Detroit Tigers: Are We There Yet? Unfortunately, No
"Are we there yet? Are we there yet?"
On long road trips, children love to ask that question, leaving frazzled parents who don't understand why their children have no sense of time or direction to say, "No! Stop hitting your sister! We still have a long way to go!"
This seems to have a direct correlation between casual fans of the Detroit Tigers and those who have examined where the organization currently is on the highway to the Fall Classic.
Are we there yet? Unfortunately, no.
This isn't to say the Tigers haven't made good decisions along the way. Signing Joaquin Benoit to pitch the eighth inning in front of Jose Valverde and Victor Martinez to hit fifth behind Miguel Cabrera was a great start.
Bullpen help and a middle of the order hitter were top shelf needs, and Dombrowski filled them quickly and admirably.
Resigning Magglio Ordonez was also a big key, as he will also hit .300 and fill out the third spot in the order.
Many fans did not agree with the Tigers' decision to resign two other players, however. Brandon Inge and Jhonny Peralta will once again be donning the Old English D for the upcoming season.
Yet after a time of reflection, people should realize that Inge and Peralta were the best options out there for professional hitters who can play above average defense at third base and shortstop.
Adrian Beltre was considered by many as the best option at third, but he was just paid three times what Inge makes for three times as long. Oh, and he only likes to perform well in contract years. So while those two resignings don't get people extremely excited, they were probably the best options at scarce positions.
These extensions and signings will not bring a playoff berth in and of themselves. The Tigers were 11th in runs, fifth in average, eighth in on-base percentage and 11th in slugging percentage in the major leagues last year.
Offense wasn't the biggest issue for this team, contrary to popular opinion. They were in the top third in all of the majors in most statistics. Yet this still wasn't enough. Even when Magglio Ordonez was healthy, and Brennan Boesch was destroying the ball, the Tigers were still out of the playoffs at the All-Star break.
Even if Magglio is healthy all year, and Victor Martinez can come somewhat close to matching what Brennan did in the first half, the Tigers by proxy of last year, are not yet a playoff team. The only hope for the offense to improve at this point is that Ryan Raburn plays consistently better than Johnny Damon, someone steps into the 2nd base role and surprises and that Spok can bring Alex Avila to respectability at warp speed. Yet hope isn't a strategy, is it?
The real issue of the Detroit Tigers was their pitching staff. Michigan pundits loved to say the Tigers had real pitching depth before the 2010 season started with Verlander, Porcello, Scherzer, Bonderman, Robertson and Galarraga.
Depth? Maybe. Quality? Obviously not.
They were 25th in ERA, 23rd in quality starts, 20th in whip and 21st in BAA (batting average against) last year versus the rest of major league baseball. Galarraga won four games last year. Four. Fans love to remember the perfect game that wasn't, but his overall numbers were more depressing than "The Notebook." Scherzer was an abortion during the first half of 2010. Porcello struggled all year. Jeremy Bonderman will be replaced in the starting rotation by Phil Coke, who is also a question mark as a starter in the big leagues. The signing of Brad Penny once again gives the Tigers depth, but the quality of the staff is still very much in question.
The bullpen contributes to the overall pitching staff numbers, and there are many questions left there as well. Valverde pitched extremely well during the first half of the season, but became much less dependable as his innings pitched skyrocketed.
Benoit was a good pickup, but has had one great year to his name. Ryan Perry, Daniel Schlereth and Robbie Weinhardt are young and inconsistent. Zumaya can't play video games, move boxes or make a sandwich without getting injured.
Adding to these issues are that the Tigers let bullpen stalwarts such as Zach Miner, Eddie Bonine, Bobby Seay and Fu Te Ni walk this offseason, reducing the amount of veteran presence on the roster and handing the reins to a very young returning staff.
To be a contender in the American League Central, Dave Dombrowski and the Tigers need one more signing or trade, period. Whether it brings a big bat to help outscore teams, or another arm to improve the staff's terrible statistics, an addition needs to be made. And if this team is serious about winning a pennant like Dombrowski has stated, it needs to be an awfully big one.
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