Ranking the Tigers After Two Months of Play

Rudy TarkusContributor IIMay 29, 2012

Ranking the Tigers After Two Months of Play

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    Entering the 2012 season, the Tigers were the prohibitive favorite to win in a weak AL Central. So far, the Tigers have fallen short of this expectation.

    With Cleveland sitting atop the division at 27-21 and the White Sox in second (27-22), the Tigers have found themselves in a difficult, if not embarrassing situation.

    For Tigers fans, some solace can be taken from the fact that last year the Tigers were 25-26 after 51 games, and went on to win their first AL Central title with a record of 95-67. The 2011 ball club finished 20-6.

    Two months in, here's a look at departmental grades for the 2012 Detroit Tigers.


Defense: (D-)

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    While the Tigers are not living up to their expectations of running away with the division, there are some expectations the Tigers are living up to.

    Bad defense.

    After the signing of Prince Fielder, it was widely agreed upon by scouts and executives that Miguel Cabrera would be a disaster at third base. While he has shown flashes of athleticism, he has tallied seven errors already (mostly throwing). The rest of the Tigers infield consists of a horrendous Ryan Raburn, a below average Prince Fielder and an adequate shortstop of Johnny Peralta. The Tigers everyday infielders have a combined ultimate zone rating of -2.2. This is well below the league average.

    On May 16th, at home against the Minnesota Twins, the Tigers errored for the cycle, with each infielder committing an error.

    The Tigers rank 4th worst in the AL with 33 errors.


Starting Pitching: (B+)

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    It's safe to say that after Justin Verlander's one-hitter on May 18th, and Max Scherzer's brilliant 15 K game two days later, the Tigers starting rotation has a pretty solid one-two punch. The problem is Tigers' fans never know where the "two" will come from. It was supposed to be Doug Fister.

    So far, Fister has shown signs of his old, dominant self, but still remains out of the win-column. He struggled in his last start against the Red Sox, giving up six runs over five innings.

    Rick Porcello remains the odd man out with a 3-4 record and 5.21 ERA in 10 starts.

    Rookie Drew Smyly has done just about all manager Jim Leyland can ask of a fifth starter. The 22-year-old has gone 2-1 with a 3.14 ERA in his first nine major league starts.

    If Verlander and Scherzer can maintain, and Fister can return to 2011 form, the Tigers' starting rotation looks to be one of the more solid in the American League.


Offense: (D-)

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    This is where the Tigers are supposed to be shining, but that hasn't been the case save for a few times this year.

    The offseason brought Prince Fielder to a pop-heavy lineup, making it even more pop-heavy, but so far, there haven't been many results. 

    As I said in an early May article, the Tigers are struggling to make returns on their investments.

    The good news:

    The Tigers batted .243 in April. In May, they brought it up to .276. 

    They've also managed to bring their OBP up from .305 to .341.

    Andy Dirks is a legitimate No. 2 hitter: (41/129, .318 BA)

    The bad news:

    Ryan Raburn is lost at the plate: (18/123, .146 BA)

    His "backup" Ramon Santiago is also lost at the plate: (15/74, .203 BA)

    Delmon Young, Alex Avila, Don Kelly and Brennan Boesch have yet to consistently reach base.


Bullpen: (C+)

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    Tigers closer Jose Valverde could single-handedly ruin the bullpen performance grade by making one of the worst facial hair decisions in baseball history, but we're not here to discuss fashion.

    After a rough start, Papa Grande has tightened up his strike zone and managed to record five consecutive saves for the Tigers. 

    Octavio Dotel has had only one bad outing and maintains good numbers with the Tigers, even at 38 years of age (2.87 ERA, 0.89 WHIP, 15.2 IP)

    Joaquin Benoit, also, after having a few rough outings, has managed to put together a successful string of outings for the Tigers.

    Unfortunately, the month of May saw the horrendous performances of rookie reliever Luke Putkonen (8.59 ERA, 7 ER, 5 BB, 6 K, 7 IP) and the total meltdown of Colin Balester (DFA).


Overall (C-)

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    It is said that expectations lead to disappointments, and that is true in the case of the 2012 Tigers. It is also true that 2011 brought big expectations for Tigers' fans with the signing of Victor Martinez, and they managed to turn things around in time to steamroll down the stretch and run away with the AL Central.

    There's still plenty of time for the Tigers to plug holes in the ship, and stop the leaking, but in the meantime, their inadequate play over the first two months has earned them an inadequate grade.