It may seem like there’s nothing to root for as the Detroit Tigers play out the string of the 2023 season. Any hopes of a postseason berth for the Tigers are gone, and with about three weeks remaining, it’s all window dressing for Michigan’s baseball team.
But thankfully, player performances are still quite interesting. Specifically, first baseman Spencer Torkelson can make franchise history with his power hitting and production at the plate.
Torkelson has more than 30 doubles as of Sept. 11, and 27 home runs. If the second-year slugger managed to reach the 30-homer mark, he would become the first Tigers hitter age 23 or younger to do that in team history.
Only Hank Greenberg in 1934 (when he was 23), and Al Kaline in 1956 (when he was just 21) have managed at least 30 doubles and 25 home runs in a season before the age of 24 while wearing the Old English D.
Torkelson needs three more home runs in the last weeks of the season to place himself among and at the top of a small group of young Detroit hitters. Kaline and Greenberg both have plaques in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.
No one knows if “Tork” will one day be elected to the Hall of Fame. He will have to improve in several areas, like making contact and hitting for average, but he’s off to a splendid start as a Tiger.
Last season as a rookie, the former first round pick showed only faint glimpses of his talent. On Sept. 1 he was hitting just .197, with a slugging percentage under .300 - little of his power was being shown.
But Torkelson hit three homers in the final weeks of the 2022 season, nearly as many as he’d hit from March to August. Some, those close to the team, and a few inside the clubhouse, saw progress and felt the righthanded batter could come back in 2023 and be much better.
Torkelson showed his mettle in August when he became a finalist for American League Player of the Month. He hit nine home runs, slugged .550, and had an OPS near the .900 mark. In the first days of September, Tork has kept his bat thundering: with three homers (two in one game at Yankee Stadium) in nine games so far. His teammates are noticing him.
"Every time he goes up to bat, you think he's going to hit a homer," pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez said recently. "That's the kind of year he's been having and I love it. I loved seeing him hit all year and I just want him to finish strong."
"It's tough to hit,” Torkelson said after his two homers against the Yankees. “So you want to ride the hot streaks as long as possible and eliminate the cold streaks," Torkelson said. "It's all about getting back to my plan, my approach and my process.”
With three more dingers, Torkelson will have done something not even Kaline, Greenberg, or Kirk Gibson ever did for the Detroit Tigers.
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