Cleat Geeks

Tiger Time: 4 Takeaways From The End of August to Now

The Detroit Tigers closed out August and kicked off their September schedule last weekend, taking two of three from the Kansas City Royals, followed up by a prompt dropping of two of three against the Chicago White Sox. Fans saw their share of good and bad times through these two series. Here are four takeaways from stretch.

Photo By: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Photo By: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

  1. Justin Upton is here to stay. Upton was a disappointment for a large portion of this season, especially when his 6 yr/$132.75 mil contract is factored in. He’s never been a stranger to the strikeout, but he was striking out more than usual. After sitting for a few games Upton came alive in the series finale against Boston, going deep twice. He’s not cooled down since. In that span he’s batting a healthy .321 with 8 HR and 21 RBI, along with an OPS of 1.200. More to the point, Upton’s offensive surge has carried into September, along with the emergence of a clutch gene. In back to back games (Sunday vs. KC, Monday vs. CHW) Upton delivered game-winning home runs to give the Tigers important victories. Upton has gone from a guaranteed strikeout to a genuine offensive threat, finally earning the contract he was given. This will serve the Tigers well as each game will grow in importance from here on out.
  2. michaelfulmertigersMichael Fulmer is human after all. Fulmer looked invincible out of the gate to begin his rookie season. At one point he was the American League leader in earned run average (and he still could be if he reaches the innings requirement). But during his last two August starts he was made to look incredibly human, going only 10.2 innings combined in those starts, giving up 15 hits and 9 runs (all earned) with an ERA of 7.59, allowing opponents to hit at a .319 clip during those two games. Hoping he would find his form in his first September start (sans one majestic beard), things didn’t quite go as planned. Kansas City’s offense did their job, holding Fulmer to only six largely inefficient innings, tagging him for three runs on seven hits. The fact that Fulmer looks human isn’t too concerning; the league, particularly the AL Central, was going to figure out how to work against him eventually. It’s just catching up at the worst possible time. Fulmer will need to adjust to deal with big opponents down the stretch who are no longer strangers to him.
  3. The bullpen is not going to win this team any games. It’s the same old song and dance down the stretch for the Tigers, as bullpen woes continue to mount. The Tigers had leads that could have allowed them to comfortably win games if it weren’t for the bullpen. There have been times when relief pitching has been called upon to stop the bleeding in dire situations but has failed to do so. Wednesday’s collapse against the White Sox serves as a crowning example of this, as Shane Greene, Justin Wilson, and Mark Lowe all failed to keep the White Sox from taking and expanding their lead in the 8th inning, ultimately costing them the game. It’s become too common of a tale. Francisco Rodriguez and Kyle Ryan have been the only regularly reliable pieces to come from the bullpen, and even then it seems like Rodriguez cannot get a save without a little bit of trouble unfolding (shades of Jose Valverde and Todd Jones, anyone?). If they want to be a force in the playoffs, let alone make the playoffs in the first place, Brad Ausmus and Rich Dubee need to get the bullpen’s act together going into a key series against the Baltimore Orioles.martinezkinslercabrera
  4. Consistency is not here and it’s showing no signs of arriving. Following a big series win in Kansas City and a dramatic victory on Labor Day in Chicago, it seemed as though this team had finally found the stride that it needed to begin the month and solidify their playoff position. Enter Miguel Gonzalez, Jose Quintana, and a seemingly asleep offense for two days. Gonzalez, fresh off of the DL, was able to subdue a volatile Tigers offense. Quintana, save for one rough inning on Wednesday, was able to do the same. An offense of this caliber, especially when you consider that the best hitter on the face of planet Earth in Miguel Cabrera sits in the three slot, should not have issues like this. Against Quintana it’s understandable; the guy has good stuff. But it’s a bit more of a head scratcher against Gonzalez, who, though pretty solid, is not on the level of Quintana. Going into the series against Baltimore the team has a day off. Similar to the bullpen, Ausmus needs to work with hitting coach Wally Joyner and light a fire underneath the offense. It’s their selling point and it’s what will get them into October if they even make it at all.

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