As the Indians prepare to take on the Tigers in a four game series that is set to start tonight, I figured now would be a good time to check back in with Matt Snyder over at Motor City Bengals. After all, as the editor of Fansided’s Detroit Tigers site, he can provide some interesting insight on the current state of the Tigers. This is a huge series; one that could have a lasting impact on how the AL Central races and the American League playoffs shake out. He had some interesting things to say concerning the Tigers recent hot streak, the state of Justin Verlander, and his thoughts on the possible Jhonny Peralta suspension. You can follow Matt on Twitter @snyder_matthew.
Wahoo’s on First: The Tigers are on a roll right now and have won 8 games. What do you think has been the biggest reason for this recent hot stretch?
Matt Snyder: I think the biggest reason for any stretch (hot or cold) is random variation, but for this Tigers stretch specifically, they’ve benefited from phenomenal pitching. In seven of the eight games they’ve allowed zero, one, or two runs, and in the eighth game they allowed four runs. You’re going to win a lot of games with pitching like that, especially when you have an offense that averages more than five runs a game.
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Wahoo’s on First: How do you feel about the moves the Tigers made at the trade deadline. Did they fill the holes that needed to be filled and are you happy with the guys brought in?
Matt Snyder: The Tigers gave up a couple of prized outfield prospects to complete the trades — so they may not love the deals in three or four years — but with an untrustworthy bullpen and a suspension looming for Jhonny Peralta, they were moves they had to make. Jose Veras will help solidify the seventh and eighth innings in front of closer Joaquin Benoit, and Jose Iglesias will provide a much-needed defensive upgrade in Peralta’s stead.
Wahoo’s on First: I feel like I have to ask this question, so here it goes. Word is the Biogenesis suspensions will be handed out on Monday and as we all know Jhonny Peralta is rumored to be on that list. What are your thoughts on possibly losing him and your thoughts on the whole Biogensis scandal considering the Tigers have a key member of their team caught up in it?
Matt Snyder: I have mixed feelings on this. Jhonny has provided incredible value to the organization since he was acquired from the Indians, but, at the same time, shame on him if the allegations are true. If he was truly involved in PEDs he deserves the suspension, but at the same time, I would have no problem with the team including him on a potential postseason roster once he’s eligible again.
Wahoo’s on First: Ok, back to baseball. I know last time we spoke I asked about Justin Verlander’s struggles and you said you weren’t worried. How about now? He showed some improvements for a few starts but overall it still feels like an off year for him. Any more or less concerned?
Matt Snyder: The biggest concern for me is that his strikeout totals have dropped significantly over his last several starts. I have all the confidence in the world that Verlander is going to be able to regain form, but I’m now less sure that he’s going to return to dominance this season. His velocity has returned for the most part recently, but his command has remained off. He’s been reportedly tweaking his mechanics to re-find his comfort point, and if he does, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him snap back to his old self almost instantly.
There’s definitely a concern considering the lengthy extension the club gave him this past year, but this year has shown that he can still be an above average pitcher while struggling mightily.
Wahoo’s on First: Right now the Central is the Tigers division to lose. Are you at all worried about the Indians considering they continue to linger a few games back? From my side of things, it doesn’t seem like the Indians know how to beat the Tigers so our chase feels a bit like a tease and nothing more.
Matt Snyder: The head-to-head games will definitely be huge. Both Detroit and Cleveland have soft schedules the rest of the way, so the recent trading of wins will likely be the rule, not the exception. Cleveland appears capable of catching Detroit, but at this point the Tigers only need to go .500 the rest of the way to win 90 or 91 games. Whether or not the Tribe can win the division, I think the AL Central runner-up has to be considered the favorite for that second wild card spot.
Wahoo’s on First: What is your prediction for this series and any other thoughts you might have as we head into the final two months of the season.
Matt Snyder: If I had to bet I’d say the two teams split the four game set — always the safe choice — but if either team were able to win three of the games it would significantly swing the standings. A five game lead for Detroit certainly wouldn’t clinch the division, but it would mean the Indians would have a fair bit of ground to make up outside of the head-to-heads. On the other hand, Cleveland closing the gap to single game or, *gasp*, taking a one game lead would cause significant panic among Tigers fans. Fortunately, Miguel Cabrera has been resting up in preparation for this series.