The Detroit Tigers, who won the 2011 American League Central Division by a whopping 15 games, were supposed to run away with the division again. Despite losing DH Victor Martinez, the Tigers added a big (sorry) bat in Prince Fielder, and weren’t supposed to be facing much of a competition.
Through about 1/3 of the season, the Tigers find themselves in third place at 26-32, 6 games behind first place Chicago, 5.5 behind low-budget Cleveland, and just 1 game ahead of hapless Kansas City.
So what’s wrong so far?
So far, the usual suspects have performed about as well as expected. Demi-god Miguel Cabrera, a .317 career hitter with a .556 slugging percentage is currently hitting .321 with a .557 slugging percentage – or in other words, basically the same guy. Prince Fielder is currently riding a 139 OPS+, just 4 points below his career average. Reigning MVP and Cy Young winner Justin Verlander has picked up right where he left off, posting a 2.67 ERA and 0.970 WHIP through his first 12 starts.
The guys we expected to do well have…done well. So why have the Tigers – a World Series pick by many – done so poorly?
I’ll offer up a couple theories, and then turn it to what DC does best – the discussion board.
1) Doug Fister’s Injury
At the trade deadline last year, the Tigers acquired Doug Fister from Seattle. The righty proceeded to go 8-1 over 10 starts with a 1.79 ERA and 0.839 WHIP as the Tigers ran away with the Central Division. Well, Fister pitched on game 2 of the season and then missed the rest of the month of April with a strained left side. And…he’s hurt again, back on the 15-day DL.
2) Fielding, fielding, fielding.
Defense counts in baseball, folks. When the Tigers acquired first baseman Prince Fielder, the assumption was that either he or Miguel Cabrera would shift to the DH spot, being as they play the same position and they both really suck at it. And surely, instead of playing any position at all, Delmon Young would be released outright, seeing as he has been worth a whopping 1.4 career WAR in his entire 7 year career and makes Jermaine Dye look like Roberto Clemente. Well, the Tigers didn’t do that. They kept Young, even letting him play the field 1/3 of the time, despite the fact that he is (and this is the technical term), a world-class jerk. Cabrera now plays a harder defensive position, with Fielder continuing a fine tradition of irony at first base.
The Tigers enter play this weekend with a league-worst -3.2 dWAR and despite ranking second in the league with a 3.82 FIP, Detroit pitchers have surrendered a league-worst .313 BABIP. If you’re not a fan of those acronyms, the implication is simply that the Tigers’ pitchers are doing their job, and the fat slugs behind them aren’t getting to baseballs.
So, Dugout Central, what do you think is the cause of Detroit’s woes (you know, besides the recession).