Paul Wezner, Executive Editor
Clutch hitting would obviously be nice (leaving double digit runners on base night in and night out has been a source of frustration for many as of late. But the offense is still for the most part producing and getting more hits with runners in scoring position should come. Where the season hinges is on the shoulders of the pitching staff - it's reasonable to expect the Tiger offense to return to the mean and start scoring an average of five runs per game. However, that means the pitching staff (ESPECIALLY the starters) have to be allowing less than that for the Tigers to be able to close the gap for a playoff slot. If the Tigers can't make that happen consistently over the final three weeks of the season, they'll be sitting at home come October.
Mark Anderson, Managing Editor
Is it possible to say everything has to change for the Tigers? The starting pitching needs to gain some consistency. The offense needs to regularly produce 4-5 runs a night to ensure the starters don't have to feel the burden of pitching perfectly. The bullpen has to start locking things down in the latter innings, with regularity. Hopefully the return of Kenny Rogers -- if healthy -- will provide some stabilization to the rotation. The impending return of Gary Sheffield -- again if healthy -- will help provide that missing element to the offense. And the continued increasing comfort level of the now returned Fernando Rodney and Joel Zumaya will allow them to regain some modicum of their 2006 brilliance. The Tigers are in need of some serious help right now, and it must come from just about every aspect of the diamond.
Jason Avery, Associate Editor, Amateur Baseball
For the Tigers to make the playoffs, they must play with a sense of urgency, and Jim Leyland must ride his regulars the rest of the way. The only player who should reasonably get any time off is Pudge Rodriguez due to the rigors of catching, but at this stage, it's now or never. If anyone wants time off, they'll have five months of it beginning next month if they don't make the playoffs, so I don't want to see a replica of Sunday's lineup (yes, I know they scored seven runs) where several starters sat. As far as on-field matters go, the pitching has to be outstanding from top to bottom for the Tigers to have any shot, and they must get help with either Cleveland or the Yankees to go into a tail spin to have a shot at catching them. Seattle is also in the mix, and the Tigers have three huge games with them where they must sweep (picking up one game if they win two out of three won't cut it) and put the M's in the rearview mirror in the wild card race. If the Tigers don't make the playoffs, they will look at their 11-18 record (through Monday) against the White Sox, Devil Rays, and Athletics as being a big reason. Good teams take care of business against bad teams, and the Tigers haven't done that.
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