The All-Star Break was nice for the Tigers, but taking two out of three games from the Baltimore Orioles and moving into second-place in the Central Division was even better.
I know I shouldn't read newspaper comment sections. Yet I couldn't help but glance on Sunday and noted an individual spouting off about the Tigers already starting their second-half slide and that it's all manager Jim Leyland's fault. Yes, the Tigers team that is 18-12 in its last 30 games. Yes, the Tigers team that is 2-1 since the break and moved into second place in the division. Yes, the Tigers team that would have swept the Orioles had it converted either of two save opportunities Saturday. If only Leyland hadn't used Jose Valverde and Joaquin Benoit in save situations. What a Maroon he is! Ugh. Whatever you do, I beg of you, don't be that commenter. Not there, and especially not here. Moving on ...
The real Quintin Berry has stood up. For the first few weeks of Berry's career, the camps divided into those who believed he was at best a fourth outfielder and those who were indignant every time he didn't start. For awhile, it looked like the Berry supporters had facts by their side. In reality, it might be best to agree that the Berry of July is much more likely what to expect in the future. He made a few mistakes in the field; he robbed a home run with an incredible over-the-fence catch. He had a few extra-base hits; he ran face first into an easy out at third. He had a game-tying single with two outs in the ninth inning. Berry (a player who I find incredibly fun and easy to root for) has a slash line this month of .265 batting, .342 on-base and .382 slugging. Based on is minor league figures, those numbers seem plausible.
Is Toby Harrah making a difference? If you don't frequent our comment section, you miss the near-daily updates from GWilson. Harrah, until that point the organization's roving hitting instructor in the minors, quietly joined the team in late June around the Rangers series. The Tigers loudly responded by getting a bunch of hits and scoring a bunch of runs immediately. The contrast is pretty stark. Detroit batted .262 with .327 OBP and .408 slugging in 72 games before Harrah. In the 16 games since, the Tigers are batting .309 with .356 OBP and .474 slugging. They also have a BABIP of .347 during that time, which puts them quite a bit above what you would expect from any team. It seems safe to bet on a bit of regression when that 16 game sample doubles or triples in size. But right now you could make a really good argument that Harrah is helping, too.
Fox should not use home team analysts during their "national" telecasts. First off, the thought that Fox is broadcasting baseball games nationally is at beast laughable and in reality an outright lie. The games are not national. Even the Yankees-Red Sox do not get a national game. The nation is divided by three or four games, meaning up to a quarter of teams are in action at the same time. Baseball is a regional game, so that make sense. (Standard fare here about idiotic blackout rules costing the folks who pay for MLB.TV.) What doesn't make sense is using a bumbling homer like Billy Ripken. I don't know if he even realized what a homer he was being. Maybe he's just not used to the Orioles even being invited to the "national" game. But if Fox cannot see fit to provide a play-by-play man and an analyst who will at least try to act impartial, their broadcasts will be even harder to watch than when Joe Buck teams with Tim McCarver. What Detroit fans had to listen to Saturday was pure B.S.
Maybe Jose Valverde shouldn't be the closer? Walkoff Woodward's Josh Worn provided some nice stats on Twitter Sunday indicating that the Tigers might want to exchange the order of some of their late relievers. For one, Valverde is allowing baserunners on 33 percent of plate appearances. That works out to a career-high 1.39 WHIP. Valverdea also walking a career-high 4.9 per nine innings and striking out a career low 6.6 per nine innings. So it's not just that Valverde isn't perfect like he was in 2011. He's actually putting up some of the worst stats of any closer. Joaquin Benoit blew the save and gave up the game-winning home run on Saturday, but it still might be time to give him or Octavio Dotel a chance to close.
The Tigers training staff is probably not to fault. All the injuries this year are getting ridiculous. It's not even freak things. It's strained this and sore that. Andy Dirks was only supposed to miss a few games in May and he's still not back. Drew Smyly recently hit the DL with soreness around his ribs. (Note this is different than the problem suffered by Doug Fister earlier in the season.) In the past, "Injury expert" Will Carroll has lauded the Tigers' training and medical staff. I respect Will's opinion and readily admit the entire situation is beyond my scope. I suspect if we zoomed out the focus from the team we follow to the league as a whole, we'd find these situations are more common than they seem.