And not the beautiful kind of mess either.
The Tigers fell to18-20 overall today after getting swept…yeah, swept, by the last place Minnesota Twins at home. Not just the last place in the Central Minnesota Twins, the worst team in all of baseball Minnesota Twins. It’s close to panic time right?
Well, maybe not. After all, the aforementioned Central Division is still terrible, with the only team above .500 in the division being the Cleveland Indians. The Tigers are still only a four game winning streak away from everything being wonderful again.
But while it isn’t time for panic, I think it is fair to be concerned. There are some real warts on this ball club, and we are starting to see them show out on the field.
The first thing, and we all talked about it before the season, is the defense. The past two games have been somewhat of an aberration, however, the corner of the infield’s defensive ineptitude is beginning to rear it’s ugly head. Six errors have been made the past couple of days, 4 of them by Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera. Cabrera was saved from having a second error today on a nice pick by Fielder as well, only to have Fielder miss his second catch for the second straight day later on. If Fielder isn’t playing DH soon, he could be entering the land of 20+ errors for a first baseman. It would be an understatement to say, not good princely one.
While the defense isn’t helping, the Tigers pitching staff isn’t much better. It’s time to work through some things gentleman. Rick Porcello yesterday promptly gave up a bunch of runs after the two out error yesterday as a result of locating poorly. Can’t blame the defense for that, once in a while a Tigers pitcher has to work through that. While the starters have been good for the most part, pitchers can, and need to, help their defense out by bearing down and getting out of these defensive induced jams by making better pitches. They also haven’t been efficient with their pitch counts as of late, getting into the weakest part of the club, the bullpen, earlier in games than what is ideal. The two worst offenders, Rick Porcello and Max Scherzer are starting to look allergic to any semblance of consistency, putting the pressure on the other starters to go longer when they take the mound.
The bullpen, has struggled mightily, almost across the board. With Jose Valverde having back trouble, the Tigers continue to run the bus up and down from Toledo, and Bryan Villarreal looks like he might need to get a monthly pass, he is riding it so often. Nobody that they have tried has really worked thus far, so the rehabbing Luis Marte needs to get strong quickly, and the Tigers don’t even know what they will get from him.
Offensively, there is a myriad of stats that I could go through right now that aren’t favorable for the Tigers. Rather than bore you with a bunch of numbers, let’s just mention the bottom of the lineup. While Brennan Boesch has warmed up a little bit (with the stress on little), the rest of the guys are struggling mightily. Delmon Young, Alex Avila, Jhonny Peralta, and Ryan Raburn almost have to be broken up somehow. It’s like they are taking turns breaking up rallies. Tigers sluggers Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera aren’t really doing what they normally do either, though I suspect their numbers will be there in the end.
The real problem is, there is no easy solution here. Everyone around the Tigers, media and fans alike, keep talking about career norms, but do we really even know what those are? Or have we deluded ourselves into believing 2011 is the normal levels of production? Alex Avila played full time for the first time last season, and did with a very high BABIP at that. A regression was expected, and it is happening. Delmon Young has always been an ineffective player overall, partly because he has no business with a glove on his hand, so why should we be surprised he has a -0.4 fWAR to date? Because his batting average is low? How about Ryan Raburn? He has started epically slow this season, but he always does, so no surprise there, right? Yet we keep running him out there every day. Brennan Boesch has always been streaky, sometimes incredibly awesome, sometimes outrageously terrible. Jhonny Peralta has always had spike seasons like last year, even though last year was his best, it doesn’t mean a barely .700 OPS season is out of the norm for him.
Here is the problem as I see it, the Tigers need these guys to perform. They’re it. There is nobody to take over for any of these guys and do so effectively, which brings me to the Tigers next wart.
In fairness to the Tigers, there isn’t a bunch of major league teams that can have half of their every day lineup struggling and just replace them with guys that can do better. If that was the case, they would be the regulars. But the Tigers essentially lack one guy that could come in off the bench and even potentially provide an offensive lift. Don Kelly, Ramon Santiago, and Gerald Laird just aren’t going to be more effective than the slumping guys we got out there already. If you start piling injuries on top of it, like Austin Jackson‘s abdominal strain, then you can see where there might be some cause for concern.
All this being said, it’s time to step back from the ledge. The reality is, even with the poor baseball we have seen, the Tigers are within one series striking distance of taking over first place once again.
The Tigers may be a mess, but there is still plenty of time to clean it up. We are just running out of patience.