Detroit Tigers Newsletter: Jeimer Candelario has 18 games to make history

Detroit Free Press

A line drive to the right-center gap for the Detroit Tigers against the Twins in April. Another liner, this one down the left-field line in Baltimore in August. A ball crushed to center at Comerica Park that bounced over the fence against the Blue Jays. And, most recently, a dart that bounced off the bottom of the wall in center against the Rays on Friday night.

These are just a few of the hits that have Jeimer Candelario leading all players in doubles, with 40 entering Monday. He’s three up on Toronto’s Marcus Semien and Boston’s J.D. Martinez, with three weeks left in the season. If he can hold onto the lead, he’ll become the fourth Tiger to lead the AL in doubles since baseball expanded to a 162-game schedule in 1961.

Hello, and welcome to the Two-Bagger Newsletter.

Jeimer Candelario’s secret: ‘When you hit doubles, home runs will come’ ]

Yes, for a third baseman, Candelario has spent a lot of time standing on second, especially since the All-Star break. In 53 games since the Midsummer Classic, Candelario has hit 20 doubles, also best in the AL.

Will Candelario capture the Tigers’ first doubles title since 2014? Three weeks — 18 games — is a lot of time. But just in case he does, here’s a quick primer on the franchise’s history of two-baggers:

• Pop star: The first double in franchise history came, naturally enough, in the team’s first game, on April 25, 1901; Frank “Pop” Dillon hit a ground-rule double into the crowd at Michigan and Trumbull in the fourth inning against the Milwaukee Brewers (who would become the St. Louis Browns in 1902, and the Baltimore Orioles in 1954). Dillon had a good day at then-Bennett Park, racking up four doubles. (Though we suspect he was aided by a roped-off outfield crowd shrinking the dimensions of the field of play; he hit just 10 more in his final 73 games of the season.)

• Tops in twos: 13 Tigers have led the AL in doubles, a total of 22 times. The Tigers’ list of doubles champs: Ty Cobb (1908, 1911, 1917), Sam Crawford (1909), Bobby Veach (1915, 1919), Harry Heilmann (1924), Charlie Gehringer (1929, 1936), Roy Johnson (1929), Hank Greenberg (1934, 1940), Dick Wakefield (1943), George Kell (1950, 1951), Harvey Kuenn (1955, 1958, 1959), Al Kaline (1961), Magglio Ordonez (2007) and Miguel Cabrera (2011, 2014).

MORE: 1984 Detroit Tigers 3B says team ‘didn’t achieve as much as we should have’

• Split season: There’s one Tiger that led the majors in doubles not included in that list: Nick Castellanos, who had 37 doubles in the AL when he was traded to the NL in July 2019. He then hit 21 two-baggers (in just 51 games) with the Cubs to finish with 58 on the year, four more than AL leader Rafael Devers and 14 more than NL co-leaders Anthony Rendon and Corey Seager.

• Franchise kings: Cobb only led the AL three times, but he’s the franchise’s career leader in doubles, with 665 in 2,806 games, followed by Gehringer at 574 and Kaline at 498. At 411 doubles with the Tigers, Cabrera likely isn’t catching Cobb, but Miggy’s next double will tie him with Alan Trammell for sixth in team history. (Lou Whitaker is fifth, with 420.)

Of course, while Candelario is piling up the doubles, he’s not neglecting the homers, either. Click here to find out why, as the Freep’s Even Petzold reports, Candelario is willing to wait for a power boost, saying, “When you hit doubles, home runs will come.” (As they did Sunday, when Candelario hit two dingers to spark an 8-7 win over the Rays.)

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Triple threat

Candelario isn’t the only Tiger leading the AL in an extra-base hit category. Akil Baddoo tripled for the seventh time this season on Friday night, pushing him just ahead of Cleveland’s Amed Rosario for the AL lead. (Baddoo is also tied for third on the Tigers in doubles, with 20.) It’s all part of Baddoo’s season-long effort to maximize his speed. As Baddoo told Our Man Petzold earlier this week, “I’m 100% for being aggressive and letting my legs and my abilities take over.” Click here to find out what that might mean for his role with the Tigers next year.

(And because we know you’re wondering: The Tigers don’t have the AL leader in singles — that would be the Angels’ David Fletcher, with 127. But Jonathan Schoop is sixth  in singles, with 109, and fifth in hits, with 157. Home runs, though? The Tigers’ leader, Robbie Grossman, has 23 — about half the totals of Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Shohei Ohtani, at 44.)

Hammerin’ Harold

Speaking of Tigers finding their extra-base stroke, there’s Harold Castro (who, by the way, still leads the team in batting average AND ERA, albeit with only 2⅔ innings on the mound) – the utility player has six doubles and two homers since the All-Star break, with both dingers coming in September. As Our Man Petzold notes, Castro is already an impact player, regardless of what he does on the field. Click here to find out why.

Limited editions

From power at the plate to power on the mound, we have Casey Mize and Tarik Skubal, who will be on innings limits for the rest of the season. Click here to find out, as Our Man Petzold reports, why Mize says, “All my focus is on getting nine outs without letting anybody score and passing it off to the bullpen.” As for Skubal? He wasn’t exactly sharp in Sunday’s start, but he did set an MLB rookie record for consecutive outings with at least four strikeouts, at 22. Read more here on who he passed.

Fulmer points a finger

He’s not as young as Mize and Skubal, but Michael Fulmer is still learning new tricks in the bullpen. This summer, is was a new grip for his curveball, turning it into a nasty out pitch thanks to avice from pitching coach Chris Fetter. Our Man Petzold has the story here of how one finger made all the difference.

Win, lose or Drew

The inning limits for Mize and Skubal have created an even greater need for pitchers who can eat innings mid-game. Enter Drew Hutchison, back from Triple-A to provide some long relief, as he did Saturday night in the Tigers’ loss. Click here to find out the organization’s plan for Hutchinson, as Our Man Petzold reports.

A lesson learned

Saturday featured more than just a game between the Tigers and Rays; it was also the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. It was an event that hit hard for manager AJ Hinch, especially as he attended the World Series just a few weeks later. Our Man Petzold has the story here of what Hinch learned from the tragedy in 2001.

3 to watch

A trio of pitchers are front and center this week, on and off the mound…

BRYAN GARCIA: Last September, he was the closer for the Tigers. Now, he’s ‘at peace’ with returning from Triple-A.

MATT MANNING: After taking a batted ball off his leg in Pittsburgh, the rookie takes the mound again Wednesday.

JACK MORRIS: The Bally Sports Detroit analyst came back from his suspension with an apology for his remarks on Shohei Ohtani.

Arm woes

It was a tough week for Tigers arms before they even got on the mound. On Friday, Matthew Boyd — just recently returned from a stint on the injured list – was scratched from his start; on Saturday, he was sent back to the IL. Click here for Our Man Petzold’s report on why Tommy John surgery could be in the cards for the lefty. If it is necessary, Boyd would be the third Tiger to go under the knife this season; pitcher Spencer Turnbull had it earlier this season and catcher Jake Rogers underwent the surgery (done to repair damage to the ulnar collateral ligament in the elbow) on Wednesday. Click here to find out how much time Rogers (who arrived in the organization in the 2017 Justin Verlander trade) will miss.

Happy birthday, Earl!

Former Tiger Earl Webb — MLB’s all-time leader for doubles in a single season — would be turning 125 on Friday. (He died in 1965.) Webb’s record for doubles came in his fourth full season in the majors, when he hit 67 in 151 games with the Boston Red Sox in 1931 as a 33-year-old. The Sox then dealt him to the Tigers in mid-June of the next season (for Dale Alexander, who would lead the AL in batting average at .367, and Roy Johnson, who, as noted earlier, had tied for the AL lead in doubles in 1929). But Webb’s extra-base power dropped off; he hit 19 doubles in 94 games with the Tigers and was released in May of 1933.

Other Tigers birthdays this week: Delmon Young (36 on Tuesday); George Lombard (46 on Tuesday), Robbie Grossman (32 on Thursday), Mickey Tettleton (61 on Thursday), Beau Burrows (25 on Saturday), Spencer Turnbull (28 on Saturday) and Mitch Meluskey (48 on Saturday).

One more Tigers flashback: Click here to find out why Tom Brookens says his 1980s Tigers underachieved.

Mark your calendar

With 21 days remaining in the regular season, the Tigers have a day off in each of the final three weeks. This week’s off day arrives today, and is followed by a two-game visit from the Brewers on Tuesday-Wednesday and then a four-game series against the Rays in Florida.

Not only is it a rematch of this past weekend’s series against Tampa Bay, Friday night will bring a reunion with Central Michigan product Dietrich Enns, who held the Tigers hitless and scoreless over four innings Saturday for his first career win. It was a long road to success for the 30-year-old, who was drafted in the 19th round by the Yankees in 2012. After more than five seasons in the Yankees’ system, he was traded to the Twins, for whom he toiled in the minors for another three seasons, followed by stints in the organizations of the Padres, Mariners and, finally, the Rays. Since arriving in the bigs in August, Enns has 19 strikeouts over 16 innings, with just five walks. Click here (then scroll a bit) to find out how Enns dominated the Tigers at Comerica Park.

TL;DR

Thursday marks the 12th anniversary of Ernie Harwell’s farewell address, delivered on Sept. 16, 2009. We highly recommend clicking here and taking a couple minutes to relive the voice of the Tigers’ goodbye to the fans at Comerica Park.

Contact Ryan Ford at rford@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @theford.

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