Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Detroit Tigers. Strange animals

Trying to get a feel for how the Detroit Tigers will stack up this year is a little like trying to predict which way a squirrel will turn next when a dog is chasing it. Win, lose, right, left -- nobody knows -- even the Tigers and squirrels -- until it happens.

Consider the Tigers so far this year.

They started out semi-hot with a 6-2 record.
Then they went cold.
Oops, then came a 5 game winning streak.
Alas, they would lose 11 of the next 12.
Had they turned it around by winning 8 out of the following 9?
Likely not, having dropped 4 of the last 5.

After roughly a third of the season has been played, the Motowners are likely right where they belong. Struggling to stay above .500 and a handful of games back in their own division.

Could the Tigers finally "get it together", play winning baseball for the next few months, and storm into contention? Sure. Good grief, they have one of the highest team payrolls in all of MLB. They're SUPPOSED to produce.

Then again, it could just as easily go the other way. Remember, owner/pizza baron Mike Ilitch shelled out a lot of pepperoni to his players last year and they wound up in the basement of their own division. Did the Beatles have it right way back in the 60s when they claimed "money can't buy you love"? Maybe, but it can usually get one most other things in life. Yet not necessarily pro sports championships. The late George Steinbrenner was often a poster child in that regard with his Yankees.

The Detroit Tigers present a mixed bag -- strange animals to try and sort out.

After his usual slow start, starting pitcher Justin Verlander appears to be rounding into form. Will it last? Unknown.
Once #2 starter Anabel Sanchez has been getting lit up so bad lately he's been demoted to the bullpen.
Acquisition Jordan Zimmerman was steamrolling right along, but has recently shown some chinks in his armor.
Michael Fullmer started off horribly, but seems to have steadied himself. For now.

Once thought to be the long term solution at catcher, James McCann can't seem to stay healthy.
Third baseman Nick Castellanos has finally had a break-out year. So far. Can he keep it up? We'll see.
Shortstop Jose Iglesias and second baseman Ian Kinsler are likely as good as it gets defensively up the middle. While IK is doing well with the bat, JI is once again struggling to hit his weight.
Center fielder Anthony Gose was a flash last year that appears to have turned into a bust this year.
Right fielder J.D. Martinez has blossomed into a super-star waiting to happen.
Aging designated hitter Victor Martinez remains an injury waiting to happen.
After a slow start, former MVP Miguel Cabrera is pounding the ball again.
Free agent Justin Upton has been a whiffing machine.

It's no great secret the Tigers had a sorry bullpen last year. They went out of their way to shore it up in the off-season. Cha-ching. Just one problem. The current staff might be even worse. No lead is safe when these guys take the mound. Opposing hitters often tee off on them like they're batting practice pitchers.

Offensively, the Tigers are decidedly old-school. They rely much more on slugging/homers than manufacturing runs via speed on the base paths. In other words -- as a team, they're slow.

Defensively, they're probably slightly below average across the board. For every sparkling defensive gem, there will be a bone-head or hands of stone moment.

Manager Brad Ausmus is in the final year of his contract. A "lame duck", if you will. It is interesting to note Ausmus had ZERO managerial experience at ANY level in baseball before the Tigers put him in charge of running the club. Given last year's cellar dweller results, the only way BA gets a new contract is if the Tigers do something outstanding this year. Just making the playoffs -- certainly no given -- only to lose -- might not be enough to satisfy the front office. Or the fans. They expect more from the $200 million they're shelling out in one form or another than another season of coming up short, and rightfully so.

So now it's June and the Tigers are still trying to find their identity. Are they really a good team? Not so good and self-overrated? Or just mediocre? In the next 4 months or so a lot can happen and probably will.

The defending World Series champ KC Royals have clawed their way back to the top of the division.
Before the season even started, many pundits predicted the Cleveland Indians to win the American League and go on to the World Series.

One thing's for sure. If the Tigers' .500 yo-yo act continues for the next 100 games, they can kiss another season good-bye.

Thing is, the Tigers are Detroit's best hope in the world of pro sports these days to recapture some sort of glory.
The Red Wings are a second-tier club that is facing the prospect of a major rebuild sooner than later.
The Pistons are nowhere near elite status in the NBA and likely won't be any year soon.
The Lions? Well, they're still the Lions, and their best player just retired in his prime. Need any more be said? The true "ly-uns" are their local sports media that keep peddling the same snake oil to the suckers every year when they know better. Or at least should.

Then again, perhaps Lions fans are the strangest animals of them all.

Whether it was Alfred Einstein, Ben Franklin, Mark Twain, or someone else who first coined the phrase -- "watching the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result" is indeed the definition of insanity.

A grand total of ONE playoff win in the last SIXTY YEARS? But the Honolulu blue and silver koolaiders keep thinking their team might just make it to the Super Bowl any time now?

These people are nuts......

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