The Tigers are off to a frustratingly streaky start this season.
The players are for the most part reflecting the performance of the team. Hot, cold, hot, cold...which has led to a record that predictably hovers around .500.
They are consistently inconsistent.
The starters have done well; the bullpen has been terrible.
The middle of the lineup has been good; the top and bottom, not so much.
There's no reason to be alarmed. The season is still in its childhood and the Tigers are within an extended winning streak (or losing streak by Cleveland) of first place and they're talented enough to believe they're going to be there in the end.
While Jim Leyland has had a rough couple of weeks and has ridiculed the advice of the fans and the media, that's not going to stop me from giving my own coaching advice to the Wizard of Woodward.
Right now the "Bench Inge" faction is about as popular as Bar Refaeli in a bikini.
After sitting Inge for two games (a victory and a rainout with a lead) Leyland started Inge again Thursday afternoon, just to see the team get drubbed.
This doesn't mean Inge is the cause of all of the Tigers woes', but he's in the midst of a two-year slump which really doesn't qualify as a slump anymore, does it?
Besides his offensive...er...challenges, Inge's range at third also appears to be diminishing.
Leyland has already stuck long enough with a player who hasn't earned his playing time. On a young team, that sets bad presedence.
Here's what Leyland needs to do:
1. Continue to play Don Kelly the majority of the time at third for the time being. He's playing the field well and has shown to be a decent hitter.
2. When playing at a NL park, move Miguel Cabrera to third (his original position) and Victor Martinez at first. The defense might suffer but this keeps both Alex Avila and Martinez in the lineup without the DH option and prevents Leyland from having to deal with the mind-boggling question of who bats eighth, the pitcher or Inge?
3. Find a couple-year option at third while prospect Nick Castellanos continues to develop. David Wright or acquiring Jose Reyes to move Johnny Perlata to third are the heavily rumored deals.
Adding one of these guys would get Kelly back to the utility spot, add a respectable near future third base option and officially end the world of about 15,000 40-year-old, pack a day smoking, big-haired Inge-loving grandmas.
The Tigers outfielders aren't responding well to Leyland's super-platoon system.
While Austin Jackson is set in center field, Leyland has been committed to chaos with the rest of the outfield and none of the players seems to be responding well to the situation.
Leyland was very quick to push Ryan Raburn back to a platoon role in left and ultimately a full-time spot on the bench.
Raburn has struggled—no doubt about it—but it could be argued that his struggles are expounded because of his inconsistent playing time.
Brennan Boesch has been the closest thing to a full-time outfielder but he still sits a couple of days a week. He has also been struggling lately and appears that he will always be a streaking hitter.
Casper Wells has played very inconsistently and recent call-up Andy Dirks has made some splashes and is the best fielder out of the platooning outfielders.
Add the fact that Magglio Ordonez will eventually comeback from the DL and the outfield is a mess.
Leyland isn't doing anyone favors by having two-thirds of the outfield be part time players. He needs to settle on the corners and stick with it and give someone a chance to get hot.
It doesn't matter who it is, but he needs to give a couple of these guys a shot to earn—or lose—the jobs.
The Tigers bullpen has been an absolute nightmare—by far the worst in baseball.
While it's early, Joaquin Benoit has been much better in his last several appearances so maybe they're OK with the eighth.
Jose Valverde is going through his Todd Jones cardiac-arrest phase, but he still hasn't blown a save, so the ninth is fine.
Any other inning is wide open.
Daniel Schlereth deserves a shot to get himself fixed and Al Albuerquerque appears to be a keeper.
Outside of those four there hasn't been much.
Ryan Perry has a 12.19 ERA. I'd be shocked if anyone outside of mom and dad Perry still think he's the future closer of the team.
Charlie Furbush and Adam Wilk both were recently called up by the Tigers. Each of the rookies went 3.2 innings without allowing a run in their debuts.
They appear talented and hungry for a shot at the big leagues.
They might even allow the Tigers to keep Phil Coke in the bullpen once he comes back from the DL.
Coke has held up his end of the bargain as a starter, and maybe this will free up Andrew Oliver as a trade piece to acquire an infielder.
Alex Avila is off to a tremendous start to the season.
He has already hit more home runs than last season and has nearly as many RBI. It appears that he is, in fact, the Tigers catcher of the future.
This wasn't clearly the case before the season.
Hitting Avila seventh or eighth (he's protected in the lineup by Inge) doesn't make much sense when the second and third spots in the lineup have been sore spots the entire season.
Avila appears to be a blossoming star and moving him up to third and getting Boesch back down in the lineup would help Avila immensely and take pressure off of Boesch.
Avila's hitting well now and will only get better looks with Miguel Cabrera behind.
The other move should be moving Jhonny Peralta up to No. 2. Like Avila, he's off to a career year and would add some much needed punch to the second spot.
Both guys are driving in runs, hitting for power and getting timely hits.
An argument against this would be the lack of speed in the top of the lineup.
The counter argument: How much does speed matter on a strikeout or pop-up?
The division is still winnable as the Indians have shown some chinks in their armour. It's up to Jim Leyland to take advantage of the situation and make some adjustments to right the Tigers ship.
If he doesn't change, the Tigers are in trouble and...uh...Mr. Dombrowski, you can reach me here. My summer's open.