5 Lingering Questions for the Detroit Tigers
As the trade deadline approaches, there are still some things that need to be resolved in the Motor City. The team has the look of a club that can go deep into the playoffs, yet it can't shake a pesky Indians club.
There are givens to this team: Justin Verlander will provide a quality start every fifth day, and Miguel Cabrera will drive in 120 runs. It is the questions that surround this team whose answers will determine exactly how special this season is.
Here are the five biggest questions remaining.
1. Who Is the Solution at 3rd Base?
I recently wrote an article about why the trade for Wilson Betemit was the answer at the hot corner. I still believe this.
He sat in the opener against the White Sox, and Kelly has supplanted him at third. While he has three hits in four games, Jim Leyland does not seem eager to go to his new bat. This seeming lack of confidence in Betemit makes me think twice about anointing him as my candidate for regular at-bats. I'm not sure if it's his defense or what, but Leyland's lack of faith in him is troubling.
I think that the Tigers should shift Guillen to third and continue to play Raburn at second every day as he is starting to pick it up in the past two weeks and is a notoriously good second-half hitter.
2. Can We Rely on Joaquin Benoit in the 8th Inning?
The ninth inning has been on lockdown, and Amazing Al seems to be pretty locked in during the seventh inning. It's just the eighth inning that has me a little worried.
I'll give it to Benoit. He is pitching much better of late. He has given up only one earned run over his last eight appearances, but his ERA still sits at a lofty 4.14. He has already walked almost as many as he did all last year.
I have the utmost faith in Mr. Benoit, but with the rest of the bullpen being as unhittable as it is, it would be nice to get a little more production out of him.
3. When Will Jacob Turner Be Called Up?
Is it just me, or are the Tigers trying to give everyone a chance before they bring up their most talented pitching prospect? I get it, they feel that they rushed Miller, Porcello and Perry to the show and things haven't worked out the greatest in those cases.
Let's be honest. There is a reason that Jacob Turner is one of the most highly touted pitching prospects in the game: The kid has talent.
Jacob Turner will arrive in Detroit with major league-ready stuff. He has great makeup and has good control. With the fifth spot in the rotation a mystery, a change has to be made.
4. Is Jim Leyland Going to Give the Tigers a Chance to Win?
It's time for Leyland to go. He has served this team well, but he just doesn't have it anymore. Monday night he brought rookie Chance Ruffin in with the bases loaded in a tie game against their direct competition, the Chicago White Sox.
That blows my mind.
The move didn't pay off as the Sox cashed the chance in for two runs, and the Tigers lost the game. Who would've guessed?
Leyland continues to give guys too many days off and lacks any sort of faith in Betemit. He is still predictable and leaves pitchers in too long. I am ready for a new manager, and I can't help but think Dombrowski is slowly starting to conform to my viewpoint.
5. Who Starts Game 3 of the ALDS?
Obviously, this is the most long-term question, but it definitely needs to be resolved. If the Tigers fulfill their promise, this will become a major issue in October. Whether the Tigers make a deal or not, the third slot needs to be filled.
Rick Porcello has come along slowly this year to the point where he could make the start. Brad Penny has experience in big games, but is clearly not the pitcher that started playoff games for the Dodgers.
I think that the Tigers need to make a move for Hiroki Kuroda. He is cheap, wouldn't require a king's ransom in return and is a very quality pitcher.
The Tigers are a team that can win the World Series, but it's just going to take some resolve and determination. Sharp leadership and decent pitching are the only thing keeping this team from a deep playoff run.