The great Sparky Anderson of the Detroit Tigers said it took 40 games to really see what a team is made of. The game on May 18 against the Minnesota Twins marked the 40th competition of the season.
So, what have the Detroit Tigers shown so far?
The answer is: a mixed bag of good, mediocre, and just plain bad.
Let’s start with the good.
Ian Kinsler and Nick Castellanos have been two of the best players on the team. Combined they have hit 18 home runs. Casty has a batting average of .350 and Kinsler is batting a respectable .319. These two men have also performed well on defense – Kinsler more so than Casty.
Another good has been Jordan Zimmermann. He has an ERA of 2.45 with a WHIP of 1.16. This is a far cry from his AL-leading ERA in April, but it is still the best on the team.
The other good has come from Fernando Rodriguez. After his shaky first start in Miami, he has been a reliable closer. In his 12 save opportunities, he has earned 11. This is significantly better than what Tigers fans have seen in previous years.
One more good has come from Justin Verlander. His first few starts were troublesome, but his last three games have been a complete joy to watch. He pitched his 2000th strikeout; he now is the only Detroit Tigers pitcher to reach this accomplishment since the great Mickey Lolich. In 57 innings of work, he has pitched 60 strikeouts – which is the most on the team at this point in the season.
Moving on to the Mediocre.
There are a few players who are playing more “meh” than good or bad. They are middle-of-the-road players who aren’t consistently doing anything that is destroying wins, but they aren’t doing much to prevent losses.
The biggest “meh” belongs to Jose Iglesias. Sure, we all know that he can make great plays at shortstop, but he hasn’t been mindblowing lately. He has been less-than-stellar at the plate. He has become a bit boring. His .233 average is just so…average.
Bad to the Bone…but not in a good way.
There are several players who have not performed well enough to help the team get wins. The bad players include Mike Aviles, James McCann, Justin Upton, Mark Lowe, and Mike Pelfrey. Aviles has been completely useless on the plate – and so has McCann. The two men have batting averages hovering right around .120. Neither has shown any signs of power and they have also been anything-but-patient. In 51 at-bats, McCann has 3 walks. In 33 at-bats, Aviles has 2 walks. Neither man has hit a home run.
Justin Upton is bad in a category all his own. He has had more strikeouts (63) this season than any other player in the MLB. The next Tiger on the list is J.D. Martinez with 39. Trevor Story with the Colorado Rockies has 57 strikeouts, but he also has 11 home runs to Upton’s 2. Upton has been reliable in left field and during his time in center field before Cameron Maybin returned.
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The worst player on the team has been Mike Pelfrey. When he takes the mound, a loss is predictable. His 5.49 ERA and 1.80 WHIP shows that opposing teams have him all figured out and the .333 batting average against him proves it. He has yet to have a win – even with run support. His pitching is yawn-inducing.
So, what about the team as a whole? After 40 games, the Tigers are a team that could play better. The team is 19-21, sitting 5.5 games behind the 25-16 Chicago White Sox. Unfortunately, the Tigers have more negatives than positives, but since the team is made up of professional, adult men playing a child’s game there is a relatively good chance that they could have more wins than losses. There have been signs of life…but those have been against the sorry Minnesota Twins.
The team needs two big things to find success. The Tigers need a leader in the dugout, someone like Torii Hunter. It can’t be Brad Ausmus or any of the other coaches. It has to be a player. The team also needs some spark. It could come from a veteran like Verlander, Victor Martinez, or Miguel Cabrera. Or, someone new like Cameron Maybin or Jarrod Saltalamacchia could make some positive changes. This, too, needs to come from the players. It seems that they all like playing together, but they need to look like they are having fun – even when they are losing.