The Detroit Tigers opened up the first week of the 2014 Major League Baseball season in dramatic fashion with back-to-back walk-off victories against the Kansas City Royals.
The series finale against the Royals was eventually postponed (make-up date set for June 19) but that didn’t interfere with the Tigers’ winning ways.
Detroit’s bats came alive to begin the weekend series against the Baltimore Orioles, propelling rookie manager Brad Ausmus to a perfect record, four games into the season.
The Orioles prevented a series sweep by beating the Tigers 3-1 in a pitching duel Sunday afternoon.
For the Tigers, interleague play begins Tuesday night with a two-game series against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Detroit will return from the west coast following a three-game weekend series against the San Diego Padres.
Without further ado, let’s examine the good’s and the bad’s in week one of the Tigers’ 2014 season.
Good: Swinging the Bats - Despite playing the fewest amount of games in the entire league (heading into Tuesday’s game), the Tigers are tied for the fourth-most home runs in the American League with seven. Detroit has the highest* batting average (.288) and slugging percentage (.488). The Tigers are also 3-for-4 in stolen base attempts and have struck out the fewest* amount of times (26).
Bad: Bullpen Struggles - Although Detroit’s bullpen is accountable for three victories, it looks like the Tigers’ woes in the ‘pen from previous seasons have carried into 2014. Tigers relievers have the fourth-highest* ERA (6.08) and are allowing the second-highest* average (.310). The most alarming note to be made about that is, those statistics include Drew Smyly’s appearance in which he allowed just one hit over three-shutout innings in relief for Anibal Sanchez. (Sanchez, who pitched just four innings, was pulled following a rain delay.) New Tigers closer, Joe Nathan, already has a blown save in two opportunities.
Good: Starting Staff - In 32.2 innings pitched, Tigers starting pitchers have recorded the lowest* ERA (1.93), allowed the lowest* opponent batting average (.175), and are yet to allow a home run. Due to a combination of bullpen issues and lack of run support, Detroit’s starting staff has only posted a 1-1 record.
Bad: Drawing a Free Pass - Although Tigers batters have been tough to strike out, they haven’t been drawing many walks. Detroit’s 10 walks are the fewest in the entire league. The aggressive nature behind Ausmus’ style as a manager is most likely the leading cause of this, but the Tigers need to find a way to work the pitch count on days when the hits aren’t plentiful.
Good: Winning - There hasn’t been a consistent recipe to the Tigers’ success in the opening week of baseball, but Ausmus’ team is getting it done, plain and simple. Detroit has been involved in pitchers’ duels, slug-fests, and walk-off victories and have a 4-1 record to show for it. It’s early in the season, but when opportunity has come knockin’, the Tigers have answered the door.
*Among AL teams