By Brad Faber @Brad_Faber on August 11, 2014
Just a few weeks ago, many thought that the Detroit Tigers were a lock to win their fourth consecutive AL Central crown. However, they now have a mere 0.5-game lead over the Kansas City Royals. Five years ago, the Tigers had a seven-game lead over the Minnesota Twins on Sept. 6, but ultimately went on to miss the playoffs. If they could blow that lead, they could sure blow this one. Here are five steps they can take to ensure that doesn't happen.
It may be time for the Tigers to stop counting on Andy Dirks, who has just been pulled off of his rehab assignment for the second time, and look elsewhere for the additional left-handed bat they have sorely been lacking. The team would have benefited greatly from trading for someone such as Ben Zobrist or Matt Joyce before the trading deadline, and there is still time for them to add another lefty or a switch-hitter via the waiver wire process.
In addition to a left-handed bat, the Tigers could also use another left-handed arm out of the bullpen. Blaine Hardy and Pat McCoy have certainly stepped up, but the team could really use another lefty with more experience. Someone such as Antonio Bastardo of the Philadelphia Phillies, who is currently 5-5 with a 3.96 ERA and a 1.22 WHIP, might be a good fit. Bastardo was also very good in 2013, posting a 2.32 ERA and a 1.27 WHIP.
The Tigers are already relying quite heavily on rookies this season, but they would benefit greatly from calling up 24-year-old catcher James McCann, who is currently hitting .310 with a .799 OPS in triple-A Toledo. McCann also plays great defense and would be a great right-handed hitting option to platoon with Alex Avila. It is becoming hard to see what current backup catcher Bryan Holaday is doing that McCann would not do better.
Rajai Davis has had some nice games in the leadoff spot for the TIgers, but Ian Kinsler is still the better option up there. This season, Kinsler has batted .330 with a robust .856 OPS in 194 at-bats in the leadoff spot. He has far more experience batting first than anywhere else in the order, and the time has come for manager Brad Ausmus to make him the team's permanent leadoff hitter.
Joe Nathan has been one of the biggest disappointments for Tigers fans in 2014. His attitude has also been questionable (see his comments after the Tigers' loss on Saturday). The time has come to remove him from the closer's role. The problem, however, is that the Tigers currently have newly-acquired Joakim Soria on the DL, and Joba Chamberlain has also struggled to close games. It would be a miracle if they could still acquire Joaquin Benoit.
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