The first story of the day is my Monday thoughts. But there are two more scheduled for later, including my analysis of both the roster expansion that will come Sept. 1 and the Tigers' chances of getting to 90 wins. So check back throughout this off day!
Max Scherzer is good at striking people out. Usually when you're digging up historical comparisons for a Detroit starter, you're trying to put context to something Justin Verlander did. Sunday, Tigers media relations director Brian Britten mentioned on Twitter that Scherzer had accomplished something not done since at least 1918. Scherzer became the first pitcher in the organization to have eight consecutive starts with at least eight strikeouts. (The records on such things only go as far back as 1918, so it's impossible to say if it's ever been done before.) With a nine-strikeout day Sunday, his total for the eight games was 70.
Of course, during the eight games Scherzer pitched just an out over 52 innings. That works out to about six and a half innings each start. He actually went seven innings in five of them, but never more. Compare that to Justin Verlander, who tossed 58 innings across his last eight starts. Verlander had four starts where he went into at least the eighth inning. That's quite a difference. Still, in a strange twist of fate (and revealing yet again why wins are a pointless stat) Scherzer (14) will probably finish the season with more wins than Verlander (12).
Scherzer may never equal Verlander's brilliance on the mound, but if he can learn to be a little more efficient and consistent, he'll remain near the top of almost any team's rotation.
The Tigers went 6-3 on the home stand. It didn't always feel like such a success nine games. Yet with the Orioles ahead of the Tigers' in the hunt for a playoff spot and the Angels just behind, you could argue that a majority of the games were against pretty good teams. (Standard disclosures apply: Albert Pujols did not play. They also missed Jose Bautista during the Blue Jays series). Some might actually argue the Tigers came within a turned double play of being 7-2, or maybe even a healthy Doug Fister from 8-1, although I do not like that line of thinking. Surely you could think of a time or two the Tigers could have lost a one-run game, or you could wait for someone to point out "Good teams win those games" such as the 2-1 loss Friday against L.A.
But no, the Tigers were 6-3. They went 3-1 in one-run games and won three games by 5-3 scores. One concern, naturally, was the lack of scoring. Just 11 runs in the Blue Jays series and 11 more against the Angels works out to an average output of 3.67 runs per game during the past two series. They'll certainly have to do better than that in the future. Still, they managed to win five of those six games, so they didn't let it cost them much.
Health concerns seem minor, yet ... . The biggest plot of the past week has been the health of two key players. Doug Fister tried to pitch through a sore groin in the series finale against the Orioles. He managed to blow a 5-0 lead and his team lost the game, 7-5. News of the injury only came out later, and forced the Tigers to recall rookie left-hander Drew Smyly. We like Smyly around here, but even the most ardent Smyly supporter would have to admit feeling more confident with a veteran, healthy Fister on the mound. If the injury becomes a nagging one, it's going to make Detroit's road that much harder.
One of the only players whose loss might leave an even bigger hole in Detroit is Miguel Cabrera. The big guy has been battling an ankle injury after falling a ball off his shin during the series against Boston nearly a month ago. Thursday he left the game in the second inning while sustaining an injury to his opposite ankle while running out of the batters box. The season flashed before Tigers' fans eyes at that moment. Cabrera played Friday and Saturday, going a combined 2-for-8 with a double. On that extra-base hit, Cabrera nearly got tagged at second base and did not appear to be able to go full speed.
He drew a day off Sunday, with manager Jim Leyland telling the media (as quoted by Matthew B Mowery):
"I'm pretty confident that Miguel will play third base in the Kansas City series. I'm pretty confident. Can I etch that in stone? No, I can't. But I'm pretty confident he'll play third base. (...)
"I didn't sleep last night. I talked to a lot of people and made a couple calls last night. I talked to my coaches all day. But you know, at the end of the day when I talked to Cabrera, I knew the best thing to do was to rest him today no matter what the outcome of this game was today."
Leyland also said, in essence, as goes Miguel Cabrera, so goes the Detroit Tigers.
One could argue whether it would be worse to lose a member near the top of the rotation or to lose, despite sabermetricians' best arguments otherwise, the MVP of the TIgers' offense.
If the season is to turn out like everyone hopes, those arguments will be academic. They need to get both players healthy, and in a hurry. Unfortunately, that's a lot easier said than done.