Detroit Tigers Dissector: The Great Bat Freeze

Johnny LawrenceCorrespondent IJune 5, 2009

Welcome to Rudy Dominick & Johnny Lawrence's fifth weekly installment of Detroit Tigers information and analysis. 

Each Thursday, we will delve into all things Tigers. Read and digest, or skim and spit out our insightful banter.


Keep An Eye On

Don Kelly, Center Field—Toledo (AAA)

(May 27 —June 2)

.468 BA, 15-for-32, 5 2B, 6 RBI


Drive-By Argument: Can Detroit's Rotation Keep It Up?

DOMINICK:  Justin Verlander reclaimed the term "ace" after his mediocre 2008 season.  Reverting back to his old self, he is 6-2 and leads the AL with 90 strikeouts thus far, while holding hitters to a .154 batting average at Comerica Park.

Beyond Verlander, Edwin Jackson has been electric, finally blossoming to his full potential with a 2.30 ERA in 74.1 innings. 

Rick Porcello is charging toward stardom, despite a rough last start against Boston.  And Armando Galarraga was the most consistent Tiger pitcher last season and early in 2009, gathering 16 total wins.

Eventually, Jeremy Bonderman will sneak into the middle or bottom of the rotation, weeding out whomever management decides is the weakest link.

Detroit only lacks a solid left-handed starter, but may possess one in Dontrelle Willis.

Leading baseball with seven shutouts, they'll continue their strong performance throughout the year, remaining one of baseball's top staffs.

LAWRENCE: While we have all enjoyed the unexpected success of Tiger starters, it's inconceivable to expect the ecstasy to linger all year. 

Pitching dominance of 2006 proportions doesn't come along very often without numerous big names on the roster.

The only legit star in the rotation is Verlander, as the rest are unproven with shaky track records. 

While I think Tiger pitchers are maturing, Porcello and Jackson have never shown over the course of 162 games they can keep it together at the Major League level. Also, Porcello will have a 150-inning curfew, thrusting someone else into the rotation.

Galarraga stood out in 2008, but appears to have lost his movement in his last four starts (29.1 innings and 28 earned runs). 

And Bonderman, who has just one start under his belt in Single-A West Michigan, has a career ERA closer to five than four (4.74).  The combined career ERA of Detroit's rotation, excluding Willis, is 4.62.

Quite sandy ground to build a fortress on.

Where Have The Bats Gone?
Remember that AL Central team who recorded at least eight hits the first 15 games of the season?

Yeah, we don't either.

Tiger bats flew to the Arctic two weeks ago and still have not booked their return flight to Metropolitan Airport.

In just two of their last 16 games have they scored more than five runs, something they accomplished 14 times in 36 tries before the dry spell.

The slump exposes their desperation for tablesetters.

Unbeknownst to many, their batting averages in slots one, two, and three in the order place 20th, 23rd, and 22nd, respectively,  (.250, .250, and .261). 

Big bats in the middle of the lineup thirst for runners to send home.

Perhaps it's great timing on behalf of Detroit's offense to go cold weeks before the June 9 amateur draft.  The Tigers need a surefire top-of-the-lineup guy and possess the ninth overall pick to secure one if desired. 
The glaring lack of organizational depth on the left side of the infield may lure Detroit away from selecting a pitcher to grab a high-level positional prospect.

Favorable Matchups

June 5-7: LAA Howie Kendrick vs. DET (.083 BA, 3-for-36, 9 K).

June 5-7: LAA Mike Napoli vs. DET (.179 BA, 7-for-39, 0 2B).

June 5-7: DET Curtis Granderson vs. LAA (.338 BA, 44-for-130, 10 HR).


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