DETROIT -- The Detroit Tigers are in the midst of a deep slump, but none of that is going to be fixed by firing Brad Ausmus. Say what you will about the manager, but it wouldn't matter if he cloned Jordan Zimmermann right now. The offense isn't scoring, the bullpen has had a three-day stretch of poor performance, and the starting pitching hasn't kept runs off the board.
The team has scored 16 runs in their last six games. During the Tigers' current losing streak, they've allowed 43 runs and the bullpen is responsible for 17 of them. Thirteen came during the Rangers-Tigers series and eight occurred on Sunday. The offense is 8-for-38 with runners in scoring position and they've left 42 men on-base. In six games. Right now, they couldn't buy a clutch hit if it was a wiffle ball the size of a beach ball.
"(Ausmus has) been good," Victor Martinez said after Sunday's loss. "He's not the one who went out there and played. It was our fault. It's easy to blame the manager for this and that. We're the ones who have been horseshit. We're the one who goes out there and play. I don't think it has anything to do with the manager, or somebody else. We've got to go out there, stay up and play better baseball."
When the pitching has performed, the offense hasn't come through or the bullpen has collapsed. For the two games that the offense put up four and five runs in two of the six games, their starters put the team in an early hole. And when the bullpen has been sharp, both the offense and starting pitching was the opposite. The Tigers have lost their last six games by an average of 5.5 runs per game.
These are the facets of players and pitchers alike struggling to string together any two combinations of quality outings or performances. Relievers who have been sharp all year are going through a rough patch and the bug has bit just about everyone. It's difficult to go to a reliever for, well, relief, when the result is unlikely to change.
The lopsided scores are the responsibilities of the pitching staff and the offense has to drive in runs. Justin Wilson, normally a steady arm in the bullpen, has allowed five runs in his last two-plus innings after not giving up a run and only eight hits across 12 games. Mark Lowe has given up six runs in the last two games. He'd previously given up three in the 10 games prior.
The middle of the order has done little to spark the offense. Combined, Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez, and Justin Upton have a total of 17 hits in six games and Cabrera accounts for nine of those. Only one of his hits went for an extra-base hit and he has no home runs during that span. Take away his nine hits and you get eight total hits. J.D. Martinez hasn't fared any better: he has one hit in the last six games and is in the midst of an 0-for-17 slump with just one walk -- earned on Sunday.
It's not for lack of trying that the Tigers can't get a win. They know they suck right now. It's difficult to ignore. It's only the beginning of May and there is still a lot of baseball to play. If anything, the blame should be placed square on their shoulders, but lest it be forgotten, the players are the ones most aware of their own struggles.
"You think the fans are going to feel as bad we feel? With all due respect, I don't think so," Victor Martinez said. "We want to go out there and play good baseball. We want to go out there and get an RBI, get a hit. A lot of times, that can work against you. And I understand that.
"People spend a lot of money to come watch a baseball game, I understand that and I get it. But if somebody really thinks that we want to go out there and just go through the motions, you're thinking wrong."
The Tigers want a clutch hit so badly, Ausmus admits they've been pressing, trying too hard. It's why he cancelled batting practice on Saturday. Trying to get a hit has been all they've been focused on, so he wanted to them to think about it a little less.
In some ways it worked because that day the team drove in five runs on 11 hits. There's something to be said for not thinking so hard, but that's difficult to do when it feels like the weight of the world's on one's shoulders.
So, until Ausmus picks up a bat or places himself on the mound for every inning, the current pickle the Tigers find themselves in is not within his realm of control. These are the facts, nothing else. The Tigers have lost 10 of their last 16 games and they're three games under .500 but it's because of the poor pitching and non-existent hitting, and not the pitching changes or batting lineup that Ausmus has doled out.