DETROIT, MI - APRIL 21: Craig Gentry #23 of the Texas Rangers steals second base in the seventh inning behind the glove of Brandon Inge #15 of the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park on April 21, 2012 in Detroit, Michigan. Detroit won the game 3-2. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
The Tigers are in first place. They're playing .625 baseball. That's pretty good. To judge from fans and some noted gabbers, you'd think the team was 6-10 instead. Still, it's fair to point out some areas that haven't gone well, just as we should praise what is going well. People just have to remember the big picture when doing so.
The Inge soap opera is getting painful to watch. I find booing your own team tacky. I understand people are not happy with the Tigers' decision to keep Brandon Inge on the team. I understand they are unhappy with the skipper's decision to play him. I understand that they are unhappy with Inge's results.They want to voice their opinion on the matter so that the front office hears it. But honestly, I think the organization is going to do what it thinks is best regardless of what the fans want. I guess booing might make the fans feel better, but it serves no other purpose. It's actually pretty sad to see the career ending like this for a player who spent his entire career in the Tigers' uniform.
Inge playing baseball is painful to watch, too. That all said, Inge has been awful for the Tigers. His defensive gaffes have cost outs and runs. His bat has helped opposing pitchers escape rough spots. He's batting .056 since rejoining the team. The manager started him against the right-handed Neftali Feliz. He predictably went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts. Actually, he's 0-for-7 against right-handed pitching. He's only supposed to face left-handers (not that 1-for-10 is great either.) So I don't know what the team's thought process is any more. All I know is that it's painful to watch him play baseball, and it's hurting his team by having him in games. The hole has been dug. The Tigers have to end this soon -- before things get any worse for the team and with the fans.
The defense isn't turning balls into outs. I often turn to defensive efficiency as a simple stat that's easy for people to understand. Basically, how often does a team in the field turn a ball in play into an out. You expect an average defense to have a defensive efficiency of about .700. So far this season, even below average defenses are turning balls into outs at a better pace than that. The Tigers, not so much. They are 29th in baseball, second to last in the American League, at .677. (The league leader is Toronto at .765, while the 15th team in the MLB is Arizona at .718.) Certainly one can say "small sample size" and all that. But we knew before the season the defense wasn't going to be real great, and you can't deny that it's played into that role so far. Defense isn't going to be a big worry, as long as the Tigers score the runs we expect them to. They can start on that any day now -- and they just might.
Drew Smyly has been phenomenal so far. If you had told us a rookie would start the season for Detroit by allowing three runs in 16 innings, we'd have proclaimed that a fine start to Jacob Turner's season. But instead, those numbers come from 22-year-old left-hander Drew Smyly. He seems to look better every game. Sunday, he allowed one run in six innings while striking out seven Rangers. Basically, he mirrored the start of Justin Verlander in that way. After Texas scored 20 runs during the first two games of the series, that was a much-needed turnaround. Smyly's successes probably aren't going to continue every game. He is a rookie, after all. There will certainly be stumbles. But if there are more games like these in the future, the Tigers have found a fifth starter we don't have to worry about. That would certainly make me smile.