Despite struggling to the All-Star Break, the Tigers in good position.


What do we know about the Detroit Tigers? At the mid-way point of the season, it would appear we still don’t actually know much. We thought we did. Once they leapfrogged Cleveland for first place two weeks ago, the team looked ready to take off. That hasn’t quite been the case. In the last two weeks or so, the Tigers are 6-9 in their past 15 games with three of wins coming from the arm of Justin Verlander. Overall though, most Detroit sports fans would probably be more than content being four games over .500 and in second place in the division. Let’s take a look at how they got their and how things are likely to look going forward.


It’s been the Justin Verlander Show. If he continues to pitch this way, you have to think he’ll get some M-V-P votes, not just Cy Young votes. I see no reason to believe his dominance is on the verge of ending. Sadly though, he’s not getting much help as of late. Max Scherzer’s 9-4 record sounds good, but he’s 0-2 in his last three starts, pitching 15 innings and giving up 21 hits and 14 runs. To his credit, the no-decision was a stellar outing against the Blue Jays. I see a stint on the DL in his future with any more outings like his last against the Giants. Meanwhile, Rick Porcello hasn’t gotten out of the 5th in his last three starts. In Porcello’s last 11 and a third innings, he’s given up 28 hits and 18 earned runs. Those recent troubles diminish the excitement of a 6-4 start and an ERA that was at 3.60. The Tigers need him to get his early season head back on, and his next outing needs to be a turning point.

Brad Penny and Phil Coke have been about what you’d expect out of a fourth and fifth starter. Penny is a game below .500, but wins and losses don’t always tell the whole story. With the exception of a bad outing June 15th against Cleveland, Penny has pitched at least six innings without giving up more than 3 earned runs in those starts. Yet, his record shows 2 losses and 3 no decisions. If he stays the course, the Tigers should be good at the 4th starter slot. Prior to Phil Coke’s last three outings, his ERA was 3.69, but he held a 1-6 record. Since then, Coke’s been roughed up, going 0-2 in his last three starts while giving up 16 earned runs. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Andy Oliver from AAA ball eventually, but there are rumblings Charlie Furbush will be inserted into the rotation instead of Coke.

Pitching is most important, without a doubt. The most consistent part of the Tiger’s pitching (outside of JV) has been the bullpen. I’d say they have been surprisingly good because Joel Zumaya hasn’t thrown a pitch and Joaquin Benoit’s outings have been a roller coaster ride. Everyone else has been near dominant. Al Alburquerque, Charlie Furbush, Daniel Schlereth, David Purcey, and Jose Valverde have been just short of spectacular (if you don’t count the last week). Alburquerque was placed on the 15 day disabled list, and fans have to hope that’ll be all it is. Valverde hasn’t blown a save yet this year. Furbush has given up 6 runs in 21 and two-thirds innings. If the bullpen continues to succeed, which I do believe they will after getting over this rough spot, the Tigers will be able to lean on the back end of their pitching staff.

Position Players

Let’s start with the good…actually the great. Miguel Cabrera has to be one of the 10 best in baseball. At this point, he’s got 17 homers, 56 RBI, a .329 average, a .448 OBP, a .577 slugging percentage, and his OPS 1.025. All of this season’s numbers are above his career averages. Miguel Cabrera has been as good as advertised throughout his career.

The three brightest spots are Brennan Boesch, Alex Avila, and Jhonny Peralta. I say they are the brightest spots, because I think few fans knew what to expect. Avila couldn’t really hit the ball last year. Boesch free fell after his hot start in 2010. Peralta hit well early in his career but even then he wasn’t setting the world on fire. Fast forward to today. Peralta is currently hitting .311 with 14 long balls. Boesch is at .307 with 11 homers. Avila is at .299 with 10 big flies. Add in the incredibly successful acquisition of professional hitter Victor Martinez and his .335 average, and the Tigers bats are doing better than most could have hoped for. The best part is that most of these players have been around these numbers all year (with the exception of a slow start for V-Mart). I do expect this to continue into the second half.

The Tigers’ need more help from their defensive saviors, namely Austin Jackson and Brandon Inge. I’ll give a little bit of a reprieve to Austin Jackson. He’s worked the average back to .250 after being one hundred points lower in mid-April. Not only that, if it’s in the ball park, he’s got a chance to make the play. Inge, on the other hand, is hitting under .200. Hopefully the stay on the DL due to mono will allow him to get his bat going again. I expect Jackson to rise while Inge will garner no expectations from me.

I love what the kids have done. Danny Worth (in limited time) is hitting .310 with a .355 on base percentage. Casper Wells has four homers and a .260 average in 44 games. Andy Dirks has 35 games under his belt, hitting .255 and 6 long balls. Don Kelly, in 52 games, has hit .244 with 2 round-trippers. I understand these numbers aren’t overwhelming, but they are filling gaps nicely, which is what you really need from your youngsters. If a right or left fielder, a second baseman, and possibly a third baseman can come from these guys, either full time or fill-ins, Detroit will stay in the race till the end.

One final note to make is actually concerning the three wild cards: Magglio Ordonez, Carlos Guillen, and Ryan Raburn. It amazes me Raburn is still involved with this team. Yes, he’s got some power, but other than that, he doesn’t bring much to the table. His average is not good and his defense is suspect. If the kids keep up their pace, we might see the end of Raburn in Detroit. He has been a second half player, so we’ll see if he can save himself. As for Magglio, the defense just isn’t there any more. The injuries have piled up too high. He’s slipping into the liability category in right field. On the other hand, since returning on June 13th, he has hit roughly .300, raising the average from .172 to .211. Finally, Carlos Guillen will return post All-Star break. If he can solidify and assist at second base, while hitting like Carlos Guillen of old, the Tigers will only improve.

What this all adds up to is that the starting pitchers need more from guys not named Justin. Scherzer will come through with question marks everywhere else. The bullpen just needs to (and will) get over this temporary rough patch and get healthy. If the bats stay level, the kids improve, and we get anything from the wild cards, we’ll be playing October baseball in Detroit.