2nd Tier Tigers Must Step It Up


Much attention is often paid to the all-star, big name players of a baseball team.  Similarly, fans and media alike often debate the merits of the fringe players and where they belong, good or bad.  What about the middle?  The 2nd tier players, as I call them, often make the difference between a good team and a great team.  This season, the Tigers 2nd tier players have generally disappointed.  Their success could well determine the outcome of the season.  First, the tiers, as I see it:

1st Tier: Cabrera, Fielder, Verlander, Valverde, Benoit, Dotel

2nd Tier: Jackson, Boesch, Young, Avila, Peralta, Scherzer, Porcello, Fister, Coke

3rd Tier: Inge, Raburn, Kelly, Santiago, Laird, Dirks, Smyly, Wilk, Ballester, Weber

If 1st tier and 3rd tier players produce what is expected of them, albeit greatly different, success of the team will fall on 2nd tier players maxing out their production.  Here are some thoughts on those players through 16 games:

The Good: Austin Jackson, Rick Porcello, Phil Coke

Austin Jackson looks refreshed and determined to prove his rookie campaign was more prototypical than his sophomore slump.  His swing looks great, strikeouts are down, and you know the defense will always be there.  Porcello, despite his recent shellacking at the hands of the Rangers, was very impressive in two starts.  Might he finally take a step forward and be a consistent presence in the rotation?  Phil Coke is proving that the bullpen is exactly where he belongs.

The Bad: Brennan Boesch, Delmon Young, Alex Avila, Jhonny Peralta, Max Scherzer

The five names listed above may very well end up being the most important players on the Tigers this season.  It may seem as though I am being too hard on Young and Peralta, who are batting .286 and .264, respectively.  However, between the two there is only 1 home run, 10 RBI’s, and 25 strikeouts to only 5 walks.  Alex Avila’s average has dipped to .244 and since the Red Sox series he is hitting .172 with no homers and 1 RBI.  Brennan Boesch has been struggling as well.  It has been magnified with Boesch because he is hitting after a hot Jackson and in front of the two big boys.  If Boesch is slumping it becomes a huge missing link.  Boesch is batting .212 right now and has 13 K’s to just 1 walk.  Max Scherzer has an ERA of 7.98 through three starts, but has shown some improvement since a horrible first start.

Last season, on the way to 95 wins and the central division title, the Tigers were led by MVP Justin Verlander, batting champ Miguel Cabrera, and perfect closer Jose Valverde.  But it was Boesch, Avila, Peralta, and Young whose successful years pushed the Tigers to within two wins of the World Series.  Those four players averaged the following numbers: .288 average, 17 home runs, and 72 RBI’s.  A slow start certainly doesn’t mean those players won’t hit numbers like that again, but if they don’t get rolling soon the Tigers may feel it in the win-loss column.

The high expectations for this Tigers team were based largely on the assumption that our 2nd tier players are good players, and better than most teams 2nd tier players (or just that we have more of them).  So far this season we have seen more bad than good from those players, and until they turn it around, we will continue to wonder how good this team really is.