Here's my mid-season Detroit Tigers Report Card.

They’re a streaky bunch.  Can the Tigers win it all this year?  You bet…..but I think it’s way more of a crap shoot than it should have been.   This team is a lot like its centerfielder, Austin Jackson:  Streaky and unpredictable.   Sometimes brilliant….and sometimes not so much.   The Tigers started out 27-12.  Then the went 9-20 and then 17-6.    Right now, they have the third best record in the league and in all of baseball.  The starting pitching is lights out……well, except for a month where they were not.   The bullpen has been surprisingly good….except for a lot of the season when they were exceptionally bad.  Except for Joba Chamberlain, who has been their best reliever by far.   The hitters are inconsistent too, but there are so many great hitters on the Tigers team that there’s almost always somebody who picks up the slack if the others.  The fielding is vastly improved…..kind of….some of the time.  They’ve made some plays…but overall, the defense is  not that great.  Still….it’s a fun time to be a Tiger fan.  These guys could all get in the groove at the same time and roll over everybody.   They’ve got the talent.

 

Photo by Ed Zurga, Getty Images

Injuries Have Been Tough  Can the streaky Tigers win it all?  We sure had high expectations for this team.   Let’s be fair though.  We haven’t had injuries like this in a long time.  Jose Iglacias, their new shortstop wizard with good speed and a decent bat…….gone for the season with shin problems.  Some say there’s a chance he may never well enough to play again.  Set up man Bruce Rondon….out for the season.  Surgery.  Another tough righty, Luke Putkonnen….the same.    Left fielder Andy Dirks.  Back surgery.  Still out. But none of those injuries have killed the Tigers.

Backup outfielder Rajaii Davis is hitting .296 and has stolen 23 bases.  J.D. Martinez was cast away by the worst team in baseball: The Houston Astros.   He made some off season changes, and he’s hitting .346 with 13 home runs.  No wonder the Tigers are in no hurry to activate Dirks.

Ok…it took a while to plug the hole at short.  Alex Gonzales had a walk-off hit to win the first game of the season, but it became apparent soon that the veteran wasn’t close to the player he once was.  Enter the knuckleballing Danny Worth, and Andrew Romine.  They just didn’t do it. Finally, the Tigers called up Eugenio Suarez and he’s done the job.  He’s hitting .265 with some power. Where would the Tigers be without Joba Chamberlain.  The Tigers took a chance on him as an insurance policy, and it was a very good investment.   He’s been in 41 games and has an earned run average of 2.63.   If these four guys can keep it up, with the stars in the lineup, the Tigers are looking pretty good.

Tigers Weak Spots The Tigers have stars:  Cabrera,Martinez, Kinsler, Hunter, Verlander, Sanchez, and Scherzer. They have some new faces that are really doing well:  Castellanos, Suarez, Davis, J.D. Martinez and Ian Krol.    And Rick Porcello is having his best season ever.

But the Tigers have some key players that need to step up.   Closer Joe Nathan has been the biggest disappointment.  After starting well, he stumbled and told the press that he had a dead arm.   He pitched better.  Then he pitched terrible.   Maybe he’s pulling out of it, but for heaven’s sake, he’s the closer.   He’s supposed to be the most inconsistent guy on the team.    Alex Avila is hitting .230.   Austin Jackson has shown signs of coming out of his slump, and has raised his average to .256.   Phil Coke too.  Better lately, but what’s up with that guy?  Look up the word “Inconsistent” and you’ll see Phil’s picture.   Drew Smyly has struggled a bit too, and would probably be better if they could get him out on the mound on a more regular basis.  That’s hard to do for a 5th starter, especially with rainouts.   Obviously, Nathan has to do the job.   But I think Jackson is the key.  If he gets it going, they’ll score so many runs they’ll never even need a closer.

Photo by Thearon W. Henderson, Getty Images.