Brock’s Random Thoughts: The Detroit Tigers, 1 month in
Here's my assessment of the Detroit Tigers after the first month of the season. As of this writing (morning of May 2nd), the Tigers are 14-9 and lead the AL Central by 2 games over Kansas City. We'll go player-by-player, unless otherwise noted.
Let's start with the starting pitching:
Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer: Simply the best 1-2 punch in baseball in terms of starting pitching. Both are 3-1 with sub-2.50 ERA's. Scherzer has 51 K's so far, and a WHIP (Walks/Hits per innings pitched) of 1.05. Outstanding.
Anibal Sanchez: He's on the disabled list right now as he's recovering from a blister suffered last week. He is a misleading 0-2. His ERA is a good 3.13 and teams are hitting .183 against him. He'll get it going.
Rick Porcello: Like Verlander and Scherzer, he's 3-1. But not nearly as dominant, only 16 strikeouts. Although his WHIP is and excellent 1.12. A fine fourth starter.
Drew Smyly: After a bad early start, he's starting to come around. 1-1 with a 3.60 ERA. Just needs to be a little more consistent.
Bullpen: Here's where the big problems are. The only reason Phil Coke is still on this roster is because he is left-handed, and left-handed relievers are hard to come by. He's been awful so far. So has Luke Putkonen, who's on the DL right now.
Al Albuquerque has closer-type stuff, but is wildly inconsistent. Joba Chamberlain has been inconsistent, too. But not nearly as much as Albuquerque. Evan Reed and Ian Krol have just been OK.
Joe Nathan struggled early too, but he's now rounding into his normal self. I'm not worried about him.
Rajai Davis: A fine lead-off man. Hitting .333 with 2 HR's and 9 RBI's. He's also got 8 stolen bases. At that rate, he'll have over 60 stolen bases at the end of the year.
Ian Kinsler: Probably the team's MVP thus far. .283 with 28 hits and 14 RBI's. He's also played a good second base. Has had a penchant for getting big hits.
Miguel Cabrera: Got off to a really slow start. But now he's really warming up. Hitting the ball to all fields and really stabilizing the first base position. He's a major upgrade there over Prince Fielder.
Victor Martinez: He's hitting his way into the Tigers plans for 2015 and beyond. .298 with 4 HR's and 13 RBI's and only 3 K's. In addition to DH, he has also been a capable catcher and first baseman. The soon-to-be free agent has been terrific.
Torii Hunter: Hitting .300 right now. A good veteran presence. Not as good an outfielder as he once was (he's 39, he's not supposed to be). But he's done what the Tigers have wanted/asked him to do when they signed him after the 2012 season.
Austin Jackson: Has benefitted tremendously by the move down in the order. .307 with a .911 OPS (best on the team). Always has been an excellent center fielder. Seems to be more relaxed this season.
Alex Avila: A disappointment, only hitting .220 with 23 K's (the most on the team). And his defensive skills, I think, are overrated. He better get it going.
Nick Castellanos: .233 with 14 RBI's. Is a major upgrade at 3rd base over Miguel Cabrera. Has come up with some big hits, but also some rookie mistakes. Has potential to be really good. I like him.
Andrew Romine/Danny Worth: I'm glad to see Worth get a shot to stick with this club. They made a huge mistake signing Alex Gonzalez, which they admitted by releasing him 2 weeks ago. But neither of these guys are lighting it up at shortstop. If things don't improve, a trade will happen in July.
Bench: Bryan Holaday is a good backup catcher who's pushing Alex Avila for more playing time. .292 in just 9 games is just fine.
Don Kelly does what is asked, and doesn't complain. He can play any position on the field. And has a knack for making the big play/hit when you least expect it. A perfect 24th/25th man on your roster.
Manager Brad Ausmus: I like the aggressive way he manages. He squeeze bunted with Bryan Holaday earlier this week and it won them a game. He's got them stealing more bases. That's good, but he's doing some Jim Leyland-type master of panic pitching moves that have cost them as well (taking starting pitchers out early). He needs to realize that his bullpen isn't very good and ride his starting pitchers for longer into the game. Forget the pitch counts in some situations. His starters are the team's strength, so use them!!!!
This team can win the World Series, they're in a winnable division and have the starting pitching to carry them all the way. But the bullpen must get better, Avila must get better. And the defense must be more consistent, it's been spotty so far. I expect team President Dave Dombrowski to make a move before the July 31st trade deadline to fill in the cracks. It's a win-now situation for the Tigers, they need to make the most of it.