The Detroit Tigers are in a bit of a rough patch the moment.
The starting pitching is not performing up to its usual standards, hitting has been in a funk, the bullpen can’t seem to string anything together and as a result the team just has not been playing to their potential. There is no glaring issue for general manager Dave Dombrowski to fix, the team just needs to be more consistent.
A lot of people out there that want to blame new skipper Brad Ausmus, but there’s a lot more going on here than just a manager pulling some strings, making pitching changes here and there. To start the season, the Tigers’ starting pitching was dominating every team it faced. Now? It’s just been average. Same for the offense, which was great for a three-week stretch but has since cooled. And the bullpen, which looked like the weak link, has been good and bad.
The real problem just appears to be consistency in all facets of the game.
How about the new guys that were picked up at in the off-season, though? They are really making an impact on this team already. Ian Kinsler has been a huge help — solid second baseman, a real dependable guy at the plate and a very good base runner. Rajai Davis is really making a big splash and his presence on the base paths has changed the way the Tigers can play offense and has improved the overall look of this team all around. The bullpen help hasn’t been quite what Detroit has wanted, starting with Joe Nathan. He has been a real peaks-and-valleys type of a guy this year.
Still, for all the frustration over the past month, this Tigers team really does have the players and coaches to stay a World Series contender this season. You have to figure that at least the starting pitching will get back on track … and the hitting will come around. The only uncertainty is the same headache that’s lingered since last season: the bullpen. It is going to be their big Achilles’ heel all season it seems, though the arrival of Joel Hanrahan in the next month or so ought to help.
How well Nathan can respond to a miserable few outings will really be a big catalyst for this team. Can he shore up the ninth-inning? With Kinsler and Davis in Detroit’s lineup, plus the big bats of Cabrera and Victor Martinez heating up, this team has the makings for something special. But can they find the right recipe to make this thing work?
The starting pitching, in particular Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer, need to get back to the basics. When the season started it looked as if they were all just out there playing catch and having fun. Lately, they are laboring over every single pitch — Verlander’s win in Seattle Friday was a step in the right direction. I am not sure if teams have picked up on something, but the last few starts for each starter has been a bit of a rocky road. Pitching coach Jeff Jones really has his work cut out for him. They need to get into the clubhouse and watch some film and figure some things out. Whatever the approach has been it has not been a good one over the past two weeks.
This team has what it takes to win it all. So while there is some panic in Tiger Town right now, there could be pandemonium come late October.