Tigers Mailbag: Calm down -- double plays are no big deal

Tony Paul
The Detroit News
Dixon Machado

Miguel Cabrera got his breather Monday. Ian Kinsler should be getting a day off soooner rather than later.

In fact, all the Tigers will getting several days off coming up -- a welcome development for a team that's dragging, big-time.

After this weekend's series against the Angels, the Tigers return home to a day off Monday. Then, after three home games against the A's and three road games against the White Sox, they have another day off on Monday, June 8, followed by two home games against the Cubs, and then yet another day off.

In other words, once the Tigers return home Sunday night, they will play just eight games in 11 days.

That's music to the ears of a Tigers team that hasn't had a day off since May 11.

(Insert here your jokes about the Tigers offense having several days off!)

Let's get on to this week's Tigers Mailbag.

Question: I'd rather have the Tigers get nobody on base and hit weak ground balls than hit into so many double plays. (Sarcasm) -- AlphaBravo (twitter.com/albino_ab)

Answer: Ah, it's nice to see a Tigers fan who "gets it."

Yes, the Tigers have hit into a boatload of double plays already in 2015. Yes, they're on pace to set a record. Yes, there's no end in sight.

My question: Is this really a big deal? My answer: Not really.

Do you know the requirement for being able to hit into a lot of double plays? Lots and lots of base runners. Therefore, good offenses tend to hit into more double plays, because they're constantly putting runners on base.

The Tigers have 438 hits this year, tied for tops in MLB -- with the Giants -- and are among the league leaders in walks. The Giants, tied with the Tigers for hits, are fifth in baseball in double plays, and the Royals, just behind the Tigers in hits, are sixth in double plays. The Blue Jays, with their explosive offense, are fourth in DPs.

Meanwhile, the 2003 Tigers, with their anemic offense, rarely hit into double plays.

Seeing the point?

Yes, the 2015 Tigers have grounded into 51 double plays, eight clear of the runner-up White Sox.

Some of that is dumb luck. Sometimes, good things don't happen when you put the ball in play, contradicting the old adage.

But most of the high double-play total is attributed to these factors: Again, all the base runners. The Tigers also have a lot of guys who consistently put the ball in play, rather than strike out. They also have a lot of slower guys in the lineup. They also have a lot of guys who hit the ball hard, making the double plays easier to turn. Plus, the evolution of the shift has led to an increase in DPs. (The Tigers defense, by the way, has turned 44 double plays, second in the AL.)

This pace isn't likely to continue, but even if it does, it's not the end of the world.

On this pace, the Tigers would hit into 179 double plays, which would beat the AL record of 174, set by the 1990 Red Sox, who made the playoffs. The NL record is 169, set by the 2011 Cardinals, who actually won the World Series.

So, can we please calm down already?

Question: Do you think Dixon Machado is up here to also be shopped on the trade market? -- Corey Wolfgang (twitter.com/coreywwolfgang)

Answer: Good question, Corey. Quite possibly.

Machado, 23, got the callup because Kyle Lobstein went on the disabled list, and the Tigers had four days before they needed to call up another pitcher. The Tigers knew Jose Iglesias' knee was a bit banged up, so an extra shortstop for a few days seemed ideal.

Machado is an exciting prospect, with the glove and with the bat. He's made great strides on offense in recent years.

Problem is, much like Devon Travis, there isn't a clear opening for Machado anytime soon at the big-league level.

The Tigers are planning on having Iglesias, health-pending, man shortstop for years to come. Even if the Tigers wanted to shift Machado to second base, Ian Kinsler is under contract through at least 2017. And Nick Castellanos projects as a long-term fixture at third.

Like with Travis, there's just no room at the inn -- which is why Travis was expendable in the offseason trade for center fielder Anthony Gose.

Cole Hamels

Question: Not too early to talk trade deadline. Is an additional starting pitcher in the Tigers future? -- Pete June (twitter.com/pjune61)

Answer: If I have to answer this question today -- and I'm assuming you wanted an answer today -- then I'd say, yes, more starting pitching should be on the way.

The rotation for the season has been David Price, Anibal Sanchez, Alfredo Simon, Shane Greene and Lobstein. None of them have been excellent, though all of them have shown flashes of excellence. The question the Tigers will be faced with is: Who can be trusted in September and October?

The easy bets here: Price and Sanchez (who, no, does not need a stint at Toledo to figure things out). Simon has been excellent, but he was excellent early last year too, before sinking in the second half. Greene has been a mixed bag. And Lobstein has been the fifth starter, but could be out of a job now that he's on the disabled list and Justin Verlander's return appears rapidly approaching.

The Tigers will consider all their options at the trade deadline, as they did when they acquired Doug Fister, and Sanchez, and Price.

They're likely to get in on the bidding for Reds ace Johnny Cueto, who's a free-agent-to-be. I'd rather see them do whatever they can to go get Cole Hamels, the Phillies lefty who's under contract through 2018 -- thus would have double value. He'd help in a playoff push, but also provide protection should Price leave Detroit.

Alex Wilson

Question: If Bruce Rondon shows himself ready soon, who goes from the bullpen? -- Clint Novak (twitter.com/cmupensfan)

Answer: This is a great question, and the answer should be fascinating.

The Tigers really have two guys who would figure to be bullpen-bound soon -- Rondon when his rehab assignment at Toledo comes to an end, and Lobstein, who might just come off the DL in time for Verlander to take his rotation spot back.

Both Rondon and Lobstein would figure to upgrade the bullpen.

But that's not so clear anymore.

In case you haven't noticed, the Tigers bullpen, finally, is pretty darn good -- particularly Joakim Soria at closer. Tom Gorzelanny's been a great offseason steal, Blaine Hardy's pretty steady, Al Alburquerque's found his strikeout pitch, Alex Wilson's been a big boost, and Angel Nesbitt's fit right in.

The only Tigers reliever I have qualms with is Joba Chamberlain. I think he hangs way too many sliders.

Given the Tigers like Chamberlain -- and they've also committed a million bucks or more to him -- I'm guessing he's going to get yet another long leash this season.

Therefore, I'm not sure who the Tigers ship out to make room for Rondon and Lobstein.

My best guess: Rondon joins the bullpen and takes the spot, unjustly, of Wilson, while Lobstein goes back to Toledo to wait for his next tour of spot-starting duty.

Question: Which team is more legit -- the Astros or the Twins? -- Curtis (twitter.com/Curtos07)

Answer: While anybody could've predicted that on May 26, the Nationals, Cardinals and Dodgers would have the three best records in the NL, nobody could've predicted the AL leaders -- the Astros, Royals and Twins.

The only one I can say for sure will be in the playoffs, of course, would be the Royals, who are proving day in and day out that 2015 wasn't some miraculous run.

As for the Astros and Twins, they've been fantastic stories, so far. But as far as most legit, I'd have to go with the Astros.

For starters, I just think they're a better team with much better pitching than the Twins have, even if the Twins have pitched above their heads, and will get Ervin Santana back from suspension at the midway point.

I like the Twins' offense better than the Astros', but that's probably not enough to get Minnesota back to the postseason.

For starters, the Twins play in the AL Central, the best division in baseball. The four teams that don't win the division could battle for a wild card, but it'd be hard to see a second wild card coming from the division -- just because the five teams will beat up on each other so much.

The Twins are moving in the right direction, but they're not there yet.