The one given for the Detroit Tigers this season was supposed to be offense. The defense was going to be questionable and there was some uncertainty over the back end of the rotation, but no one doubted that the Tigers would hit.
Right now, they aren't hitting.
In Detroit's last 10 games, the offense has produced only 30 runs at a .210 batting average - a rate that has let the pitching-rich White Sox stay within a half-game of first place. Cleveland is another half-game behind in third.
"We're not hitting right now," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "We're not swinging the bats well at all. We're going to hit - look at the track records of these players - but we're not hitting now."
The problem isn't limited to one player, either. Brandon Inge's struggles at the plate - he's hitting .056 - have drawn the most attention from the fans, as shown by the boos that rained down Sunday when he came out to pinch-hit, but it isn't like Leyland has great options behind him at second base. Ryan Raburn is off to his customary terrible start, batting .045 in the last 10 games, and Ramon Santiago is a better fit as a part-time player.
Leyland doesn't think the boos are having an effect on Inge, even as they get louder and louder.
"That's something we all have to deal with in this game," he said. "I don't think the fans in this town boo the person as much as they boo the results, and that's their right. You just have to tune it out and do your job."
The second basemen have plenty of company, though. After a great start, Austin Jackson is slipping back into his old habits. In the last 10 games, he is hitting just .179 with 11 strikeouts. The good news, though, is that his new stance is still letting him hit the ball hard - he has two doubles and two homers.
Alex Avila is struggling more than most at .130 in that same 10 game stretch, but Brennan Boesch is in a .205 slump as well. And while Jhonny Peralta is hitting .233. Miguel Cabrera is at .244 with only one extra-base hit. Prince Fielder has a decent .289 batting average (and is hitting .317 for the season, second on the team), but he hasn't homered since the second game of the year.
Seven of the 10 games were against Chicago and Texas - two teams with strong pitching staffs - but the offensen didn't even get going against the hapless Royals. As Leyland said, it isn't going to be a long-term problem, but the offense needs to kick into gear this week against Seattle, considering they have to travel to Yankee Stadium over the weekend.
APRIL 16: Tigers 3, ROYALS 2. Justin Verlander throws a 131-pitch complete game, freezing Alex Gordon with a 100-mph fastball with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth to end it.
APRIL 17: Tigers 3, ROYALS 1. Drew Smyly allows one unearned run in six innings, and the Tigers break open a tie game on back-to-back eighth-inning RBI singles by the Thunder Cats - Cabrera and Fielder.
APRIL 18: Tigers 4, ROYALS 3. Cabera and Fielder key another late-inning rally, with Fielder driving in Cabrera with a seventh-inning single to put the Tigers ahead.
APRIL 19: RANGERS 10, Tigers 3. Detroit's four-game winning streak gets wrecked by the red-hot Rangers. Japanese star Yu Darvish baffles the Tigers' hitters, while Texas bangs out 19 hits.
APRIL 20: Game postponed. On Tiger Stadium's 100 birthday, the Tigers and Rangers are rained out before a pitch is thrown.
APRIL 21 (Game 1): RANGERS 10, Tigers 4. Rick Porcello has the worst start of his career, allowing nine runs without getting an out in the second inning. Duane Below is the only bright spot, throwing six shutout innings of relief.
APRIL 21 (Game 2): TIGERS 3, Rangers 2. Verlander doesn't have his best stuff, but holds the Rangers to one unearned run in six innings, and Santiago's two-run single is enough to win.
APRIL 22: Rangers 3, TIGERS 2, 11 innings. The Rangers score the winning run on a blown call - even the umps acknowledge after the game - when a suicide squeeze should have been ruled foul. Still, the Tigers offense only managed one baserunner in the final five innings.
WHO's HOT: Verlander. He'll probably be a fixture in this part of the column, but he went 2-0 with a 1.20 ERA and 17 strikeouts in 15 innings. People will remember the 131-pitch complete game in KC, but grinding out six innings against Texas without his best fastball was just as impressive.
Drew Smyly. In the second and third starts of his career, Smyly pitched 12 innings and allowed one earned run. He still hasn't gotten a win, but his 1.13 ERA had turned the fifth-starter spot from a question mark into a strength.
WHO'S NOT: Rick Porcello. He's going to remember the first game of Saturday's doubleheader for a while. Even against baseball's best offense, nine runs on 10 hits while only getting three outs is a disaster of epic proportions.
ROSTER MOVES: Daniel Schlereth and his 10.29 ERA were banished to Toledo between games of Saturday's doubleheader. He was replaced by Thad Weber, who has been in the Tigers system since 2008. Weber pitched well in two starts for the Mud Hens, but was also in the right place at the right time - Toledo was at home on Saturday, and he was scheduled to start at a time when the Tigers needed long relief. He made his major-league debut in the 11th inning of Sunday's game, and took the loss.
UPCOMING: MONDAY, APRIL 23: No game.
TUESDAY, APRIL 24: Mariners at TIGERS, 7:05 p.m.
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 25: Mariners at TIGERS, 7:05 p.m.
THURSDAY, APRIL 26: Mariners at TIGERS, 1:05 p.m.
FRIDAY, APRIL 27: Tigers at YANKEES, 7:05 p.m.
SATURDAY, APRIL 28: Tigers at YANKEES, 4:05 p.m.
SUNDAY, APRIL 29: Tigers at YANKEES, 1:05 p.m.