The Detroit Tigers take a day off today to regroup as their once promising West Coast trip hit a resounding thud after losing four straight, and being swept out of Anaheim by the resurgent Angels.
As sweeps go, that may have been the ugliest. A frustrating inability to drive in runners was sandwiched between an epic meltdown (or string of bad luck, depending on your viewpoint) by Rick Porcello.
The three games of frustration has brought out the negative crowd, the panicky petes, and the Leyland bashers. But I subscribe to the motto of Mad Magazine’s, Alfred E. Neuman, and ask, “what, me worry?”
Let’s look at where we stand: A 9-9 record, third in the AL Central with the division leading Kansas City Royals coming to town for three games beginning Tuesday.
While it could be somewhat understandable to see everyone panicking, remember it is just April 22. Some of us thought the Tigers would have a so-so April. Three of their nine series this month have been, or will be, with 2012 playoff teams (Yankees, A’s, Braves). Two series have been with teams that some have picked to go to the World Series (Blue Jays, Angels), and another is the upcoming series with the vastly improved Royals. Not to mention the just completed three-city West Coast trip.
That’s a brutal schedule for any MLB team, but it’s worth noting the Tigers are done with trips out west. In fact, the team will play every one of its remaining 144 games in the Eastern or Central time zones, and the schedule gets easier in May.
The Angels limped into the series with the Tigers at 4-10. Anyone who thought they were that bad are crazy. Not to mention, the Angels, especially in Anaheim, have always been a Tigers’ nemesis. I sort of expected a bad series because there is just something about Angels Stadium (much like the Metrodome was) that makes it the Tigers’ house of horrors. You can’t explain it, they just lose there.
One of the causes of concern in the four-game losing streak is the Tigers inability to hit, especially with RISP. There is no doubt they were frustratingly awful over the weekend, yet let’s remember just a week ago when many of the same people wringing their hands this morning were saying this was a 1,000 run team.
The top of the lineup was tearing the cover off the ball heading into Anaheim, but a slump at the top had a ripple effect on everyone below, much like being hot has a converse effect. There was no way that Austin Jackson and Torii Hunter could keep up that pace and since only seven teams since 1900 have scored 1,000 runs–that seemed unlikely anyway.
That’s not to say there isn’t plenty to worry about. Victor Martinez and Alex Avila have had terrible starts, and each are cogs in the lineup. The bullpen is still a large question mark, however there should be some perspective about early season struggles before everyone panics.
Two years ago, on April 22, 2011, Detroit was in third place, at 10-10. They would go on to win the most games since 2006 (95) and claim their first divisional title since 1987 by 15 games. On this date last year, the team was in good shape, at 10-6 and leading the division by a half game. Yet that was largely due to the 5-0 start, but struggles had set in. One week later, on April 29, 2012, the Tigers were 11-11, third in the AL Central.
Let’s see how the Tigers do at home against the Royals and Braves before we push the panic button. They were allegedly a 1,000 run team last Monday, and this Monday they are an embarrassment at the plate.
The truth lies somewhere in between.