Tigers Baseball Outsider

a thinking fan's perspective

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Eighteen played and three behind

We are not quite half way to the first season milestone. Sparky Anderson's forty game mark.

The boy's of the old English D have two more game in Texas, then head home to Comerica Park to face Minnesota for a three game set.
On this day of the 19th game to be played the Tigers are three games behind the Twins.

This is where many predict the Tigers will finish the season at. But 89% of the season still to play.

It's baseball. Nothing remains constant in baseball.

It's still too early to tell how the Tigers of 2010 stack up. But there are some early signs of promise, and some early flags of warning.

Signs of promise

Miguel Cabrera has been that clutch player we have been waiting to see with clutch game tying or winning hitting, and superb play defensively at first. He has already won the MVP Of The Week in the American League.

So with only three weeks played, Cabrera has a .333 average for winning the league MVP.

Johnny Damon is rising to the leadership role – and a very positive one so far.

Austin Jackson is making center field his own, decorating the airspace up the middle with a collection of stunning plays.

Scott Sizemore is not disappointing us with his play at second or his bat in the lower half of the line up.

Remember, these are two rookies fresh out of the minors. Who could ask for a better start from them in the opening days of the season.

Brandon Inge's bat started hot, and his knees seem reliable. So far so good.

The bullpen has been solid, allowing only 11 runs over 48 innings. That's about 1 run in four innings of bullpen pitching. That ain't bad.

Joel Zumaya has only given up 1 run over 12 innings. And he upgraded his fastball. It has stuff. It moves. It rises. And I bet it whistles. He is working on a "splitter" as he calls it, with Jose Valverde's mentorship. If he can master this pitch and come up with an effective change up, he could have guys swinging twice at the same pitch.

If he stays healthy. Joel seems a bit more mature, and taking this opportunity serious this season. I am delighted with Joel's first weeks of this season.

And Jeremy Bonderman – in my opinion – is performing above expectations. Albeit those expectations were low. Let Jeremy iron some stuff out and we might see him move up in the rotation.

As well, Ramone Santiago has had a good chance to play more to date. Ramone is hitting .323. He has helped increase the depth in our lineup. Defensively Ramone has been pretty solid with only one error to date – and participating in turning eight double plays. Good hitting plus solid defense would result in Santiago being an everyday player – and I do not understand the sentiment that he is not good enough to play every day.

But then I am on the outside looking in.

Warning flags

Starting pitching has been a weakness where it was expected that at least Verlander, Porcello, and Scherzer would be strengths. They are averaging five innings. We need them for seven. Verlander's pitch count is hitting 100 as the fifth inning starts. Our bullpen is getting plenty of opportunity to participate. But bullpen pitchers wear out – and you can't use these guys every night.

If this trend continues, expect the effectiveness of the bullpen to decline.

Carlos Guillen is on the DL before the season reaches the third week. He was hitting .311.

Gerald Laird's catching has been slightly below his norm, dropping the ball on game deciding plays at the plate, and a slip in his ability to throw out runners stealing second. This weakens the reason to keep his .132 batting average in the lineup. Some have said this is because he is catching to often. If this is the case, I suggest the Tiger's need an everyday catcher. Catching is not a position that should be platoon. Pitchers need consistent receivers. And I still think the pitching staff prefers throwing to Laird over Avila – but I have no basis for that statement except that Avila presents no target for the pitcher to focus on.

The best conclusion one can make is to state loudly that only eighteen games have been played.

But good pitching beats good hitting. And if your starting rotation is having struggling to get through five innings, there is need to be concerned. But this may likely be just a blip on the radar. But like hitting is contagious – so is pitching.

Let's hope they shake off these opening weeks slump and this rotation can start effectively reaching the seventh inning.

Otherwise, as with most of the eighteen games to date – the Tigers will be playing catch-up baseball all season. In the games, and in the standings.

But the positives to date can't be discounted.

If Miguel Cabrera keeps this pace up, and Santiago takes over short every day, the rotations ineffectiveness is offset a little bit.

But my question to you is:

How do you feel about losing Granderson to the Yankees now that you have enjoyed some of the excitement that Austin Jackson creates? This is only the end of week two of his rookie season.

And the Tigers are 2 games over .500.

So far – no so bad.

What's your opinion?

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