I'm starting with my oft-repeated mantra: A team is never as good as it looks when it is winning, nor as bad as it looks when it is losing. When the Tigers went 8-1 during a nine-game home stand before the All-Star Break, they looked like a team ready to win the division. Now they've lost four games to the last-place Indians and they look like a team to compete for fourth place.
Anyone who has been primarily a baseball fan for a large number of years knows that neither of those are true. This is a 162-game sport, not 82, not 16 and not most definitely 11.
This weekend can be seen as good, or bad. Either way, the Indians exposed just about every weakness the Tigers have. GM Dave Dombrowski can take those notes of his and try to blunt the problems in the coming weeks, or he can look at the list and decide it's just too long and it's just not worth it. I really don't know what he will do. And to be honest I'm not sure what I think he should do right about now.
- The starting pitching was shaky. Three starters walked five batters. Just one made it past the sixth inning. And this was the top of the rotation starting! You can afford a letdown, but multiple? When you're calling on a rookie making his fifth start to be your stopper, you have a problem.
- The defense is not consistent. We saw Don Kelly bobbling a ball in the outfield Saturday. We saw him throwing one away Sunday. We saw Ryan Raburn leap for a ball that bounced off the wall about waist-high. He fell into the bullpen. Jhonny Paralta had an in-the-park home run. We darn near watched the Tigers turn a successful pickoff into a free base. Catchers threw out one of four runners. There were three wild pitches. (You could put this on the pitchers. Consider this point evenly divided).
- Blame it on the depth if you want, blame it on the manager. For whatever reason, Brandon Inge and Austin Jackson both drew the off day on Sunday. That resulted on Raburn in center fielder. He can't play any position without making you close your eyes when it's hit to him. Don Kelly was at third base because no one else on the team has much experience playing there.
- The Tigers scored just eight runs in four games. Zero in 13.1 innings against the Indians bullpen. The Indians have the third-worst ERA in the AL. This is not a good sign.
- The 3-4-5 batters failed on the weekend, so the run-scoring followed. Magglio Ordonez was 3-for-15, Miguel Cabrera was 1-for-14, and Brennan Boesch was 2-for-15. The trio went just 2-for-17 with runners in scoring position. With the middle of the order slumping, the Tigers needed someone else to pick it up. Unfortunately calling on the bottom of the Tigers' order to pick things up is a bad joke. Catchers were an amazing 0-for-12; shortstops were actually a decent 4-for-14.
- Detroit scored a run in the first inning on Friday. It finished the day with two. It scored three runs in the first inning of the afternoon game Saturday. It scored three runs for the game. It scored a run in the second inning in the nightcap. It finished the day with one. It may as well have been shut out Sunday. A spot starter making his MLB debut looked like an ace.
- So let's stop to review. The Tigers offense is dependent on about three players to score runs. The defense is average at best and dependent on its starters to play and remain healthy. The pitching staff as a whole is also average and heavily dependent on no one screwing up. The catchers can neither hit nor do catching duties.
- The losing record on the road got four losses worse. So did the losing record in the division.
- One or two trades are supposed to fix all these problems?
- Trading for bullpen help is supposed to fix these problems?!
Now like I said, the Tigers are not this bad. I'm going to assume Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander are not going to fail like they did this weekend all that often. Andy Oliver will soon be back in the minor leagues where he always should have been. The middle of the batting order probably won't all slump at once. The catchers may get a hit or two a week and will sometimes do things we consider it good for catchers to do.
Brighter days are definitely ahead. But even when they are I still see a team with a lot of problems that need addressing.