The Sky Isn’t Falling… Yet


It’s been a pretty rough start for the Detroit Tigers. After allowing 11 home runs to the New York Yankees in the season’s first three games, Detroit fell victim to the long ball once again in Baltimore yesterday. The 5-1 loss dropped the Tigers to 1-3 on the season.

The Tigers offense was stagnant versus the Orioles, as Jake Arrieta held Detroit to just one run over six innings. Rick Porcello did not fare nearly so well.

Porcello looked like a different pitcher from the one we’ve seen over the past two seasons. His trademark sinker, which he has ridden throughout his career, was virtually abandoned in this game. Instead, Porcello relied on four-seam fastballs that resulted in four strikeouts, but only two ground ball outs to nine fly balls; a ratio opposite what we’ve come to expect. Sooner or later, one of those fly balls was bound to cause trouble and it did when Brian Roberts cleared the wall for a three-run shot to put the O’s ahead for good.

For as bad as the results looked for Porcello, they were par for the course thus far in the season. The four Tigers starters have each allowed at least one home run in their starts and only Justin Verlander managed a quality start when he allowed three runs (all scoring on a long ball) over six frames on Opening Day. Brad Penny followed that with eight earned runs over 4.1 innings, Max Scherzer won his start, but did so by allowing six earned runs in his five innings and then Porcello yielded five earned in five innings yesterday. Sadly, that makes Porcello’s effort the second-best of the four starters.

To make matters worse, it hasn’t just been the starters that have fallen victim to the gopher ball. Of the seven relievers that have faced a minimum of two batters, three of them have also given up the home run ball. If there is a silver lining in this number, the four that have managed to keep the ball in the yard are all back-end, late-inning guys. Phil Coke, who allowed the Curtis Granderson game-winner on Thursday, will be in the rotation next week, and Brad Thomas and Brayan Villarreal will both see the bulk of their action when the Tigers are playing from behind.

And yes, you can chalk up some of the problem to the ballparks the games have been played in. At least two of the Yankees homers would have been caught in any other park and the ball carries quite well in the smallish Camden Yards as well. Maybe the more troubling thing so far is that the Tigers haven’t taken the same advantage that their opponents have. Apart from Sunday’s win over New York, where Detroit cleared the fences three times, there has been just two Tigers long balls. Five in four games certainly isn’t a bad number, but when your opponents are hitting ten, well, that’s just not gonna cut it.

To make matters even worse, Tigers pitchers are making their biggest mistakes with men on base. Six of the ten home runs the Tigers have allowed have come with at least one runner on base and four of those have been three-run shots.

It’s highly unlikely that the Tigers staff will remain as prone to the long ball as they’ve shown so far. Sooner or later, those balls will be kept in the yard. The Tigers are in the midst of a very difficult road trip and if they can right the ship and take the next two games, they’ll still come home as a .500 club. This year or any other, a 3-3 trip through New York and Baltimore is a success, especially given how poorly they played on the road last year. Even if they win only one of the next two, the hole won’t be that deep. Minnesota is going through similar struggles right now after dropping the first game in New York themselves, and two of three in Toronto.

There are troubling trends so far to be sure, but those trends won’t last. There’s 158 games left and the Tigers are a much better club, especially pitching-wise, then they’ve shown so far. Get the kinks out of the way early, boys.

Like what you see here and want to stay informed on the happenings at MCB? Make sure to follow us on Twitter, friend us on Facebook, or grab our RSS feed.