At last look, the Detroit Tigers sat atop the AL central division with an 8-4 record. Are they that good? Nope, not a chance.
Some of their local scribes have said the Tigers are getting timely contributions from somewhat unlikely sources. That would be an understatement, to say the least. Let's look a little deeper----
Regarding hitting -- Alex Avila leads the pack with a whopping .700 average. But he's only been to bat 10 times. This is what happens when their "regular" catcher, one James McCann is hitting a paltry .143. Let's not forget that Avila is the son of one-time assistant (now full-time) GM Al Avila. Given his dismal performances in years past, it's questionable whether he'd make the roster of any other major league team. Nepotism, anyone?
Always weak-hitting "utility" player Andrew Romine has a grand total of one home run and 4 RBIs. They came on the same swing, a most improbable grand slam home run that won a game for the Tigers.
Among full-time players, shortstop Jose Iglesias has the highest batting average of .256. But like Oklahoma and tornadoes, or California and earthquakes, you just know Jose isn't going to last the season health-wise. Something will go wrong with his legs, because it always does. And though he's a slick fielder, he's never been much of a hitter either.
On that note, J.D. Martinez has yet to play a single game. He remains out with still ANOTHER injury. The man can hit on the rare occasions he's healthy, but also remains a defensive liability in right field.
Second baseman Ian Kinsler is on the back side of his career bell curve and currently hitting. 222.
Likewise former fearsome slugger Miguel Cabrera. Though a triple-crown winner just a couple years back, his best years are behind him as well.
Victor Martinez is over 40, and can anybody even remember when he was capable of fielding a position? One can time his speed on the basepathes with a sundial. Let's just say he's not exactly fleet of foot. Could he play for anybody else? Hmmm. BTW, he's batting a plankton-esque .195. This is a "designated hitter"? Really? If he's no good at anything else and now can't hit either -- what good is he?
Though locals keep hoping and praying third baseman Nick Castellanos will bloom into a star, he appears destined for long time journeyman status. OK at his position, nothing great, but passable, not much speed, and he's batting .220.
The Tigers still haven't solved their centerfield problem. Tyler Collins appears to be the best they've been able to come up with (though he'd likely be in AA or AAA ball for most teams), and even HE got an improbable key hit to win a game.
Maybe their one-time established "stars" will break out and come through again. Or maybe they won't. Father Time continues to work against them. But counting on offensive contributions from they likes of Romine, Avila, Collins, and Iglesias happening on a regular basis is fool's gold.
One-time ace Justin Verlander is no spring chicken either. Last time out, he got lit up like the proverbial pinball machine. His ERA is approaching .600. Not good. Plus, he's lost a couple MPH on his once fearsome fastball. What many haven't noticed is he's either lost the ability or confidence to throw his once devastating split-finger pitch. Though he can still get it done on many occasions, opposing hitters hardly fear him any more. An average heater mixed in with a cut-fastball (hard curve) are only going to get him so far as opposing hitters continue to figure him out and wait on certain pitches they KNOW will be coming. Things won't get any better for JV as time marches on.
Michael Fullmer had a marvelous season as a rookie. Yet he's now been around the league once and the element of surprise is gone. He's been studied and diagnosed like every other pitcher. Will the sophomore jinx rear up and bite him? Or is he the real deal that has staying power? Nobody knows. It could go either way.
Young Jordan Zimmerman shows some promise, but the jury's still out on him as well. He could rightfully be classified as a "keep your fingers crossed" prospect.
Much the same could be said about Shane Greene, Alex Wilson, and Daniel Norris. Maybes, and maybe nots.
Anibal Sanchez had one truly fantastic year. That's the good news. The bad news is the Tigers signed him to an extension for a ridiculous salary and he's been a bust ever since. Sanchez can't get ANYBODY out these days.
The Tigers keep wanting to believe Francisco Rodriguez is a quality reliever, though most objective pundits strongly disagree. His nickname is K-Rod. Maybe that's because he makes about a thousand bucks for every pitch the throws. The actual results have been a mixed bag.
They tried and tried with fireballer Bruce Rondon, but he appears to be a bust as well. If a pitcher can't throw strikes, it doesn't matter what the MPH is.
They even had a guy names Cuevas on the pitching staff. He pitched a whole third of one inning, getting bombed. His ERA is a mind-boggling 108. That's right, over a hundred. Cuevo, Cuevas, same thing. Too much of that stuff will make you crazy in short order.
The glass half-fullers will continue preaching optimism, because they're politically correct and that's all they know -- or at least dare to say. The Tigers are a playoff contender and could actually accomplish great things this season if most things go right.
But the reality is, the Tigers are nowhere near as good as their early record suggests. Besides the window rapidly closing on any chances of glory soon, they don't have much help on deck down in the minor leagues either. They traded most of those prospects away in recent years past in the "go for it" mode, but never got there.
"Timely contributions" from unlikely sources leading to wins this year is one way to put it.
Another would be --
Smoke and mirrors.
Don't look for it to last.......