With the Indians set to take on the Tigers, I reached out to Motor City Bengals editor Matt Snyder again to get his take on the Tigers and the play of their super-star first baseman, Miguel Cabrera. Check out his answers below and be sure to follow him on Twitter @snyder_matthew.
Wahoo’s on First: Of course I need to start with Miguel Cabrera. He has somehow found a way to go from being a total beast at the plate to something almost super humanly. At what point do you think opposing teams stop pitching to him altogether?
Matt Snyder: I don’t think you could ever actually stop pitching to him in every situation, but we’ve been seeing teams walking him more and more over the past few weeks (even with Prince Fielder due up). Fox Sports Detroit put up a graphic the other day during a game (and this is dangerous because I’m trying to quote it from memory) that showed that Fielder is hitting something close to .500 following an intentional walk to Cabrera. My personal feeling is that you’d rather pitch to Cabrera with, say, a runner on second that pitch to Fielder with runners on first and second, but that hasn’t always been the case with opposing teams who elect to issue the free pass.
Wahoo’s on First: The Tigers seem like they’re finally hitting their stride as a team. The record might not show it, but it feels like from the outside looking in that they are about to go on a tear. Would you agree or am I misreading things?
Matt Snyder: I actually think they’ve been fairly steady all season. Obviously they’ve had a few good and bad stretches, but they’ve pretty much been on pace for 90 wins (plus or minus a couple) for the past three weeks or so. Entering Thursday they were the AL leader run differential so, despite the fact that the record that is “just OK” (compared to preseason expectations), they’ve been one of the better teams in all of baseball in the most basic aspect of the game: scoring and preventing runs.
Wahoo’s on First: Justin Verlander hasn’t really looked like himself this year, especially since mid May. Cause for concern or just a weird, fluky kind of stretch?
Matt Snyder: I think it’s only cause for some concern because it’s combined with the fact that his velocity has been down this year, but I think this particular stretch is primarily a fluke. His seasonal peripheral stats are fine – his K-rate is the highest it’s ever been, he’s not walking that many, and his HR/FB rate is in line with his career norms – so I expect him to be fine down the stretch. Opposing batters hit him for a .439 BABIP in May, and that’s simply not going to last.
Wahoo’s on First: What’s surprised you the most this year about the Tigers so far this season either good or bad… or both?
Matt Snyder: I think most Tigers fans knew the bullpen was going to be a weak point this year, but I’m surprised that they just haven’t much consistency from anyone outside of Joaquin Benoit and Drew Smyly. I don’t think they need to panic or really even make shopping for a relief arm a priority, but Jim Leyland needs to find something that works that steady the ship in those late-and-close situations.
As far as a good surprise, it’s probably been the play of former Indian Jhonny Peralta. He was reported to be getting in shape this season in south Florida (and, yeah, the Biogenesis thing), losing 15-20 pounds to gain range and flexibility at the shortstop position. But, while his fielding range does perhaps look a bit better, his bat has been a tremendous surprise. He entered Thursday with an .862 OPS and as the AL leader in WAR among shortstops. He’s got a good shot of making the All-Star team.
Wahoo’s on First: How do you think the series this weekend will play out?
Matt Snyder: Anibal Sanchez and Rick Porcello are both pitching as well as they ever have in their respective careers and, despite the aforementioned recent struggles, Justin Verlander is still a force to be reckoned with. It’s always impossible to predict individual games or series, but I’ll guess the Tigers to take two of three this weekend.