The first series of the year in Chicago was a literal wash, with one game postponed a day and the other moved to next month. Going into the four-game weekend series against the Boston Red Sox, Tigers fans are mostly just hoping to see some games get played.
If the Tigers do manage to get Mother Nature’s blessing for the series, they’ll be up against some formidable pitching. The Thursday postponement of Boston’s game against the Pittsburgh Pirates has shuffled the expected pitching rotation, so the Tigers can still expect to see 2016 All-Star Steven Wright, lefty Eduardo Rodriguez, 2016 Cy Young winner Rick Porcello, and Chris Sale, who changed the color of his Sox this offseason.
We asked Matthew Collins of SBN’s Red Sox blog Over the Monster what Tigers fans might be able to expect from the coming series.
BYB: We’ll start from the top. Former Tigers’ GM Dave Dombrowski has been helming the Red Sox ship as president of baseball operations for a little over a full season now. In Detroit he was famous for creating killer trades and deals seemingly out of thin air. As Red Sox fans how do you feel he’s done so far?
OTM: I think this answer is kind of biased because most of the baseball opinions I find come on line, and those tend to skew towards prospect-hugging. With that in mind, I think there’s a fair amount of negativity around Dombrowski. He inherited one of the best farm systems in baseball, and he’s dealt a huge amount of talent and so far he hasn’t gotten a ton of return on investment. Plus, there’s the whole David Price situation to date. Personally, I think he’s done fine and this is the time the Red Sox absolutely have to put their chips in. Overall, though, I’d say there’s a slightly negative view of Dombrowski.
With David Ortiz gone, do you feel there’s a hole in the order now, or are you fairly confident in the lineup going into the season?
I mean, there’s no replacing David Ortiz. Even if you forget about the off-the-field stuff and what he means to the city and all of that, he was a monster in the middle of the lineup. He was their best hitter in 2016, and no one is likely to be that good in 2017. With that being said, this is still one of the best lineups in the league. They have star-level talent in six of their nine lineup spots, and there is at least a little upside at third base and catcher compared to expectations. They probably won’t be quite as good as they were last year, but they should be right back near the top of the league.
Okay, so you had to know this was coming, but… Porcello winning the Cy Young. Do you think wins actually matter more than other stats as far as picking a winner? How did you guys feel about the backlash in the media over the win?
I think there are voters who still value wins, though I wouldn’t agree with that thought process. With that being said, I thought the people who were up in arms over the result were overreacting. It wasn’t just wins that got Porcello the award. He was outstanding all year, had the second best ERA+ in the AL with the league’s best K/BB ratio. I wouldn’t have voted for him (my vote would’ve been for Kluber) but there wasn’t really a standout performer and there was a perfectly reasonable argument for Porcello even if you totally ignore the win totals.
Speaking of Porcello, how do you think Red Sox fans have reconciled to having him on the team after the infamous Youkilis fight of 2009?
I actually haven’t heard that brought up since right after they acquired him. After last year, there are no complaints about Porcello. Red Sox fans, like anyone else, forget about your past once a player puts on the hometown uniform.
We’ll be seeing 2016 All-Star Steven Wright go up against Rookie of the Year winner Michael Fulmer on Friday. What can we expect to see from the knuckleballer?
That’s kind of a hard question to answer, because knuckleballers are inherently hard to predict. Some days, the knuckler just doesn’t move as well. Overall, I’m expecting another solid year from Wright, and unless it’s raining for his start he should be fine on Friday. Last year, he had acceptable control for a knuckleballer and actually had the second lowest contact rate on pitches in the zone right behind Max Scherzer. When he’s on, his knuckleball is legitimately impossible to hit hard. There are going to be stinkers in the mix, and there’s always a chance Friday could be one of those. But for any given start I’m fairly confident Wright can put together a quality start.
So far we’ve only seen one start out of Chris Sale with the Red Sox. He went seven innings during a 12-inning marathon against the Pirates, allowed no runs, and only three hits and a walk. Do you think he’s a good fit for the rotation? What are your expectations of him this season?
Sale is a good fit for literally any rotation in baseball. Even before the trade I thought he was probably the third best pitcher in baseball, and he’s easily in the top five. That being said, there is a tiny bit of doubt in the back of my mind because new pitchers always struggle in their first year with Boston. Even Pedro wasn’t quite himself after coming over from Montreal. Still, there is no reason besides an apparent curse on the Red Sox to believe that Sale will be anything other than a superstar in 2017.
Which Tiger do you think will be the biggest thorn in the Red Sox side this weekend?
I was tempted to say Victor Martinez because he’s been one of my favorites in the league since he was on the Red Sox, but I can’t with good conscience say anyone besides Miguel Cabrera. He’s one of the best hitters I’ve ever seen, and I feel like I’m going to be scared of him as a hitter until he’s 65 years old.
Thanks to Matthew for stopping by! We’re looking forward to seeing what the four game series brings for the Tigers. As long as it isn’t more bad weather.