Detroit Tigers: Assessing the first month of baseball

The Detroit Tigers have played an exciting first month of baseball in 2014. The Tigers’ 14-9 record places them atop of the American League Central, with a two-game lead over the Kansas City Royals (14-13).

Detroit started off the season with back-to-back walk-off victories and now have a 6-2 record in 1-run games. The only other AL team to have a better win-percentage in such games is the Tamp Bay Rays (6-0).

Success as a team

As a whole, the Tigers have shown the capability to be one of the most consistent lineups in the AL. Tigers hitters lead the AL in batting average (.272) and least amount of strikeouts (151).

The Tigers are tied for the fourth-most stolen bases among AL teams with 20, just 15 shy of matching their total in 2013. Detroit has six players in their lineup with at least 10 RBI.

Detroit’s starting pitching has continued to be a driving force behind the team’s success. Tigers starters lead the AL with the least amount of hits (120), earned runs (45), and home runs (9).

The starting staff’s 2.98 ERA is second lowest among AL teams.

Struggles

As predicted, the Tigers bullpen has been the team’s most glaring weakness. The ‘pen has seen some improvements lately, but Tigers relievers are responsible for the second-highest ERA in the AL, 5.37.

Detroit Tigers

Phil Coke

Opposing hitters have hit for a .265 average with 10 homers against Tigers relievers, both third-worst in the AL.

Phil Coke, who remarkably still has a job, has been the main contributor to the Tigers’ bullpen issues. Coke has given up 10 hits, 6 ER, and has a 8.10 ERA in 6.2 innings pitched.

Detroit also needs to entertain the thought of removing Alex Avila from the starting lineup. Aside from constant aches and pains causing him to miss games, Avila is batting just .220, has only 2 RBI, and has struck out 23 times in 50 at-bats.

Slow starts turning around

Tigers fans were excited to finally have a top-notch closer when Detroit signed Joe Nathan, however, the Tigers closer struggled in the early goings of 2014.

Nathan has blown 2-of-7 save opportunities and has a 5.06 ERA.

When he told reporters that he was suffering from a “dead arm”, many thought he was simply out of gas at the age of 39, but he has since turned around his rocky start.

In Nathan’s last seven outings, he has pitched seven innings, allowed one earned run, and recorded 10 strikeouts. Nathan was 4-for-4 in save opportunities and only walked one batter in those seven innings.

Miguel Cabrera, the two-time AL MVP, has gotten off to a slow start himself. Miggy is batting .272, with 15 RBI, two homers, and 18 strikeouts.

His averaged dropped to .206 after a 3-1 loss to the Chicago White Sox on April 21.

Since that day, Miggy has batted .419 (13-31), with 8 RBI, and struck out just three times over that span.

Hot starts

Detroit found a spark at the top of the lineup in Rajai Davis. The speedy outfielder’s .333 batting average is fifth-highest in the American League.

Davis has tallied 13 runs, 9 RBI, 2 doubles, and 2 HR thus far. His 8 stolen bases are third-most in the AL.

Detroit Tigers

Tigers CF Austin Jackson

Austin Jackson has gotten off to a great start himself. Jackson is hitting .307, with 14 runs, and 10 RBI.

The most impressive characteristic that Jackson has displayed has been his patience at the plate. A-Jax has already walked 13 times this season, one fewer than his total after two months in 2013.

Jackson has provided solid protection for the heart of the lineup with 10 extra-base hits thus far; 6 triples, 2 doubles, and 2 HR.

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