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Second Thoughts Game #146: Indians 2, Tigers 7

Second Thoughts Game #146: Indians 2, Tigers 7
J.D. Martinez and the Tigers get the Indians again. (Photo: AP)
September 13, 2014
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When Carlos Santana didn't hit a two-run home run in the first-inning, so clearly, doom was writ large upon the sky over Detroit. The number of things that Cleveland could have improved upon, from the numerous curiosities of Raburn's game to Carrasco not performing at his previous near-perfect performance, was clearly great; nevertheless, one finds oneself compelled to comment that the Detroit Tigers remain really good.

The Detroit Tigers have made a number of questionable decisions. The $240 million Miguel Cabrera extension through his age-41 season, for one; Doug Fister was traded in exchange for Robbie Ray, the former of whom is posting a 2.53 ERA in Washington and the latter of whom is posting approximately replacement-level performance in Detroit.

On the other hand, Detroit did acquire Ian Kinsler in exchange for Prince Fielder and $30M, which even with the subsidy, may yet be one of the worst contracts in the Majors. Detroit also brought in David Price and J.D. Martinez, two players pivotal to Detroit's success in 2014. These three may be among Detroit's best players.

Offseason and mid-season moves helped improve Detroit, but its 2014 core was in place before the end of the 2013. Recall, after all, that the 2013 rotation was not merely dominant but historically dominant. Since the lowering of the mound, only the 1970 Cubs posted a higher FanGraphs WAR (31.2) than the 2013 Tigers (29.4). The rotation, who has since replaced the underrated Fister with the not-at-all-underrated Price, brought back Max Scherzer,Justin VerlanderRick Porcello, and Anibal Sanchez. Sanchez remains possibly the most efficient pitcher in the majors - efficient rather than best because of his recurring, frequent injury issues. Verlander has taken a substantial step back in 2014, but he remains a 2+ WAR pitcher. Porcello has remained largely healthy and not only closed the FIP-ERA gap that had defined him but, moreover, reversed that same gap, posting a 3.27 ERA lower than his 3.51 FIP. Max Scherzer remains Max Scherzer. The rotation, with previous contributions from Drew Smyly and in spite of contributions from the motley crew of spot starters in the Detroit system, has posted 17.9 FanGraphs WAR as a rotation, best in the majors by a full 3 WAR over the second-place Nationals.

At the bat, Miguel Cabrera has posted another 4 WAR season. Ian Kinsler has continued to contribute, not only with his frustratingly strong second-base defense, but with an offensive profile that combines precisely league-average batting (100 wRC+) with near-elite baserunning ability. Victor Martinez, because he is a former Cleveland baseball player, received a review of his offense from August Fagerstrom: the short of it is that his bat is good at everything. Finally, J.D. Martinez has taken on something of a Raburn role - 21 Home Runs, a 305 batting average and .553 slugging percentage. Together, these four combine for 16.0 of Detroit's 20.3 position player WAR.

Detroit, in other words, is a very good team. Fortunately for Cleveland fans, it's one unlikely to remain as dominant as it currently stands for very long. Victor Martinez and Max Scherzer hit free agency at season's end; David Price and Rick Porcello become free agency after the end of the 2015 season. Verlander and Cabrera are on the wrong side of 30.

The Detroit Tigers are one of MLB's very best teams. Even if their face-value records suggests they are within striking distance, they nevertheless comprise one of the best teams in the majors, one of the few perennial World Series contenders of the past several years. Cleveland is not without fault in Friday's game, but it's important to take account of whom precisely they're matched against. The Tigers are good, but free agency and the prospect of unmatchable contracts are on their way, one might well attach the ominous title to the Tigers' competitiveness: 'for now.'

John can be reached on Twitter at @JHGrimmHe can also be reached by e-mail at

User Comments

September 13, 2014 - 3:57 PM EDT
mike ilitch i think perceives that MLB is like the NHL and it isnt. He last year in case you didnt remem ber with twice the payroll of the tribe finished one game better than the tribe 93-69 versus 92-70. With his 100 million dollar pitching staff against clevelands 5 or 6 million dollar staff (I have no idea what dolans are paying the entire rotation and bullpen but it aint much) no more than 10% of the pussy cats payroll.
ilitch's wife wns the motor city casino and ititch owns little ceasars pizza chain so two things must happen in order to maintain excellence. People have to buy a lotof piza and people have to lose money in her casino. On top of that ilitch need a visit by ponce de leon and his fountain of youth which isnt likely to happen anytime soon. The cayohoga river may have caught fire in cleveland but what has become of detroit is virtually unthinkable. the river rouge could just as easily catch fire as the cuyohoga and frankly max sherrzer turned down 144 million for 6 yrs and i doubt very seriously if the tigers win or lose in the series if that offer will be revisited. 160 million dollar payroll is unfathomable in that bankrupt city with all the urban decay. they wont b e able to sign max will have to cut vmart salary down and after next year wave good bye to price and portello in the meantime cleveland prolly has a better overall pitching staff locked in prolly thru ab out 2019 and 5 yrs to sign criitcal pieces of the rotation plus get the dylon bakers and the two lefties from carolina to the big club, and sign cy kluber to a nice contract extension no wheres near what max, anabel, or verlander are costing the pussy cats. remember there is no such thing as enough pitching and if you have extra arms they will bring you anything else you may need to complete your ball club. so enjoy friday night 9/12/2014 as it will be fleeting moment in time and when you fall and you will due to father time and due to the inability to replace intricate parts cause of inflated payroll numbers and no enough people buying your pizza and no enough people choosing to lose money in the motor city casino. enjoy what is left of your time of dominance we had the mid to late 90's and there is a better than 60/40 chance what is coming from the the tribe of the mid to late teens will dwarf what happened 20 years ago.

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