10 Questions The Tigers Must Answer in the Second Half

With the second half of the 2011 Major League Baseball season one game old, now is the time when sports bloggers must write a post about questions Team X must answer in the second half. Those are the rules.

So, to keep my sports blogger card, here are the 1o questions, I think, the Tigers need to answer with 69 games left.

10. Can Jhonny Peralta keep it up? Besides Justin Verlander, Peralta has been the most important player to the Tigers, so far. You expect good numbers out of Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez. Peralta? Shit – we traded Giovanni Soto for him, a guy who doesn’t even have a page on ESPN.com.

9. Is Brandon Inge delusional? For the sake of the team’s chances of success, Inge needs to find a regular spot on the bench (or get released). I’ve never had a problem with Inge, but his recent comments lead me to believe he’s one of those guys who thinks it’s never his fault. There are, literally, 29 other third-basemen with better stats than him. Surely, the Tigers can bring one of them here.

8. Is Max Scherzer as good as his win total indicates? Scherzer has been the recipient of some good luck this season. His 10 wins are fifth in the American League, but he sports a not-so-awesome 1.44 WHIP, and his ERA bloomed from 2.98 on May 21, to its current 4.69. In order to compete until the end, the Tigers need a quality second starter. Schertzer can be that guy, but will he?

7. Can a team win a division with so many unproven youngsters? It’s sort of amazing that the Tigers have made it this far with guys like Brennan Boesch, Andy Dirks and Don Kelly getting regular playing time, but it’s the truth. In the second half, however, the pressure will be on: they’ll squeeze the bat a little tighter. Run the bases a little more cautiously. We’ve already seen Boesch disappear in one second half. Has he learned from his rookie season?

6. How long until Carlos Guillen‘s hamstring snaps? Carlos Guillen, the guy who you thought was done, is starting at second base today against the Chicago White Sox. And, I never thought I’d say this, but I’ve been praying for him to return. Even with an injury liability, I’d rather have him over Ryan Raburn. The question, of course, is can he make it all the way without getting injured? My Magic 8 balls says, “Don’t count on it.” I hope it’s wrong.

5. Will Ryan Raburn put up his usual second-half when it counts? Raburn is your typical put-up-numbers-when-it-doesn’t-count guy. We saw it last year when he played to a blistering pace when the Tigers weren’t playing for anything. This year, the team needs him to do something when it matters. He will occasionally run into one, which makes him, at the very least, a threat. The team will need somebody who can come off the bench and hit. He has to be that guy.

4. Is Miguel Cabrera poised to go on a tear? Cabrera has been, by his history, average, so far. Luckily, Cabrera’s “average” is most other player’s “career year.” But we’ve yet to see him pick up this team and carry it on his back. If he gets going for a long stretch of games, he makes this team hard to beat. I, for one, think he’s got a tear in him.

3. Who is the real Joaquin Benoit? In his last 22 appearances, Benoit has posted a 1.42 ERA. These are numbers the Tigers expected out of him when they signed him to that three-year, $18-million deal. In his first 17 appearances, he had an ERA of jumbo jet proportions: 7.47. Needless to say (but I’m still going to say it), they need the lower ERA-Benoit in the second half.

2. Can Justin Verlander pitch like this all year? The short answer, I hope, is “yes.” But after last night’s performance, one in which it didn’t appear like any hits were hard, some fans are worried. His track record suggests it was just one poor start, but if the worst he does is come back to Earth, it’s still a downgrade. The Tigers need him. They’ll only go as far as his arm, unless…

1. Will the Tigers trade for Ubaldo Jimenez? MLBTradeRumors.com reports that the Tigers had scouts at Jimenez’s last start. (Hold on. Let me slow down my breathing. Okay. That’s better.) If that’s the case, you have to, at least, wonder if they’re going to make a play for him. Frankly, I don’t know why the Rockies would consider trading him, but, whatever. Short of dealing Jacob Turner, everybody should be in play if the Tigers can do this, and I’d be willing to change my mind if Turner was the guy the Rockies want.

I’m sure there are dozens more questions that the Tigers need to answer in the second-half, but these are, in my opinion, the most important.

We will likely see our nails whittled down to the cuticles as the rest of this season plays out, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Image courtesy of WEBN-TV’s Flickr page.

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