Despite Tough Weekend, Detroit Tigers Still the Class of the American League
By all accounts, this past weekend was a rough one in Detroit.
Not just because of the end of hockey in Hockeytown, or the train wreck set to music which is the Detroit Pistons season.
For all intents and purposes, the Tigers were looking at this series as a small measuring stick.
It was their first opportunity to play a rematch against their American League Championship Series (ALCS) opponent from last year.
It also was a chance to go up against a team that was on a winning streak and boasts a ridiculously deep lineup and rotation.
And despite getting shellacked in two of the four games, the Tigers were still only a blown call away from getting a split.
The naysayers are already starting to sound the alarm bells, claiming in some circles that the only good thing about this weekend was Verlander, and it took yet another heroic performance to avoid a sweep.
They say that the Rangers are still on another level, and the Tigers, for all of the money that they have invested, still aren't in their league.
Technically, we were only a game away from a sweep.
But there are reasons to be optimistic following this series.
In two of the four games, the Tigers started someone who will not be leaned on in the postseason, if, of course, the Tigers have a rematch with Texas in the playoffs.
Adam Wilk was only pitching because Doug Fister is hurt, and Fister was a huge part of Detroit's success last year.
There's no reason to believe that Fister won't have a full recovery, and yet again, become a huge contributor.
If the Tigers again play Texas in the playoffs, they will probably start at most four starters, and neither Smyly nor Wilk will be in that group.
Sure, Porcello got roughed up, and that's a concern. But Rick pitched very well against Texas last year, including a very nice six-inning performance in the playoffs in which he only allowed two earned runs.
Last year as a whole, Rick pitched over 15 innings against Texas and gave up five earned runs.
That's much more indicative of the performance we are likely to get from Rick against Texas.
Add to that the fact that we got some very bad performances out of a guy who likely will not be a major factor with this team going forward (Daniel Schlereth) and a fluky bad performance by a guy put into a tough situation (Colin Balester, who was inserted cold into the game when Adam Wilk was hit by a foul ball) and you have some real anomalies.
Top this off with an atypically good performance by Colby Lewis (7.76 ERA against Detroit since 2009), a great performance from a first year mystery in Yu Darvish and another anomaly of a performance by Matt Harrison (6.30 ERA versus Detroit last year).
Typically, the Tigers will win the pitching matchup with Texas.
The Tigers started out the year on a hitting tear but cooled down against Texas.
But what seems more likely going forward of the following two explanations:
The Tigers lineup likely isn't as good as advertised, and the wheels are starting to come off the bus.
Or, the Tigers got into a small, four-game rut that's likely to happen, especially before the weather gets warm.
Given the track records of the hitters on this team, I am betting on the latter, not the former.
Brennan Boesch, Alex Avila and Jhonny Peralta combined to go 4-for-36 in this series.
Two of those guys were All-Stars last year, and the third, Boesch, has that kind of talent.
Two of the three also hit Texas very well last year.
Boesch hit .351 and Avila hit .385, and both had OBP way above .400 against Texas last year.
And while Peralta has historically been bad against Texas, even he's likely to do better than he did this weekend.
The meat of the Tigers' lineup did very well this weekend, and if everyone else was contributing the way they usually do, then Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder and Delmon Young would have way more opportunities to knock in runs.
Overall, the Tigers need to tip their caps to Texas and acknowledge that they are a very good baseball team.
But they also need to forget this weekend and remember how well they typically play this team.
The Rangers are a good team, but I wouldn't trade this Tigers team for anyone else in the sport—even Texas.
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