Saturday, May 27, 2017

Detroit Tigers. A snapshot

Almost a third of way into the season, the Tigers find themselves in a predictable position. A few games under .500, a handful back in their own division, and out of 15 teams in the American League, tied for the 10th best record. In other words, much closer to the bottom than the top.

There is precious little to suggest optimism.

Long time stalwarts such as Justin Verlander, Miguel Cabrera, and Ian Kinsler are definitely on the back sides of their bell curves. They will fade soon.

J. D. Martinez is a capable hitter, but constantly battles injuries and is a defensive liability in right field.

The Tiger faithful have waited years for third baseman Nick Castellanos to "bloom", but he never has. He appears destined to be of "journeyman" status. OK and the best they have, but an ordinary hitter and fielder by any stretch.

Michael Fullmer shows promise as a young starting pitcher, but the rest of the staff is hit and miss on any given day. Sometimes they're quite good. Other times they appear to be batting practice pitchers.

The Tigers are woefully lacking in team speed and their overall defense leaves a lot to be desired as well.

While their bullpen has long been the subject of ridicule, Alex Wilson has stepped up of late to perform admirably. Can he keep it up? The jury's still out.

By necessity, the Tigers keep bringing up guys from the minors to see if they can contribute. Some have had brief success at the plate. But as opposing pitchers figure them out, it probably won't last long. And most of them are defensive liabilities as well. Some of the outfield antics they have shown could be a "blooper" reel of its own.

Speaking of ancient, can anybody even remember if and when designated hitter Victor Martinez was able to field a position? Now, at almost 40, he's struggling to hit his weight. And let's not forget how pitifully slow he is on the basepathes. Nobody can turn a ball hit into the gap -- double? -- triple? -- into a long single like V-Mart.

Catcher Alex Avila, son of GM Al Avila -- nepotism anyone? -- got off to a hot start with the bat. But there's a reason the Tigers, and other teams consider him a "borderline" player. He's not a particularly good defensive backstop, and his batting average coming down -- a lot -- is only a matter of time.

In the meantime, teams like the Yankees, Bosox, and Orioles of the east are definitely better.

Out west, Houston is tearing it up. Texas started off slow, got hot, and have recently been in a slump. But the Rangers have too much talent to keep down forever. They'll be in the thick of it before it's over.

The same could be said of the Cleveland Indians in the Tigers' own division. Top to bottom, they're superior to Detroit in every way. There's a reason they went to the World Series last year as well. While the Tribe has struggled early, few would doubt they'll show their prowess over the next 100 games or so. It's still the same club, and they're light years ahead of the Tigers.

Observers should be mindful of some of the trades/deals the Tigers have made in recent times, not to mention the loss of free agents. Max Scherzer got away and is still a dominant force for the Washington Nationals. Remember Rick Porcello? Still in only his mid-20s, the Tigers considered him expendable. So he went to Boston and promptly posted a 22-4 record as a starting pitcher while winning the AL Cy Young award.

For these, and a few other reasons, it's entirely reasonable, and I dare say logical to assume the Tigers will finish the season in roughly the position they currently find themselves. Maybe .500, a couple games over or under, nowhere near competing for the AL Central Division title, and probably out of the wild-card chase as well. There's just too many other teams in the American League that are better.

Worse yet, the Tigers' "window of opportunity" is quickly closing. They went for the gusto in recent years past by shelling out a lot of money in a "win now" mode, but could never quite get over the hump.

When the "core" of this team starts to degenerate, and it will soon, their prognosis for the future could best be described as "poor". What do they have to fall back on? Answer -- nothing.

They will join the Pistons, Red Wings, and ever-woeful Lions to make Detroit the city with the sorriest collection of professional sports teams in the entire country.

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