May 25, 2012; Minneapolis, MN, USA: Detroit Tigers center fielder Quintin Berry (52) hits an RBI single in the second inning against the Minnesota Twins at Target Field. Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-US PRESSWIRE
The Tigers lost three, then won three, both against AL Central rivals. We saw reasons to cringe then signs that Detroit may be emerging from its funk. One storyline reigned above all ...
Quintin Berry had a week to remember. When the Tigers announced the decision to purchase his contract and give him his first taste of major league action on May 22, fans were split. Some were hopefully for any bit of new blood. Others thought of him as a Don Kelly retread. He started in center field for the ailing Austin Jackson on May 23, and had a double for his first hit. Did I mention it was a bunt double? Berry hit a true double the next day, then had a pair of hits the next. With a hit on Sunday, Berry became the first Tiger since at least 1918 to record hits in each of his first five MLB games. Remarkable. He also recorded a couple of stolen bases and played some slick defense. Fans are unsurprisingly excited.
But it's important to remember he has played just five games. As time evens out trends, he'll get hits fewer times when he puts the ball in play, he'll strike out at inopportune times, he won't hit for power like some other players and he'll get caught stealing at times. This isn't to say Berry can't be a useful player for the Tigers. I certainly thought it was a move worth trying, and I think Berry should continue to get playing time even when Austin Jackson returns. But let's not get crazy and start asking the Tigers to do things they can't later undo, OK? Enjoy the Berry story, just rein yourself in a bit.
The power outage continues. During the offseason, the best way to describe the Tigers was to call them a team of softball players. They're big guys. They hit for power. But they're not going to manufacture a lot. Earl Weaver would be proud. Here's the problem: They're not hitting for power, either. Detroit is ninth in the AL in home runs, tied with Seattle and just one ahead of Oakland. They're 13th in May, just ahead of Kansas City. Against the Twins, they hit a home run just once in 27 innings. That's not going to cut it.
The culprits are many. Prince Fielder was signed for his power potential; it hasn't shown up yet. Miguel Cabrera has hit just two home runs in May. Alex Avila, Brennan Boesch, Ryan Raburn, Jhonny Peralta. You name the batter and they're not hitting as expected. That probably won't continue -- it almost certainly won't. Yet if it does, it could be a long, sad season for the Tigers and their fans.
Pitching has really settled in. I feel like I keep writing this same paragraph, but that's a good thing for the Tigers. Justin Verlander may be even better this year than last. Max Scherzer has put together several solid games where he absolutely dominates batters. Drew Smyly has been a pleasant surprise. If you can find one big knock, it's that the rotation has allowed too many home runs. If the pitchers can cut down on that, they may get even better results.
Octavio Dotel hasn't allowed a run since inexplicably melting down May 7. He hasn't walked anyone, and has allowed just three hits, too. Joaquin Benoit has allowed seven hits, two walks and two runs in the month of May. Jose Valverde had 10 days off after hurting his back, but allowed just two hits and a walk in the three games against the Twins. Meanwhile Brayan Villarreal has been a marked improvement, and Duane Below has been rock solid. Considering the Tigers' lack of defensive prowess, the pitchers stepping up has certainly allowed Detroit to have plenty of opportunities to win baseball games.
I don't think anyone has been happy with Detroit's results lately. Obviously being swept by Cleveland was a key let down for the season. The Tigers had a portion of their schedule they could make hay with, and they failed to do so. But there is reason to believe things may finally be starting to turn around.
Maybe it wasn't as soon as everyone would have liked, but there's plenty of season left to play.