The Detroit Tigers started off the 2015 season with an 11-2 record. Since that start, they are 17-22. There’s plenty of reason not to panic though. Many fans in Detroit believe that the run is over, but I’m going to show you why the Tigers should be back in the playoffs in 2015.
Lets’ first start off with the fact the Tigers are still in a playoff spot. Some teams started off the season cold and are hot, and some do the opposite. Baseball is a 162-game season, teams go through stretches where they struggle. The Kansas City Royals are only 19-15 since their 10-3 start. Also, the Twins are probably not for real, so we are looking at a two team race in the AL Central. Some teams have had much worse stretches than the current Tiger team is having and made it to the playoffs.
The 2012 A’s started 27-35 and won the AL West over the defending AL champion Texas Rangers. The 2005 Astros made the World Series after a 18-32 start. The Tigers have just as much a talent as those teams too. The Tigers were 28-20 before coming to Anaheim too, and they’ve always played poorly there. That seems like a psychological factor to me, but for whatever reason they play very poorly in Anaheim.
Second, the Tigers’ bullpen has finally started to correct itself. The Tigers’ bullpen is seventh in the MLB in ERA and isn’t walking many. Joakim Soria is an elite late inning option and Alex Wilson has shown he can be a valuable reliever in any situation. The only complaint is Joba Chamberlain, whose ERA doesn’t match his secondary stats. Giving Nesbitt the eighth inning could help solidify the pen even more. The bullpen and starting rotation are bound to regress some, as their FIP and K/9 indicate a regression is coming. I would guess that Dombrowski gets an arm at the deadline though. Alfredo Simon is a good first half pitcher as a starter, so even sliding him into the bullpen in the second half could help. Justin Verlander is also coming back, which will be like an acquisition itself.
The offense has been the major concern thus far. It’s been very inconsistent. It either goes big or whimpers. The Tigers have scored four runs or less in 32 of their 51 games, and are only 12-20 when they score four or less. Many games have only resulted in two or three runs. The Tigers’ offense seemed the best that it had been in years coming into 2015, but so far it’s been all or nothing.
The big thing has been injuries to Victor Martinez and Alex Avila, and recently the slump of Avila. J.D. Martinez got lost for a while earlier this year, but he has found his way back up and he should do what most have expected from him. Victor Martinez had a similar comeback trail in 2013 after his ACL injury, minus his DL stint. He had a great second half that season and with some rest, he is a great hitter with great hitting tools, and he’s a guy who could hit well into his 40s when he starts to lose his coordination and quickness. I wouldn’t be surprised if Verlander and Martinez come back and make an impact in June. Ian Kinsler needs to get out of his recent slump, after hitting his first homer yesterday, it’s possible. James McCann has been good as a rookie, and he seems to have the hitting tools to stick in the MLB, but pitchers will start to figure him out and getting Avila back will be huge offensively and defensively for the Tigers, as they can platoon, McCann against lefties, Avila against righties.
Kinsler had a power outage, not hitting a homer until his 196th AB last night. He was in the midst of a 3-41 skid before his homer. The Tigers need him, especially if he’s hitting above Miggy, who’s returned to his normal form in 2015. When the Tigers win Ian hits .359/.394/.487 and when they lose he hits .139/.240/.190. His slump could have a lot to do with the Tigers recent struggles as he’s in a prime position of the batting order, even bigger hitting above Miggy and he was struggling. During his skid the Tigers only won four games. They need Ian to get back to normal, and they should because going 3-41 and 196 at-bat homerless streaks are the furthest from the norm for Ian.
The last concerning hitter is Nick Castellanos, a guy who did go out and improve his awful third base defense after 2014. Castellanos has regressed as a hitter. I’m normally against a demotion, and have been for Castellanos, but in May he’s only gotten worse. The issue with a quick demotion to fix a few mechanics and more or less his approach to hitting, as he’s been either too selective or can’t recognize the pitch right away, or he swings at the first pitch in bad situations, is that the Tigers don’t have anyone to play third for the two to three weeks he’d be in Toledo.
Hernan Perez has been worse and Andrew Romine has been hot, but is fit for the utility role. There’s no third baseman in the minors that deserve a promotion either. Castellanos needs to become Wally Joyner’s project, he needs to work on getting Castellanos line drive rate back up and on fixing his approach. His K and BB rates are around the same, which isn’t bad, but they also need to show some sign of improvement. The Tigers can deal with Castellanos spotty hitting if they get Kinsler back soon and Victor back later this month. Better days are ahead for the offense, all the numbers are near the top, the results just haven’t shown up yet.
There are issues with the Tigers, there’s no denying it, but they can make the postseason, and if we’ve learned anything about the Wild Card era of the playoffs, it’s that the team that gets hot at the right time usually wins. The Tigers definitely have the talent to be that team this season.