2011 Detroit Tigers: 5 Reasons Tigers Will Right Ship, Become Contenders
Let me preface this article by saying that I am a Detroit Tigers fan.
I have historically been able to turn what were once pipe dreams into an objective viewpoint.
This article will consist of speculative reasons for how Detroit can rise above this .500-type baseball that has been going on for a few years now.
The Tigers haven't won more than 88 games since 2006 but they also haven't won less than 74. Last season's 81-81 record was a nice follow up to one of the more heartbreaking games in recent vintage.
My head will explode if I think about that Minnesota Twins game too much.
OK, allow me to provide some hopeful reasons for why the Tigers might rise above mediocrity.
1. The Division
Ah, the AL Central.
Even though it is always competitive, the Central is the blessing of the AL.
Yes, the AL West is currently a mess as well right now, but one team will probably separate itself from the field eventually.
In a division in which the Chicago White Sox were touted, the Twins have struggled, and the Cleveland Indians have surprised, the Tigers are the only team sitting where most “experts” thought they would be.
It's difficult to believe that the Indians can sustain their winning percentage (19-6 at home), despite the slew of young talent.
The Tigers now sit five games back and well within reach of Cleveland.
The Twins are at the bottom of the entire league and, at 15.5 games back in the division, are looking less than relevant.
2. Austin Jackson
Of course, this could also work on a list of why the Tigers won't turn things around, but that would be too glass-half-empty.
Jackson is hitting .225 after hitting .293 last season and now ranks second in the AL in strikeouts.
Jackson is the reason that the Tigers felt confident enough to send Curtis Granderson to New York and, at age 24, Jackson is at the top of the list of young talent in Detroit.
The fact that the Tigers are two games over .500 is amazing, since one of their best players is playing well below expectations.
Whether Jackson can bounce back remains to be seen, but his speed and athleticism will remain a huge asset with fantastic upside.
3. Magglio Ordonez
Ordonez' one-year $10 million contract hasn't exactly played out like the Tigers had hoped.
I feel like there is something, in baseball in particular, in long stretches of poor play that signals that an injury is coming.
Ordonez, with a nagging ankle injury all season, was finally forced to the 15-day DL in mid-May.
“I'm hitting with one leg,” Ordonez told MLB.com on May 4.
Ordonez had not been able to push off his right leg and admitted to attempting to make adjustments to his swing to keep off it.
Detroit Tigers on Twitter has reported that Maggs will begin a minor league rehab assignment on Friday with Triple-A Toledo. Ordonez was cleared for action after running exercises for two straight days.
I'm hoping that I'm not being overly presumptuous in thinking that Ordonez will kick his .172 average up a few points.
Ordonez is 37 and probably looking at his final contract year. If his ankle is fully healed, Ordonez should be able to contribute at a much higher level than he has in the first two months of the season.
4. Victor Martinez
Maybe it is because he has missed 14 games. Maybe it is because the Tigers have their fans feeling like it is last year all over again. Whatever it is, the Victor Martinez signing hasn't seemed as important as it did initially.
The four-year $50 million contract was brought about after the Red Sox were unwilling to offer Martinez a long-term deal.
Martinez has played well so far this year, sporting a .301 average in 39 games started.
Still, the No. 5 hitter has only five home runs, ranking 4th on the team behind Miguel Cabrera, Jhonny Peralta (who gets the award for most impressive thus far) and Alex Avila.
Martinez is a crucial component to the Tigers lineup and his power-hitting is vital, particularly with runners in scoring position.
Cabrera and Martinez have the talent to be one of the best 1-2 punches in the league.
5. The Staff
I suppose it is rather promising to say that none of the Tigers primary starters have an ERA above 4.72. In fact, Brad Penny is the only starter above 4.00.
I have never been much for Penny. He has always been rather inconsistent amidst the gems that occur every so often. Still, it is not bad to have under a 5.00 ERA, being at the bottom of the rotation.
Max Scherzer has also been inconsistent, but the budding star's talents are that of a potentially elite player.
I don't think there is a reason to say too much about Justin Verlander other than to say that, coupled with Scherzer, the two have the potential to be a vicious back-to-back hurling pair should Detroit make the playoffs.
Phil Coke has only notched one win (1-5) but his 3.81 ERA is fairly serviceable. After spending time in the bullpen in New York, Coke was expected to have a significant impact on the rotation as part of the Granderson trade.
Coke has also caught the injury bug but after injuring his foot on May 23, Coke is expected to pitch at Triple-A Toledo on Friday before making a start with Detroit on June 8.
Rick Porcello is another piece of the youth that the Tigers are attempting to piece together. Porcello has exhibited a major turnaround in his last several starts, not allowing more than two ERs in seven starts.
Of course, I didn't discuss the bullpen woes.