The Detroit Tigers, as a unit, are the proverbial pig looking to gussy up for the barnyard dance with some bright red lipstick. Unfortunately, in the unforgiving light of day this pig as still sinfully ugly as you’d expect from a team without one single qualified guy slugging .400+ to this point.
53 weeks ago as the Tigers were careening to a 9-24 start in 2021 they dropped a pair of games to the White Sox causing this writer to opine “this feels like the bottom”…and it did. It appeared hopeless for Detroit to play competitively. Then the season turned. It appeared the bottoming out had occurred and the rebound had started.
The Tigers rallied for much of the season from that point. Signs were positive. This past winter some money was spent pre-lockout. Starting players were acquired in trade. In short, optimism over the rebuild phase being over and the ascent phase beginning was palpable.
Therefore it’s with some surprise that it’s time to ask the question once again…”is this the bottom?” It’s a good time wonder. How did Detroit get back here again? The lowest of lows from last year never felt as dead and uninteresting as this year feels.
The 9-0 loss on Wednesday night saw Detroit fold faster than the overnight crew at The Gap. The Tigers were shut out for the third time in five days. Since a seemingly impossible 13 run outburst versus the Rockies a few weeks back the Tigers have scored 36 runs in 17 games. They’ve been re-coined “The 2-Run Machine” once again as they seem to cap themselves at a deuce per day of output.
It does seem as though the quartet of violinists are still playing on deck while the ship is taking on water…the good ship S.S. Ilitch is in mortal peril. The incredible dearth of offense has stretched from April seamlessly into May.
“Hitsville, USA” was a Motown Records slogan which is no danger of being stolen by this edition of Tigers batsmen. Detroit simply can’t manufacture rallies and have shown almost no power to occasionally break open a game.
Name the offensive stat and Detroit is very likely looking up at the entire American League. The Tigers last in homers, last in runs and soon to be last on the minds of hordes of fans.
What can be done?
Sadly there is no little blue pill available to kickstart this offense. The boring answer is to wait and remain patient. Somebody has to get hit eventually. Don’t they?
Jeimer Candelario and Jonathan Schoop will likely have a productive stretch at some point. Spencer Torkelson’s pedigree gives us hope he’ll have brighter days ahead. Austin Meadows isn’t a powerless singles hitter…he’s just wearing the costume temporarily. There isn’t a real path forward to any success for the Tigers that doesn’t include these players simply, you know, hitting better.
Injuries to Riley Greene and Victor Reyes have short-circuited the club’s outfield depth. Greene is viewed as a franchise cornerstone and it’s indeed getting a sustained look at him might now be the thing to most enjoy about the 2022 campaign if he gets back on the field.
Tigers GM Al Avila could summon the hot hitting Kody Clemens from Toledo and find some at bats as well. There is little to be lost from this even if you’re not a true believer in Clemens’ ultimate value to the organization.
The Rays of Hope
Certainly Detroit’s pitching staff is not very much at fault for the club’s futility. AJ Hinch and Chris Fetter have pulled the right strings more often than not so far.
Injuries to Casey Mize and Matt Manning came at the club early. Tyler Alexander was wholly ineffective. Spencer Turnbull was never in the ‘22 equation. Kyle Funkhouser and Jose Cisnero disappeared from the bullpen. Free agent reliever Andrew Chafin took a spin on the IL too. Things went wrong but the pitching has hung tough.
The fact the pitching staff has been fairly resolute in its efforts thus far is thanks to the likes Tarik Skubal, Wily Peralta, Michael Fulmer, Jacob Barnes, Alex Lange, Will Vest and others. Rookies Alex Faedo and Beau Brieske have also shown some possible viability after being pressed into service.
With Mize and Manning returning soon, Detroit’s pitching depth is the thing they can hang their hat on for now as they hope and pray for the sleeping offense to crack open one eye.
The Front Office
This has to be “Al Avila’s Last Stand”.
Avila speaking to the Detroit Economic Club on Wednesday: “We’ve gotta get out of this hole we’re in, and I know we will. And then the future will be bright.”
The hole is deep now. It’s questionable Avila can be the person to lead them out and see those brighter days. This offense he’s crafted for Hinch is a powerless moribund crew. Shockingly so.
It’s unlikely Detroit now has anything even approaching a 5% chance at reaching the .500 mark during this season and it’s doubtful that qualifies as “bright days” anyhow. Avila must take the crushing heat for this.
The turn around time for this club unfortunately must now be measured in weeks…if not DAYS…Avila’s Doomsday Clock must end in early June if they aren’t winning by then. Why?
Simply because there is no sense whatsoever to have the fingerprints of Avila on this summer’s draft class or the Tigers moves at the trade deadline if he’s not leading this organization beyond ‘22.
Detroit Tigers owner Chris Ilitch must act. The expectations he must have had for this season are already toast. Be honest with yourself, Mr. Ilitch. If you’ve been watching this club at all, you must see it and sense there is a leadership void at the top which is permeating doubt throughout the organization. Avila’s old crew has been shuffled out already. Make the sweep clean. Hire a GM who is comfortable with Hinch and move forward now instead of waiting for a future that keeps being pushed back.
Ilitch must prove his oft-mentioned quote of him having “the fire inside to compete”. His club isn’t competing now.
The diehards will soldier on. We’ll look for improvement from Torkelson. We’ll monitor every facial expression of Mize. The Greene Era will kick off. Miguel Cabrera will continue to be a monument from better days and keep hitting a few singles to slowly march up the career hit list.
We’ll look at Mock Drafts and debate the 12th pick in the draft and fantasize about what the trade deadline could bring. Sadly this has become business as usual in the Detroit baseball summer of late and it looks to be continuing now.
So…this is the bottom, right?