After today's 3-1 win over the Oakland Athletics, the Tigers are even at 17-17. The last time the team was below .500 was May of last year. Many fans and analysts, instead of referencing the past, have turned to doom and gloom, some calling for the head of Tigers hitting coach Lloyd McClendon.
Starting pitching isn't the concern, that's clear. Tigers starters have an ERA of 3.74, fourth in the American League. The bullpen is a different story; they're dead last in the AL with an ERA of 5.05. Major contributors have been the inconsistency of Joaquin Benoit and closer Jose Valverde's inability to keep runners off base.
When the bullpen is bad, it makes the lineup look even worse. But, they're doing a good job of looking bad on their own. Thirty-four games into the season, the Tigers have scored three runs or less 18 times. Couple poor run production with the league's worst bullpen ERA, and the Tigers sit uncomfortably at 17-17, only good enough for second place in the AL Central.
Even with the slow start, last year shows us there's no reason for real concern. Baseball fans and some analysts have a tendency to forget how many games there are in a season. Fingers are pointed and a scapegoat is often blamed for a team's overall poor performance.
Baseball is an up-and-down game. A look at the Tigers' progression over 2011 is proof of that.
Here's a comparison of the 2011 and 2012 Tigers through 34 games:
2011 16-18 (.470)
2012 17-17 (.500)
Given these comparisons, the weakness of their division, their 2011 finish of 95-67 and .277 BA, it might be premature to call for the head of hitting coach Lloyd McClendon. Just to be sure, here's how the Tigers' cool bats progressed over the the entirety of 2011:
Batting Average by month:
These numbers should come as good news to Tigers fans at least in terms of offense, and the impulse to symbolically release a hitting coach should should be quelled. It's only a matter of time until the dynamic-duo of Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera produce the way they did in the opening series against the Boston Red Sox.
It's times like this that fans should remind themselves there are 162 games in a season, and the successful turn-around of last year's Tigers should come as some consolation for a team just keeping afloat in a weak division. Add to that the likelihood that Victor Martinez could return sooner than expected, according to recent medical evaluations.
Stats derived from baseball-reference.com