Apr 5, 2014; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers left fielder Rajai Davis (20) hits a single in the eighth inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
After the first road trip of the season, the Detroit Tigers find themselves with a 6-4 record, which is good for first in the AL Central with a ½ game lead over the Chicago White Sox. This week, they start a 10 game home stand and an 18 game stretch in which they will play 15 games inside of the AL Central: 3 against the Cleveland Indians, 6 against the White Sox, 3 against the Twins, and 3 against the Royals. (The other 3 games are at home against the Los Angeles Angels.)
The Tigers left their west coast interleague road trip with a 2-3 record in which the bats went anemic in the 3 losses, but were solid in the 2 wins. In the 4 losses the Tigers have this year, they have scored a combined 4 runs with shutouts recorded by Andrew Cashner and Chris Tillman.
The offense should bounce back though. Miguel Cabrera has gotten off to a rough start, but he is human. I am not worried about Cabrera at the plate; he is the best hitter in the game and will bounce back barring an injury. Ian Kinsler and Rajai Davis were a fixture at the top of the order on the road trip, and Davis has been the best leadoff hitter in baseball so far this season, even though he has only been there for 5 games. Davis will come back to earth and won’t hit at a .345/.414/.448 clip this year (breaking news I know), but he has been a great addition to the team thus far. Davis only trails Jacoby Ellsbury in the steals category in baseball which is one of the main reasons the Tigers signed him. Davis has locked down the starting left field spot for the Tigers for the foreseeable future with the absence of Andy Dirks and Tyler Collins’s struggles at the plate to start his Major League career. If Collins’s struggles continue, I would not be surprised to see him get sent to Toledo to work out some problems, but more importantly get every day playing time.
The player who I am worried about most at the plate is Alex Avila. In the 8 games he has played this season, Avila has a .130/.259/.130 split with 14 K’s. I know people have the belief that Avila’s job is to handle the pitching staff, which it is, but there is a point where he is just too much of a liability at the plate. Avila has only played in 8 games so far and it is too early to panic, but if his continues keep up at the plate and he still looks completely lost in a couple of weeks, the Tigers may have to try to make a move. This could include James McCann who has gotten off to a bit of a sluggish start in Toledo or Bryan Holaday who is also uninspiring. There really isn’t much the Tigers can do with this situation other than drop Avila in the lineup and just let him handle the pitching staff until he figures his swing out. I am not saying Avila needs to be off of this team, but he is definitely a player to watch to see if he can muster any kind of offensive performance as this season progresses.
Looking ahead at this week, the Tigers’ bats should benefit from a couple of different teams. First, they are at home which means 2 things: pitchers do not need to go near a bat, and the Tigers have generally scored more runs at home than on the road. Second, the Indians and Angels’ team ERAs are 4.46 and 4.36 respectively.
The Tigers’ offense has been sluggish at times to start this season, but I am not worried about the offense in the long run. No team has ever had a perfect lineup from 1-9 in the history of the game, and the Tigers are not the first team in history to have that perfect lineup. There will be struggles at times this season, but this offense will figure itself out.