Eight years ago, the Detroit Tigers were a last-place team. They finished the season at 74-88, 14 1/2 games behind the first-place White Sox. The only position player remaining from that team is Miguel Cabrera, who was 25 years old at the time, "struggling" to adjust to the American League and posting his worst season to date. The only pitcher remaining from that team is Justin Verlander, who was also 25, and also posted the worst season of his career.
The 2008 season was the last time that the Tigers only sent one man to the All Star game -- Carlos Guillen, their slugging third baseman (remember that?). In the seven seasons since, they never had fewer than three players selected to the Midsummer Classic. In 2013, they had five representatives.
But such is the position they find themselves in currently, with only Miguel Cabrera donning the Olde English D in San Diego this week. But this isn't a case of a rebuilding team and their required emissary, Cabrera is legitimately deserving, as usual, and the Tigers are a good team. With as many highly-paid stars as the Tigers have, certainly there must be a few snubs buried on the roster. Let's break it down and decide who else deserved to go.
The Tigers' starting rotation has been their Achilles' Heel in 2016, but the problems generally lie only in the backend, The top of the rotation, headlined by former MVP Justin Verlander, has been plenty effective.
Verlander, joined by recent acquisition Jordan Zimmermann and prospect-turned-phenom Michael Fulmer, form an intimidating trio. But the competition is stiff for an All Star nod. How Cole Hamels secured a spot over the likes of Masahiro Tanaka and Rich Hill is truly baffling, but whether any of the Tigers' triad is more deserving than Hamels is up for debate.
|Jose Quintana||White Sox||117.2||7-8||3.21||3.48||2.9|
|Chris Sale||White Sox||125.0||14-3||3.38||3.74||2.6|
|Aaron Sanchez||Blue Jays||118.1||9-1||2.97||3.52||2.5|
|Steven Wright||Red Sox||114.0||10-5||2.68||3.64||2.0|
|Marco Estrada||Blue Jays||104.1||5-3||2.93||4.14||1.8|
For the first time in recent memory, the Tigers' bullpen actually has the talent and the depth to give fans confidence with a small lead in the late innings. OK, "confidence" may be stretching it, but at least we aren't ordering antacids and vodka by the crate any more.
The primary cause for the turnaround has been a pair of winter trade acquisitions that provide the Tigers with the first legitimate setup-closer tandem since....ever? Mark Lowe hasn't panned out, but Justin Wilson and Francisco Rodriguez have become the lockdown backend that the Tigers have been desperately missing in recent seasons.
Wilson's problem is that his bad-luck ERA belies his true effectiveness, and he hasn't racked up the saves to convince more traditional minds. K-Rod, on the other end of spectrum, has racked up more saves than any AL reliever not named Zach Britton, but his peripherals can't compete with the rest of the field.
|Craig Kimbrel||Red Sox||33.0||17||3.55||2.87||0.8|
If there were an award for Most Snubbed Player, Ian Kinsler would be the favorite every year. Despite attending only four All Star games, and despite never receiving a Gold Glove Award, Kinsler has quietly been one of the best second basemen in the game throughout his career.
Viewed by many as a snub last season, he was passed over in favor of Jose Altuve and Jason Kipnis. This season presents a similar situation, though Altuve and Robinson Cano have each been a better hitters this season. Eduardo Nunez, selected as a backup infielder, is clearly less deserving than Kinsler. However, Nunez is the Twins' sole representative, so it's difficult to argue for his spot.
Once again, Kinsler just barely misses the cut. It must be frustrating for such an ultra-competitive player.
Nick Castellanos finally "broke out" last June, showing the hitting ability that prospect hounds had been raving about for years. He has carried the hitting into 2016, and even shown marked improvement on defense, becoming a centerpiece of the Tiger's medium-term future. Unfortunately, he plays a position that happens to be stacked with a couple of the best all-around players in the AL, with Manny Machado and reigning MVP Josh Donaldson posting two of the four highest WAR totals. in the league.
You could argue that Machado isn't a third baseman at all, considering he spent nearly all of May and June manning shortstop. However, with Xander Bogaerts, Francisco Lindor, and Carlos Correa (a snub in his own right) all in the running at shortstop, it's tough to find a spot for Nick.
|Josh Donaldson||Blue Jays||405||23||.304||167||5.4|
After a legitimately awful 2015, Victor Martinez had many fans worrying that his days as a professional baseball player were numbered. At 36 years old, he was unable to recover from his spring knee surgery, and his numbers reflected it. Fortunately, those fears have been relieved, as Victor has looked like his old self this season. I'll admit it: I didn't think he'd ever hit 17 home runs in a season again.
Victor is definitely making a case for comeback player of the year, but with Big Papi posting a legendary farewell tour in Boston and Edwin Encarnacion giving his parrot a tour of the states, is there' really room for Victor's bat?
|David Ortiz||Red Sox||343||22||.332||182||3.3|
|Edwin Encarnacion||Blue Jays||387||23||.267||135||1.9|