Credit: Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports
Last year’s Detroit Tigers were oh-so-close to a World Series berth, but ultimately were victimized by a faltering bullpen and an under-performing offense.
Unfortunately, similar problems haunt the team today as it labors to retain its suddenly tenuous hold on the AL Central division.
Nonetheless, general manager Dave Dombrowski and his charges deserve credit for strengthening the squad in late July.
The acquisition of David Price was nothing less than a coup, and fortifies a starting rotation already regarded as one of baseball’s best.
As Tiger fans discovered last year, though, a firm front end of the pitching staff does not always win the day.
At a minimum, though, things are looking up from the right hand side of the bullpen.
Joakim Soria, acquired at a larcenous cost from the Texas Rangers, will buttress the bullpen if he pitches to form.
Moreover, assuming the Tigers proceed to October, one of their dynamic starters will considerably brighten the bullpen picture, though again from the starboard side.
Yet the time will inevitably arrive when the Tigers need a left hand pitcher to secure at least an out or two at a critical juncture.
Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.
Likewise, the estimable Tiger offense is rightward-tilted and remains vulnerable to solid right hand pitching, as evidenced by this week’s moribund display against the New York Yankees.
The promotion of left hand-hitting Ezequiel Carrera from Toledo (in the wake the Austin Jackson trade) should bolster the left-side offense, but he’s relatively inexperienced and unexposed to the cauldron of pressure which roils in the postseason.
The same callowness applies to another internal option, Toledo outfielder Tyler Collins, who impressed in spring training and made the Tigers’ opening day roster.
Collins has considerable power (17 home runs in Toledo) and has hit well of late, but his bat is streaky–the type that’s methodically harvested by the grim reapers who throw baseballs for a living in October.
Which brings us to the last realistic roster option, Andy Dirks.
Dirks has postseason experience, and when healthy is an asset from the left side.
The problem, of course, is his fitness for duty.
He’s been on the disabled list since the start of the year and at the moment is attempting yet another rehab stint at Single A West Michigan. He’ll have to come on hard without further incident in order to land a spot on a prospective Tiger postseason roster.
So as Dave Dombrowski toils to assemble a bullet-proof team capable of winning a World Series, there’s clearly touch-up work to be done on the left side of the team portrait.
Let’s wish him well with his brush strokes.