The script, drafted in Lakeland and polished by enthusiastic
sports writers, had the Tigers at the 2013 quarter mark in first
place with baseball’s best record, the American League Central title theirs for the waiting.
At the quarter mark, the Tigers are an unimpressive 23-18,
and reeling after a lost weekend in Arlington. The 29-15 Texas
Rangers have baseball’s best record, and the Tigers are 2.5
games behind the surprising Cleveland Indians.
How can this be?
The Tiger .280 team batting average is baseball’s best. Miguel
Cabrera leads the majors in hitting at .387, Torii Hunter
(.310) has found the Fountain Of Youth at age 37, Jhonny
Peralta is arguably the league’s best shortstop, and isn’t Justin
Verlander’s place in Cooperstown all but assured?
Pitching — notably starting pitching, a category the Tigers
were expected to dominate — has let them down.
Tiger starters, penciled in as baseball’s best on opening day, rate 13th with a 3.79 ERA. The relievers, who weren’t really expected to sparkle, are 18th at 3.91. The pen’s total of eight saves is baseball’s third lowest, and the newly reacquired Jose Valverde has four of them.
JV was hit hard in his last two starts. In the Rangers
series opener, he allowed seven runs on four hits and two
walks, while retiring two batters in what is by far the
worst inning of his career. Anibal Sanchez and Doug Fister were also battered in Texas, and only Cabrera’s three homers kept Sunday night’s 11-8 loss from becoming one of the most forgettable Tiger games in recent memory.
Meanwhile, Terry Francona’s Indians, dismissed by Your Tigers Writer as a collection of castoffs and question marks, are 26-17 and today completed a four game sweep of the Seattle Mariners. The Tigers travel to Progressive Field for three mid-week games that represent, for both teams, the 2013 season’s first Big Series.
In recent years, the Tigers have started slow, looked dreadful early, and put it all together in the second half. The fan who turned off Sunday night’s game in disgust must remember that three quarters of a season remain, and that the Tigers have too much talent to spin their wheels for very long.