Detroit Tigers: 8 Steps to Avoid a Late-Season Collapse
Let's be honest, we're all wondering the same thing: Are the Tigers going to collapse in the next month? The past failures have been well-documented. They have blown it more than once when the playoffs were in sight.
The Tigers look different this year, however. The bullpen has been steady, the rotation has been solid and the lineup has been clutch. Leaders like Justin Verlander and Victor Martinez seem poised to prevent the late-season collapse of previous years.
While the man at the top remains the same, things can be different this year. Here are eight simple steps to prevent the collapse.
1. Get Austin Jackson Going
When Austin Jackson is going well, the offense clicks. There is nobody in Detroit that would debate that. The problem is that he hasn't been going very well too often.
While he is a defensive dynamo, he has limited the Tigers' offense this year with his .243 batting average. He currently sports an OBP of only .311. He is only hitting .208 over the past week. Jackson's ability to get on base down the stretch will be huge for the Tigers.
Though he rarely swipes a bag, he has proven himself to be a disruptive force on the base paths and uses his speed to take extra bases.
2. Stop Using Jose Valverde in Non-Save Situations
Papa Grande's streak is very impressive. He has established himself, somehow, as one of the most dominating closers in baseball. All that aside, he should never see the mound in a non-save situation.
In non-save situations this season, Valverde has a 6.98 ERA with 13 walks in 19.1 innings. There are some closers that can give you a solid inning in a non-save situation, Valverde just isn't one of them. Leyland refuses to believe this, unfortunately.
The bullpen is deep enough that somebody can take over these situations, preferably someone who will be effective.
3. Strategically Adjust Justin Verlander's Starts
The rest of the rotation has been good. Doug Fister has been a revelation since coming over from Seattle. Rick Porcello and Max Scherzer have had their ups and downs, but have both been relatively effective.
With that being said, the more times Justin Verlander pitches, the better chance the Tigers have of making the playoffs.
Verlander is currently sporting a 2.38 ERA and is 20-5. He has made himself the best pitcher in the American League. There are things that Leyland can do to manipulate when he will start. The more times, the better.
The Tigers play the Indians and White Sox 12 more times combined. There is no reason, using off days and skipping other pitcher's starts, that Verlander can't make four more starts. Of those, three figure to be against AL Central rivals. If this happens, I really like the Tigers' chances.
4. Stop the Platoon of Boesch and Ordonez
It's go time for Brennan Boesch. I get that his thumb hurts and that's fine, but the difference between him and Ordonez in the lineup is huge. The playoffs are a possibility; it's time to do what you need to do to get yourself in the lineup.
Boesch is hitting .283 and has a lot more pop with his 16 homers. Ordonez just isn't what he used to be. He has had a heck of a career but he is in the twilight of it.
Boesch isn't a real strong platoon candidate to begin with. He is actually hitting 26 points better against left handed pitching. Leave it to Leyland to sit a guy versus the type of pitchers he hits the best.
5. Give David Pauley Some Innings
I'm not exactly sure what David Pauley did to Jim Leyland, but it is clear that he is not in the gruff old man's good graces.
Before coming to the Tigers, Pauley had a 2.15 ERA in 39 appearances. Since coming over, he's seen the mound seven times.
Pauley has good stuff and is extremely versatile. While Leyland may see him as the low man on the totem pole, he is being misused as the longman. Below has the long-relief role under control. A late-inning ace like Pauley needs to be used properly and not wasted as he currently is.
6. Keep Jacob Turner in the Rotation
Sometimes, all a club needs is a little spark. Young blood in the clubhouse and a great performance every now and again can be huge. If the Tigers give Jacob Turner a chance, I think he could deliver that.
In his first start, Turner looked good, going 5.1 innings and only allowing two earned runs. Brad Penny has been average at best.
There is a reason that Turner is one of the most highly-regarded pitching prospects in baseball. Its time to let him show it.
He has the makeup and the stuff to be a huge contributor down the stretch. Unfortunately, Leyland's loyalty to the veterans will prevent him from getting too many innings; I just hope it doesn't come back to haunt the Tigers.
7. Ease Guillen and Alburquerque Back into Their Roles
The time is now, there is no doubt about that. With that being said, rushing Carlos Guillen and Al Alburquerque back before they're ready and pushing them too far, too fast could be counterproductive.
If the Tigers are going anywhere this year, the health of these two players is paramount; there is no room for errors.
Concussions are a very tricky matter. While Phil Coke has been dominant, there has been no huge rush to get Amazing Al back.
Continued success by the bullpen should allow him to come back at full strength when he finally does return.
Guillen is a bit of a different matter. There is a bit more urgency for him to return, as second base has been average at best in his absence.
Leyland undoubtedly will give him plenty of rest in the coming weeks, which will be very important. Guillen is a professional hitter and will really bolster the lineup when he returns.
8. Solve the Porcello Quandary
Porcello has been a major enigma this season. When he is rolling, he can be dominant. When he is not, he gets hit all over the yard. Something must be done about him soon, the question is what.
In my opinion, the clear answer to Porcello's problems is some time off. Duane Below and Jacob Turner loom as possible temporary replacements for the young fireballer. Porcello clearly needs some time to rediscover his stuff.
The Toledo Mud Hens have six games remaining. I would suggest that he should go down to Toledo, make a start and work with the pitching coach that helped him rediscover his stuff this time last year.
Porcello is a very valuable asset going into the playoffs, but in his current state, he will need to make a tweak or two if he wants to be successful.