I've asked myself this question a few times this year: Are the Tigers done?
Well, they are not mathematically eliminated but it has now reached the point where it will take a miracle to catch up. They are 8 1/2 games between the White Sox and 7 1/2 behind the Twins. That's a lot of ground to make up and it's unrealistic to expect (1) their pitching (especially their nonexistent bullpen) to suddenly turn it around (2) both the Twins and White Sox will collapse.
Was leaving Justin Verlander in to throw 130 pitches Wednesday night a bad idea?
Billfer definitely thinks it was a bad thing and I tend to agree but I'm a little less certain. Justin Verlander leads baseball in pitches thrown and in Pitcher Abuse Points - a system developed by Rani Jazayerli based on the number of pitches thrown per game. We all know that pitchers used to throw a lot more than they do today. It has been shown in recent years that excessive pitching can cause injuries. However, there are still a lot injuries today even with more careful workload management. It's also true that not all pitchers with heavy workloads get hurt. My feeling is that certain pitchers can handle heavy workloads as much today as they did twenty or thirty years ago. Why not? The key is to determine which ones. I'm not sure that they know how to do that yet but Verlander better be one of them because he has been throwing a lot.
Do the Tigers need to blow up their team and start over again next year?
No, they still have enough good pieces in place to make a run again next year. It would be nice if they could move Gary Sheffield and maybe find a better defensive defensive shortstop to replace the declining Edgar Renteria but I would leave the core of their offense intact. There is a lot of talent at the top of the line-up in Curtis Granderson, Placido Polanco, Carlos Guillen, Magglio Ordonez and Miguel Cabrera. The key will be to add as much pitching as they can by getting their own pitchers healthy again, promoting young relievers and adding free agents. We'll be discussing that all winter.
What do we have to look forward to for the remainder of the season?
The most interesting story the rest of the way might be Ordonez's pursuit to become the only Tiger other than Ty Cobb to win back to back batting titles. I'll also be watching to see if Granderson and Cabrera can stay hot and what kind of numbers they can put up. Armando Galarraga has been a pleasure to follow all year and actually seems to be getting better in recent starts. I don't think Armando will be rookie of the year (Evan Longoria is the best bet) but he may get some votes. Matt Joyce has also been a pleasant surprise and should continue to get at bats.
Besides Galarraga and Joyce, what other young players can we expect to see the rest of the way?
Zach Miner has done well as a starter so far and may be able to make the rotation next year so I'll be keeping an eye on him. Clete Thomas, Jeff Larish and Mike Hollimon will also probably get more opportunities down the stretch. A couple of new players who might also be called up are reliever Casey Fien and catcher Dusty Ryan. Both could play significant roles next year if all goes well.
Will Jim Leyland be back next year?
This is purely speculation but I don't think he will be. It's been a very disappointing year and one way or another, I think he will be gone. He could be fired or more likely a mutual agreement that he resign. I don't think it will even come to that though. Based on recent interviews (and I know that's not a great way to judge things), he seems very frustrated and worn down and I believe he may just retire.