Detroit Tigers’ Catalysts Reminiscent of ’84


April 11, 2013; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers center fielder Austin Jackson (14) and right fielder Torii Hunter (48) congratulate each other after scoring in the fifth inning against the Toronto Blue Jays at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY SportsThe 2013 season has lurched along like a high-performance sports car on a frigid morning; coughing, sputtering, smoothing out a bit, then grinding the gears again.

Austin Jackson and Torii Hunter have provided a consistent spark atop the lineup, however; setting the table and frequently staking the squad to an early lead. The wire-to-wire champion 1984 Tigers featured a dynamic duo atop the lineup as well – should-be-Hall-of-Famers Lou Whitaker and Alan Trammell. Like A-Jax and Torii, it seemed a first inning rally was a nightly occurrence. Let’s take a look at their respective numbers through 20 games and see how they compare:

Whitaker – 19 starts, 83 AB’s, 27 H, 21 R, 4 2B, 0 3B, 3 HR, 7 RBI, .325/.404/.482

Jackson –   20 starts,  94 AB’s, 26 H, 21 R, 4 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 7 RBI, .277/.340/.372

Trammell- 19 starts, 77 AB’s, 31H, 21 R, 6 2B,  1 3B, 2 HR, 10 RBI, .403/.495/.584

Hunter     – 19 starts, 83 AB’s, 31 H, 14 R, 7 2B,  1 3B,   1 HR, 10 RBI, .373/.416/.518

Sweet Lou and Tram worked the count a bit better, hence the higher OBP’s. But the counting stats are remarkably similar, and would lead one to believe that such production atop the lineup, early leads etc. would be a springboard to a successful season.

Through 20 games, the ’84 Tigers were 18-2; this year’s version is 10-10. So what gives?

All of the prerequisite renunciations can be invoked: too early, small sample size, cold weather, tough schedule. Like most fans, I was hoping for that wire-to-wire, clinch on Labor Day season. So it isn’t unreasonable to dissect this team at the 1/8 pole and try to discern if any of the existing problems are chronic, transient and/or fixable:

  • Bullpen ineffectiveness/Lack of closer
  • Team slugging percentage – lack of doubles/homers
  • Unproductive bottom half of lineup
  • Little contribution from bench players

Most of us have been lamenting these possibilities since last October; now, 20 games in and the reality is staring us in the face. My next post will address these nagging issues individually and suggest what, if any, possibility exists for improvement.