It's not a good sign when your most impressive infielder is Miguel Cabrera. (Rick Osentoski-US PRESSWIRE)

Panic Setting In, But Season’s Not Over


The Detroit Tigers are currently bad. Their pitching has been inconsistent, with even Justin Verlander losing three starts in a row. Their offense is leaning on career minor leaguer Quintin Berry, a speedster who struggles to lay down bunts and has failed to hit above .284 for a full year since 2007 with the Class A Lakewood BlueClaws. Their regular infield alignment is highlighted by the third base artistry of Miguel Cabrera. Nearly half of their opening day roster has been replaced by Toledo Mud Hens, with Bryan Holaday and Jose Ortega becoming the latest call-ups today. The Tigers have reached the low mark where every scarce victory is touted as the turning point in their season.

The team is fundamentally broken. They’re regularly failing to execute double plays on defense while grounding into too many of their own—they’ve hit into 21 more than they’ve turned, giving them the third-worst differential in baseball. They’re struggling to hold runners, having been burned by stolen bases 48 times, third-most in the American League. Meanwhile, they’ve stolen only 26 bases themselves, fewer than all but two AL clubs, which gives them the worst differential between stolen bases for and against in baseball. Their extra base taken percentage is 39%, below the major league average. They would still be losers even if the ‘E’s defacing nearly every box score stood for “effort.”

Apologies, but I’ve been all-positive about these Tigers for too long and feel I’ve earned the right to let out a little steam. I mean, I hear the Minnesota Twins are having a lousy time themselves, but at least they don’t have to suffer two frustrating regulars like Brennan Boesch and Delmon Young. Both are in the bottom ten among qualified major leaguers in pitches per plate appearance and walks to strikeouts ratio. They’re in the top ten in swinging at pitches out of the zone. Neither are Twin fans tortured by the potential of two starting pitchers like Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello, who could either thrill us or crush us every time out. At least baseball fans in Minnesota can be confident of where their team stands—it was never too early to write the Twins’ eulogy.

At the same time, while I feel the pain and understand a person wants to maintain their sanity and some quality of life outside of following sports, I’m also somewhat annoyed with the fans that have already lost hope. I can’t throw in the towel yet—not with all of Al Alburquerque, Alex Avila, Andy Dirks, Doug Fister, Austin Jackson, Gerald Laird, Victor Martinez, and Daniel Schlereth either on the disabled list or battling known ailments. I can’t stop watching when Justin Verlander has the potential to make history every fifth day. I can’t be done with this team when Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder have yet to demonstrate their full power as a lethal lineup combination. I can’t give up on a $133.5 million roster built for the goal of winning the World Series when the July 31st trade deadline remains 55 days away and the team is hanging around, only six games out of first place.

Despite what we’re seeing right now—this is probably the least-fun team to watch in professional baseball at the moment—I advise you to stick with the Tigers. At the end, when they’ve finally eclipsed their division deficit and won their second straight title, it will be even more rewarding for those of us who stayed. If Detroit does survive into October, the few of us who endured this monotonous stretch of lethargy will have won an intellectual battle of sorts. If they fail, we should be rewarded with platinum fan cards. That’s a win-win, right?

Tags: Brennan Boesch Delmon Young Detroit Tigers Justin Verlander Max Scherzer Miguel Cabrera Prince Fielder Rick Porcello

  • ChrisHannum

    I agree with you here, Garrett.  Too much attention has been focused on who’s slumping at the plate.  The high BABIP allowed and lack of double plays turned is killing the team (more than anything else, I think).  It’s just remotely possible that there’s some bad luck involved, but both sound like classic symptoms of a terrible infield defense.  We’re talking about a sustained differential of about a half a run per game relative to an average dollop of luck and defense.

  • jgorosh

    The defense is terrible. They’re #1 or #2 in all fielding independent categories and 11th in runs allowed. That should tell you all you need to know. 
     
    Also, I may make an article out of this, but re: Boesch and Delmon..
    Delmon in last 931 PA: .261/.298/.396
    Boesch in last 940 PA: .238/.295/.369

  • StephanyJCox

    I agree, Garret. As Magglio Ordonez said during his chat with Mario Impemba and Rod Allen the day of his retirement, the Tigers just have to hit their hot streak. They are a good team with a good manager; they just have to find that spark.
    Love the article, by the way!