit, and if they can continue to go that way, the Tigers have a chance to do a lot of damage not only through the end of the regular season, but into October. For now, we’ll have to wait and see if Porcello can keep it going, so we can sweep the Indians out of Detroit, and hopefully out of playoff contention.
I generally don’t like using the phrase ‘do or die’, because so few things in life are actually do or die situations. However, I’d like to propose a theory that would in fact prove whether the Tigers ‘do’ or ‘die’.
My thesis is this: If the Detroit Tigers do not win two of the following three games against the Cleveland Indians, they will not make the playoffs this year.
Now, I will explain. The Tigers have been streaky this year (to say the least), and have found themselves either in contention, or leading the way since May. Unfortunately, the Tigers haven’t exactly been running away with the division. The Indians find themselves only a game and a half out of first place, and the White Sox are just four games back, themselves. If the Tigers only win one of the next three, there’s a chance that two teams might find themselves to be within one game of first place. It’s hard enough to hold one team back, let alone two.
History has shown us that the Tigers have not played well at Cleveland, so they need to be able to prove that they can take care of business at home. If the Tigers can manage a sweep without Justin Verlander pitching, there’s a possibility that the Tigers will have not only a four and a half game lead over Cleveland, but the White Sox are going to be hosting Texas, so it’s not unlikely that they’ll manage to lose a game or two, either.
In reality, the Tigers don’t need to win this series to win the division, but it’s a crucial test for them. Knowing that they need their starting pitchers not named Verlander to provide quality outings should prove to be interesting. There’s no reason why Scherzer, Fister and Porcello can’t get at least two wins combined, but nothing is guaranteed, either.
It should be fun, and should be a good match up. You know I’ll be watching.
So today I was fortunate enough to be at the Tigers game where I witnessed Jim Thome become the eighth player in Major League Baseball history to hit at least 600 home runs. Despite it putting the Tigers in what proved to be an insurmountable deficit, the entire stadium rose to their feet and applauded.
To me, it seemed like the only logical thing to do. Here we were, some 40,000 fans in attendance (I apologize for not knowing the actual attendance) and we get to witness something that has only happened seven other times in history? As a fan of the game, and out of respect for Jim Thome, I gave what will most likely be the only standing ovation in my lifetime for an opposing player (or team). It wasn’t that I wasn’t cheering for the hometown team, but instead I was appreciating the historical moment that unfolded in front of my eyes.
As I was heading home, (much to my surprise and dismay) our local sports radio broadcasters were discussing how Detroit fans were overreacting, saying that we went overboard in our appreciation and respect for such a tremendous feat. Some listeners vehemently disagreed with that, whereas others agreed. Personally, I thought it was a classy move by all who witnessed it, and that seemed to be the consensus from both Tigers manager Jim Leyland and Jim Thome based off their respective post-game comments. I just don’t understand why sportsmanship by fans is considered a bad thing. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with booing against the opposing team (without being vulgar or profane), but then again, we boo when someone like Ryan Raburn makes an error for us. We’re spectators being entertained, and that’s what professional athletes do. They entertain us.
With all of that being said, I’m extremely proud of all the Tigers fans out there who decided to put their loyalties aside for a few moments, and appreciate history as it unfolded before our very eyes. Congrats once again to Jim Thome, I’m sure we’ll be seeing you in Cooperstown one day.
Let’s face it, both band-aids and Justin Verlander serve a very similar purpose, and that’s to stop the bleeding. Granted one does so literally, whereas the other is more figuratively.
The Tigers have desperately needed to call upon Justin Verlander numerous times to get the Tigers back on winning track. If I heard correctly on sports radio, 13 of Verlander’s 17 wins have come after a Tigers loss. I know Tigers manager Jim Leyland doesn’t believe in momentum, but coming from experience both as a baseball player and coach (admittedly a lot less experience in both regards to Leyland), I just find that to be absurd.
Baseball is a game where things seem to go in streaks. A prolific hitter might go through stretches where he goes 2-22, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s time to give up on them. It’s a crazy thing to witness in baseball, but it seems like success comes from success. Take into account for instance, when two starting pitchers have quality starts in a row. You better believe it turns into a competition for other pitchers on the staff to keep it going. The same thing goes for hitters. Although it’s not always a matter of coincidence or whatever else you want to call it, but there’s a saying in baseball that ‘hitting is addictive.’ It often seems that when one guy starts hitting well, either within a specific game or time frame, there’s usually a few other guys following his lead.
So when someone told me the other day, that Jered Weaver should win the AL Cy Young award if the season ended today, it’s hard to have a strong enough case to disagree. However, if you want to tell me that Weaver is currently the best pitcher in the American League, then I’m going to tell you today that Justin Verlander is without a doubt the most valuable player…not just on the Detroit Tigers, but the entire American League.
It’s hard for a game or a series to live up to the excitement it’s supposed to, but if tonight’s game in Cleveland proved anything, it was just that. A lot of people within baseball were expecting this to be played as a do or die series for the Indians, who have been slowly slipping in the AL Central division. With an opportunity to gain ground themselves, they got a hard-earned victory. Both bullpens pitched phenomenally, but in the end, the Indians found themselves victorious, courtesy of a rare walk off hit by pitch.
Tomorrow should be an interesting matchup, as Ubaldo Jimenez makes his first appearance for the Indians against an AL Central team. This is the reason why the Indians gave up so much to get Jimenez, to give them a chance to get into the playoffs right now. For the Tigers, they’ll turn to Rick Porcello, who has pitched exceptionally well as of late. All of that leads up to Thursday’s game, where Justin Verlander will attempt to get his league leading 17th victory.
It may not be October yet, but it sure does feel like it for Tigers fans. Here we are the second week in August with a four game lead over the Indians. Expectations were high that this would be a crucial series for both teams, and after 13 innings so far in the first of three games, I find myself to be far from disappointed.
Am I saying that this is a crucial series? Not exactly, mainly due to the fact that even if the Tigers lose all three games, they will still be in first place. However, if the Tigers can manage to sweep the Indians, or at least win two out of three, it not only expands their division lead, but gives them plenty of momentum. If the Indians can continue to be dominant at home against Detroit, they can give themselves a chance to be only one game out of first by the end of the series.
Simply put, if you’re looking for an exciting series to watch, look no further than Detroit versus Cleveland the next few days.
When it comes to figuring out why exactly the Tigers have been leading the way in the AL Central, it really seems to come down to a few key components. It’s not far fetched to say the Tigers could have an MVP and Cy Young winner at the end of this year.
Exhibit A: Justin Verlander-Today Verlander recorded his 16th victory, making him 16-5 with a 2.30 ERA, 186 K’s and a no hitter. If you’re looking for any other indications the Verlander should be the current odds on favorite to win the Cy Young, they’re not hard to find. He’s pitched well in big games, has been consistent and not to mention dominant. Even on days where it’s apparent that Verlander doesn’t have his “A-game”, he still finds ways to give the Tigers a chance to win. If he wins nine more starts, and goes 25-5, not only does he put himself in great shape to win the Cy Young, but he’ll certainly gather quite a few votes for MVP.
Exhibit B: Jose Valverde-Yes, I admit this is a long shot of sorts, but think about it. Valverde has still not blown a save this year, converting all 32 of his save opportunities. If he manages to not blow a save for the rest of the year, and ends up with over 50 saves on the year, we’re talking about numbers that would marvel in comparison to that of Eric Gagne back in 2003 when he won the Cy Young award. Will it happen? Probably not, but as a Tigers fan, I’d love to see it.
Not to mention Victor Martinez, Miguel Cabrera and Jhonny Peralta all having great (but probably not MVP type) seasons, and it’s not hard to see why with less than 50 games to go, the Tigers find themselves in first.