4 Detroit Tigers' Coldest Starts to the Season That Will Continue

Josh Berenter@JBerenterCorrespondent IApril 16, 2013

4 Detroit Tigers' Coldest Starts to the Season That Will Continue

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    The Detroit Tigers have the best batting average and on-base percentage in the American League 12 games into the 2013 MLB season.

    But the Tigers have stumbled out to a 7-5 record, and have several players scuffling to start the year.

    The Tigers have averaged more than 5.6 runs per game so far this season, and have scored at least six runs in seven of their first 12 games, but some key members on Detroit's roster have left their games in Lakeland, Fla.

    The runaway favorites to three-peat as AL Central champions aren't in trouble yet, standing in first place in the division, but a few players that were expected to step up this season have struggled, and don't seem to be anywhere near getting out of their early-season slumps.

    Here are the four Tigers whose cold starts will continue this season:

Victor Martinez

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    It looks like Victor Martinez will take longer than expected to get his timing back after missing the entire 2012 season with a torn ACL.

    Martinez, who was supposed to give the Tigers a much-needed boost at the No. 5 spot in the lineup, has put up lackluster numbers so far this season, batting .146 with zero home runs and four RBI in 41 at-bats.

    The 34-year-old hit .283 during spring training, and appeared to not miss a beat, but his timing and execution hasn't carried over into the regular season.

    Martinez might be in one of the best RBI positions in the league, batting behind Austin Jackson, Torii Hunter, Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder, but the Tigers' No. 5 hitter hasn't been able to duplicate the success of his predecessors.

    Being a designated hitter can be a double-edged sword for a player struggling with the bat. You can get extra swings in the cage between innings to try to get your timing down, but you also don't get the reprieve of being in the field.

    Every poor at-bat Martinez endures, he has that much more time to think about it when the Tigers are in the field.

    The Tigers demonstrated last season that they can win the division without Martinez, but they also showed in the World Series that they desperately need his bat when it matters the most.

    Whatever he needs to do, Martinez needs to figure it out.

Andy Dirks

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    Andy Dirks was supposed to have a breakout season this year, similar to the 2012 renaissance that fellow outfielder Austin Jackson had.

    But as the primary left fielder in 2013, Dirks has had a disappointing start to the year, batting .194 with zero home runs and four RBI in 31 at-bats.

    Dirks seemed completely lost in the first week of the season, going hitless in his first four games, and he's been held without a hit seven times in 12 games.

    The 27-year-old was second on the team last season with his .322 average, trailing only Cabrera, who went on to win the Triple Crown. He always seemed to come up with key base hits and RBI last season, and was expected to give some protection to Martinez, in the No. 6 slot. But he's scuffled and hasn't been much help.

    Dirks is one of three left-handed bats in the Tigers' regular lineup, and is counted on to do the little things to help the team win, but so far not much has panned out for him this season.

Alex Avila

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    As much as the organization wants him to be, Alex Avila may not be the long-term answer for the Tigers at catcher.

    Avila is hitting just .195 in 41 at-bats so far this season, and his only two RBI have come on his two solo home runs he's hit in Tigers' blowout wins.

    Other than his two home runs, he doesn't have a single extra-base hit, and he has 12 strikeouts compared to only two walks.

    His on-base percentage is only .233, and he's hitless (0-for-8) against left-handed pitchers this season.

    Batting eighth, with 49 career home runs, including 19 in 2011, Avila is supposed to supply some pop to the bottom third of the Tigers' order and set things up for the stars, but he hasn't done a whole lot of anything offensively, and the Tigers should be losing patience.

    Yes, the Tigers have a lot of star power throughout their lineup, and probably don't need a lot of offense from their former All-Star catcher, but at 26 years old, Avila should be hitting his prime and eventually look to be a star on this team.

    Instead he's badly scuffling, and struggling to keep his head above water in the batter's box.

    And I don't think that's going to change anytime soon.

Ramon Santiago

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    Ramon Santiago has been a solid Tigers utility infielder for the last seven years, but last season, his production drastically decreased, and he's carried his futility in 2013.

    After his worst season since 2006, posting a .206 average, with two home runs and 17 RBI in 93 games a year ago, the 33-year-old has started this season just 2-for-14 (.143) with three strikeouts and zero walks.

    Like Dirks, Santiago has been counted on to do a lot of little things for the Tigers in the past couple seasons, but he hasn't been very successful at bunting, moving runners over or anything else for that matter, and has seen his playing time cut.

    He's only gotten six at-bats in the last six games, and because he's not getting to the plate on a somewhat consistent basis, it's hard to envision him breaking out of his slump.