The Detroit Tigers are, to put it mildly, off to a bit of a rocky start this season. After every publication and blog on the planet picked the Tigers to make the playoffs, they have proceeded to start the year by throwing up all over their shiny new baseball cleats with six consecutive losses. Sure, it sucks, but is it a big deal? Last year, the World Champion Red Sox had a stretch where the lost 6 of 7, and another where they lost 5 of 6. The point is, teams have bad stretches. The Tigers' bad stretch just happens to be at the start of the season. The most notable things about their horrendous start so far:
- Other than Clete Thomas (who?), Carlos Guillen, and Brandon Inge, no one is hitting the ball. Through six games, the Tigers have scored 15 runs. I'm no math whiz, but I think that works out to 2.5 runs per game. That's Twins-level of hitting suckitude. People were talking about the Tigers being a lock to score a thousand runs this year. It wouldn't be so bad, but...
- The pitching has been horrible. The team ERA is 5.30. They've gotten one quality start. The pitchers have walked 27 batters and struck out 35. Not a good ratio. The only mitigating factor in all this is...
- Injuries. Curtis Granderson has yet to suit up, and CF has been manned by Thomas and Inge. They've both played well, but Granderson is an all-star caliber player, and he is undoubtedly missed. Sheffield's osteoporosis already forced him to miss a couple games. Cabrera has missed two starts. They were already missing Zumaya and Rodney from the pitching staff.
- Tigers were swept twice at home. Now they have to go to Boston to play at Fenway, in their home opener after what will probably be an inspiring tribute to last year's World Series championship team.
Now, the good news:
- The x-ray of Granderson's broken hand on Sunday was positive, and he was cleared to resume baseball activities. There is no timetable for his return, but he'll start throwing and hitting as soon as he can make throws and grip the bat without discomfort.
- The aforementioned game with the Red Sox will be started by Kenny Rogers, who might be perfect for this game, because the Sox hitters might be so jacked up after their pre-game festivities that they forget that The Gambler throws 55 mph curveballs. Their excess adrenaline might not serve them well here. Of course, I'm just grasping at straws here in trying to find a positive spin for their trip to Boston, so forgive my blind optimism for tomorrow night's game.
The way I see it, as long as their major players stay healthy most of the year, they'll break out of this funk: i.e., Polanco won't be hitting .087 for long (his career average is .304); Cabrera won't be stuck with 1 RBI for much longer. And it will probably happen sooner than later. You really need about a quarter of the season to have a good idea what kind of team you're going to be (remember 35-5 in 1984?). After 40 games, the Tigers should have at least 21 or 22 wins, and be within a game or two of first place. If not, it will most likely be because of lack of pitching, not lack of hitting. Leyland is not afraid to change things up if they're not working. If Inge keeps hitting, Leyland won't hesitate to use him at just about any position on the field. I think the Kitties are probably glad they decided not to trade him this offseason. If not for Inge's extreme manliness, they'd be even more winless than they are now.
Bless You Boys...
More on the Tigers (and horrible columnist Lynn Henning), from firejoemorgan.com.