The way the wheels fell off the Detroit Tigers’ bandwagon — battered and beaten though it already was, kept rolling only by the headwinds of the awful American League Central — this past week, you’d think the warranty just expired or something.
On Tuesday, it was Eduardo Rodriguez and Matt Vierling going on the injured list (with finger and back ailments, respectively). That day, Riley Greene departed the Tigers’ game early, and by Wednesday, he too was headed to the IL with a “stress reaction” (downgraded from a “stress fracture”) in his left leg. And then on Saturday, Alex Faedo joined them all on the IL with a finger issue.
And while all that was happening, the Tigers dropped five of six games to the Texas Rangers and the Chicago White Sox (scoring just THREE RUNS in Chicago, for Veeck’s sake). At least this week they merely have … the defending NL champs and current NL West co-leaders.
And so we have to ask: Can somebody at Comerica Park dig that warranty out of the trash? Or at least find that CarShield deal they signed last season? After all, it looks like Greene has some time to shoot some new commercials, finally…
Hello, and welcome to the Seatless in Seattle Newsletter.
Speaking of daunting paperwork, it’s that time of year again: MLB All-Star voting is open! (Though, really, when was the last time any of us filled out a paper ballot for the All-Star game, littering our seat with those tiny cardboard chads?) After having two All-Stars last season — DH Miguel Cabrera and reliever Gregory Soto — the Tigers appear likely to have just one in 2023 (and none elected via the fans’ vote).
But the rules of the game — which is slated for Seattle on July 11, by the way — say the Tigers get a representative, so let’s run through potential candidates for the Tigers’ berth, and their odds as we see them. (Positions as listed on the official ballot.)
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Off the board: OF Riley Greene, SP Eduardo Rodriguez — If these two were healthy, this list would probably be a lot shorter, and be a lot more focused on the Tigers potentially having two All-Stars for the second consecutive season. But they’re not, so we’re moving on.
(When might they return? Head here for opinions from a pair of orthopedic surgeons with insights into the duo’s injuries, thanks to the Freep’s Evan Petzold.)
DH Miguel Cabrera: We’re not ruling out another special dispensation from the commish’s office — a final, final farewell on a national stage with perhaps a bit more time to shine than last season’s David Ortiz-fest — but it seems a bit more unlikely. After all, when he was tabbed last season (on July 8), Cabrera was sporting a not-awful .308/.347/.372 slash line; this season, he’s down to .202/.283/.245. Another difference between last season and this one: While there was a natural pairing on the NL side with Albert Pujols in 2022, there’s no such fit in 2023 (unless the league wants to give 43-year-old Nelson Cruz one last heyday back in Seattle). Odds: 100-to-1.
SP Michael Lorenzen: No Tigers pitcher has been hotter over the past five weeks. Saturday’s start was the fifth time in six starts Lorenzen allowed one run or less; that heater, with a 1.83 ERA over 39⅓ innings, has brought his season mark down to 3.21. It may not be entirely sustainable, with just 26 strikeouts over that span, but his mere seven walks since the start of May show he’s doing something right. Another month of that would definitely help his case, but even so: Lorenzen is one of seven AL starters (minimum 50 innings) with a sub-3.30 ERA and a sub-1.000 WHIP. (The others: E-Rod, Nathan Eovaldi, Luis Castillo, Joe Ryan and Cristian Javier.) Odds: 50-to-1.
RP Jason Foley: He doesn’t have a monthly award or some of the gaudy stats owned by his teammate (who we’ll get to), but Foley has arguably been the Tigers’ most effective reliever this season. Actually, the 1.42 ERA is pretty gaudy; Foley is only striking out 7.5 batters per nine innings (K/9) but he’s getting it done with a stellar 1.8 walks per nine innings (BB/9) that’s fourth among AL relievers with at least 25 innings pitched. Odds: 25-to-1.
(Also, he has one of the more unlikely entrance songs in the majors. Head here to find out from Our Man Petzold what that is.)
2B Zach McKinstry: He’s not the Tigers’ leader in OPS — that honor belongs to his fellow Zac, Zack Short at .860 (albeit in just 54 plate appearances) — but the CMU alumnus checks in at .807, second on the roster. That’s fueled by a .384 on-base percentage that would rank eighth among qualified AL hitters, if he wasn’t three plate appearances short of the minimum. McKinstry has also been productive on the basepaths; with 10 steals, he’s one of seven hitters in either league this season with double-digit steals and an OPS over .350. (The others: Ronald Acuña Jr., Corbin Carroll, Wander Franco, Cedric Mullins, Jonathan India and Christian Yelich — and none of them are listed at second base.) Look, we’re not saying it’s likely, but if the AL bullpen fills up quick and the Tigers have to send a position player … Odds: 10-to-1.
RP Alex Lange: The AL Reliever of the Month in May has an earned run total for June four times what it was in May (one), all thanks to Jake Burger’s grand slam Sunday afternoon (and a couple walks before that). Lange’s BB/9 rate (4.7) is a little too high for elite status, but his 12.8 K/9 puts him in the top 10 of AL pitchers (with at least 20 innings pitched). Not only that, but winning the award bodes well as a harbinger of Lange’s All-Star chances; of the 12 monthly winners in April, May and June over the past two seasons, only three have missed out on the ensuing Midsummer Classic. Odds: 2-to-1.
(Head here to get Lange’s reaction to his monthly honor from Our Man Petzold.)
So who’ll get the nod? We’ll find out on July 2 when the full squads are announced.
One player who just missed the cut on our clearly scientific All-Star rankings: outfielder Akil Baddoo. The 24-year-old was the Tigers’ third-best hitter in May — limited praise, but still … — while posting a .294/.392/.485 slash line. He also had three steals, walked 11 times and struck out just 11 times. And it all stems from a conversation he had with bench coach George Lombard in 2022. Head here to find out from Our Man Petzold how that talk has been motivating Baddoo ever since.
*Your spelling may vary.
A moral (and actual) victory
For a brief moment, Baddoo was the only true outfielder on the Tigers’ active roster. But even as they were getting the bad news on Greene and Vierling, the Tigers were active on the trade front, reeling in veteran Jake Marisnick from the White Sox for that favorite trade sweetener: Cash. Marisnick, of course, immediately delivered a game-saving catch and game-winning RBI on Wednesday. His success, and the Tigers’ unwillingness to give up, showed Shawn Windsor this is a team with character. Get more on his reasoning here.
Still, that’s a lot of injuries, and it harkens back to our favorite catchphrase of 2022, A.J. Hinch’s “I’m not a doctor.” Then again, neither is the Freep’s Jeff Seidel, and he was left searching for answers on Tuesday night. Head here to learn what he discovered (thanks in part to a vintage Miguel Cabrera performance).
Still, the week wasn’t entirely negative: Friday marked the debut of pitching prospect Reese Olson, who delivered five no-hit innings to open the series in Chicago, all in front of 30 of his friends and family. Our Man Petzold broke down the start here to discover what made Olson so, well, nasty.
2 to watch
We had a third player here, like we normally do, but he was sent to the 7-day Newsletter Injured List:
GARRETT HILL: So who’s filling in for Alex Faedo on Tuesday? Maybe him?
TARIK SKUBAL: It won’t be the lefty, though he impressed in his first rehab start on Sunday.
Happy birthday, Will!
Another standout in the Tigers’ bullpen, Will Vest, turns 28 on Tuesday. The right-hander has been surprisingly effective since his recall from Triple-A in late April. (He started the season in Toledo after sporting a 29.25 ERA in spring training.) Even after allowing a run in Sunday’s loss — just his fourth appearance with a run scored, with 14 scoreless showings — Vest’s ERA sits at 3.00, with 22 strikeouts and eight walks in 21 innings. We’d have made the case for him in the earlier All-Star section, but, well, they can’t build the whole AL bullpen out of Tigers, can they?
Mark your calendar
It’s another nearly full week of old friends as the Tigers check in with the National League. Starting Monday, it’s a three-game set with the Phillies in Philadelphia, where Dave Dombrowski is running the defending NL champs, Nick Castellanos is slugging for them, Kody Clemens is occasionally mopping up games on the mound and Gregory Soto is still wildly effective, when he’s not just wild. And yet, the Phils are five games under .500, just like the Tigers. So what has gone wrong? (Head here to get a breakdown of just one of Philly’s problems, and why it’s good news for Monday’s starter, Joey Wentz.) After that series, the Tigers return home for three games, starting Friday, against the Arizona Diamondbacks, who feature former Tiger Andrew Chafin (and his 3.38 ERA) in their bullpen. Oh, and you’ll want to set your alarm on Sunday, too — it’s an 11:35 a.m. start at Comerica Park for the series finale, which will be online-only on Peacock. (Think of it as practice for Big Ten football season.)
Other Tigers birthdays this week: Dave Bergman (would have been 70 on Tuesday; died in 2015), Al Alburquerque (37 on Saturday).
For all that went wrong last week, the Tigers remained in the thick of the AL Central race, dropping into a tie with Cleveland, 3½ games back of the Minnesota Twins, who are still just two games over .500. Squint at all those numbers, and you might see a division that has a shot at being the worst in MLB history (at least dating back to the adoption of divisions in 1969). Head here to find out how the Central compares to some other brutal divisional races from years past.
But, hey, there’s still a chance, as the Freep’s Carlos Monarrez noted early last week here. Then again, we haven’t heard from him, either, in a while …
Contact Ryan Ford firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter@theford.