The Detroit Tigers were hit with a harsh dose of reality over the weekend during a 4 game series with the Texas Rangers. That reality was quite simple: they’re not as good as Texas.
Yes, Verlander was his usual dominant self and got a win on Saturday. Yes, a weird bunt off the knee play in the 11th inning that shouldn’t have counted plated the go-ahead run on Sunday to secure the 3-1 series advantage for the Rangers. Regardless, the Tigers were outmatched by a more talented team, not to mention one that just looked a little hungrier here in late April.
There is no cause for panic. There is no reason to think the 10-6 Tigers still won’t stake claim to the AL Central crown. There is a little cause for worry though, because come playoff time I’m not so sure the Tigers will be the best team on the field.
The Tigers have already made several early season roster moves due to injury and ineffectiveness. The latest casualty was Daniel Schlereth’s demotion in favor of Sunday’s loser, Thad Weber.
In all, 30 players have already accumulated stats for the big club. Here are some very brief snippets about each, based solely on my observations:
- Austin Jackson – cue Tom Petty’s “Free Fallin’”. Nobody thought Jackson would hit .400, or .325 for that matter, but to see his average collapse to its current .274 is discouraging. He has 17 K’s (and hits) in 62 at-bats.
- Brennan Boesch – no player has been more frustrating to me so far in 2012. He has swung through an insane amount of hittable fastballs. He finally connected for his 2nd homer yesterday but is hitting just .212 after another 1 for 5 effort.
- Miguel Cabrera – everybody slumps, just ask Albert Pujols (but please don’t ask Matt Kemp!). There’s nothing to see here. Please disperse.
- Prince Fielder – we love the .317 average but we want homers! Patience young Jedi, they will come. His hustle and energy is contagious….or is it? He plays with far more energy than any other Tiger.
- Delmon Young – The Tongue has been decent but not destructive, which is what he needs to be hitting behind the big boys. He’ll get his hot streak and drive in a pail of runs, it’s just a matter of when.
- Alex Avila – he has looked ok but not great so far. After last year we are expecting great. He seems to be getting more frustrated than usual with inconsistent home plate umpiring.
- Jhonny Peralta – nothing has really changed here, he’s the same old Jhonny. His .264 average seems about right and once the offense gets rolling I’d expect his power numbers to follow suit.
- Ryan Raburn – I thought the only acceptable place for him to be this offseason was in the Antarctic swinging a bat a thousand times/day to prepare for cold weather hitting. Apparently he chose the Bahamas. He has started the season 3 for 41 (.073).
- Ramon Santiago – Everybody still loves Ramon. His stick is off to a slumping start but he’ll rebound and do his usual thing. The 2nd base carousel (see Inge, Brandon) probably hasn’t helped him find a rhythm.
- Andy Dirks – he should be back from a hamstring tweak early this week and his hustle will be a welcome sight in the lineup.
- Gerald Laird – he is 6 for 15 so far with a double and a homer. In other words, don’t get comfortable. He is still the perfect backup catcher for this team though.
- Don Kelly – he’s managed to find only 14 at-bats in the early going, not nearly enough for a man of his immeasurable greatness.
Brandon Inge – off to a blistering 1 for 18 start with some shoddy play at 2nd base has Tiger fans booing. Easy now. He may not be good anymore, but you should always support the players on the field. It’s not his fault management still believes.
- Danny Worth – sent packing in favor of Inge, Worth has gone down to Toledo and flat out raked, further illuminating the peculiar nature of this organization’s helpless love affair with Inge.
- Clete Thomas – he’s now a Minnesota Twin, which is hard because I love Thomas and hate the Twins. It’s funny that the Tigers would sacrifice Thomas, a legit 3-tool player, when a 0-tool player like Inge is on the roster.
- Justin Verlander – I think he should come in for the 1st inning to Joe Esposito’s “You’re the Best” from Karate Kid. He is likely the best pitcher on the entire planet. It is a fact that might as well be celebrated. Beating the Rangers on Saturday was Daniel-son’esque.
- Doug Fister – 3.2 innings and a cloud of dust. Expect him back in 2 weeks. Clearly the Tigers need him in order to be able to swim with the big fish in the pond.
- Max Scherzer – if you could alert me when Ugly Max is ready to make an appearance, my fantasy baseball team would really appreciate it. The allure of Good Max renders me powerless.
- Rick Porcello – After 2 brilliant starts I still wasn’t a believer – and then Texas came a’callin. 8 earned runs on 10 hits in 1 registered inning, which included 45 pitches, almost all of them fastballs (probably 42 of them), leaves me monumentally concerned about his inability to use an off-speed pitch to his advantage.
- Drew Smyly – so far, really good. Who is the last Tiger rookie pitcher to give up 1 earned run or less in the first 3 starts of his career? JV? Porcello? Nope. The answer is nobody, at least in the live ball era (which dates back to 1920).
- Adam Wilk – I actually really admire Wilk. He battles with his powerless arsenal and does fairly well with it. Texas is the type of animal that he simply won’t be able to control.
- Daniel Schlereth – in 2011, he owned lefties. In 2012, the only thing he has owned was the bus ride back to Toledo. Tread lightly Daniel, the Ryan Perry path should always remain the one less traveled.
- Brayan Villarreal – he’ll be getting the old up-down treatment all summer long. He has the ability to be very good if he can command his repertoire. If not, he is a 4-A pitcher in the making.
- Thad Weber – Weber made his MLB debut on Sunday and lost to the Rangers in the 11th inning. Granted, a knee bunt and a few weak singles were the culprits. His curveball looks legit but he can’t afford too many hiccups if he wants to stick in Detroit as the last reliever.
- Collin Balester – He looks good enough with the potential for more if he could throw consistent strikes. Guys like Balester and Schlereth remind me how much I hate walks.
- Duane Below – There is nothing I don’t like about Below. Saturday afternoon (6 shutout innings of relief against the Rangers) proved that he deserves to be on this roster at all times.
- Phil Coke – this lefty is also off to a hot start and is boasting 7 K’s in just 5.1 innings of work. A big year is in store for Coke.
- Octavio Dotel – he hasn’t been scored upon in 6 innings thus far and looks every bit the part of the reliable 7th inning man the Tigers couldn’t find a year ago.
- Joaquin Benoit – sometimes I wonder how he’d perform as the team’s closer. I suspect we’ll find out in 2013 if he keeps pitching well.
- Jose Valverde – someone needs to tell this guy to stop walking the first batter he faces. That is a trait unbecoming of a major league closer. Despite his erratic nature, he hasn’t blown a save since Opening Day. That makes 4 straight. Do we have a new streak?