Well, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that the start of the season has not been kind to the American League Central favorite Detroit Tigers.
The bats are as cold as the driven Michigan snow, and key off-season acquisitions are not producing.
Placido Polanco, a near batting champion from a year ago, is batting .159. Miguel Cabrera is batting .205. Gary Sheffield is batting .212 and Jacque Jones is batting .194.
Couple this with sub-par performances from Magglio Ordonez (.275) and Pudge Rodriguez (.222), and an injured Curtis Granderson, and it’s no wonder that winning has been illusive for the Tigs.
Unfortunately, batting is not the problem!
All the guys above are top major league hitters, and I have no doubts that the bats will come around. The question is, will it be enough?
The fundamental flaw in this team lines up on the mound, and unlike the hitting, I’m not so sure that everything on that side is fixable. Let’s take a look.
Justin Verlander. The ace of this group, Verlander has shown amazing promise in his first two seasons, with incredible velocity on his fastball and a wicked curve.
His problem has been location, and he might be a little TOO quick for his own good. They say that defense likes a quick delivery, but sometimes I wish that Verlander would just slow down a bit; collect himself a bit more.
His 6.52 ERA is completely unacceptable for a pitcher in the number one slot.
Kenny Rogers. Though a cagey veteran and location master in his last two years with the team, injuries and age may be creeping up on Rogers.
A fan favorite, after his sensational pitching in the 2006 playoffs, Rogers was on and off the roster last year with a variety of ailments.
So far, his 6.75 ERA does not bode well for the rest of the season.
Dontrelle Willis. After four superb years with the Marlins, Willis was off form last year, but was brought to Detroit with the promise of an established starter.
At this point in the season, his 7.20 ERA places him in the liability range, and now that he’s on the disabled list, who knows how well he’ll hold up throughout the season.
Nate Robertson. A reliable lefty in the past, Robertson had his own struggles late last year, which seem to be carrying over into 2008. Unless Detroit is scoring eight runs a game (which they aren’t), his 7.84 ERA may be the final lead weight that sinks this team.
Now these are all established guys that have proved that they can pitch at the major league level, but the questions here are many.
Kenny Rogers is in his mid-forties and it’s hard to know if he will ever get it back. Dontrelle Willis may not be an American League pitcher, and his early injuries will leave the starting unit scrambling. Nate Robertson seems to be on a downhill turn in his career.
Of the four listed above, only Verlander seems to be a pretty good bet to recover his stuff.
More concerning are performances from the bullpen, where important contributors such as Zach Miner and Jason Grilli hold 11.57 and 8.44 ERA’s respectively. This doesn’t give the Tigers many options late in the game.
Many forget that pitching was the key to the Tigers run in ’06. Evidence shows in the teams offensive success last year and yet they were sitting home during the playoffs.
Pitching let them down.
And now with a farm system devoid of prospects (let’s be real Porcello looks to be awesome, but he’s a couple years away) as they were sacrificed for a “fearsome” offense, the Tigers may be in real trouble this year.
Oh the bats will come around as they did last night for a win over the Twins. But we needed 11 runs to do it! That may be a consistent theme this year, but then again we’ll wait and see.
Baseball’s a loooooooooooooong haul. And though the Tigers are meowing now, I sure hope they get roaring pretty soon.