The Detroit Tigers are a group of frustrated felines. Limping along at six games under .500 at this writing, the Motor City Kitties are dealing with injuries (five players on the disabled list, several others with day-to-day ailments), bad luck, and poor play. "We are beat up, there’s no doubt about that," manager Ron Gardenhire said. But even the healthy guys are struggling, and there's been a failure to execute with runners on—Detroit has left an average of 7.3 runners on base per game this year and is 29th out of the 30 MLB teams in leaving runners in scoring position. They've already been shut out five times. Even so, they're right in the middle of the pack when it comes to RBIs and runs scored, so they are getting on in the first place. Does this equate to an overanxious swing-for-the-fences desperation mentality the opposition is exploiting to get out of jams? They don't strike out that much, so that doesn't really track. But whatever the underlying cause, the Tigers are troubled.
The pitching staff, led by veteran journeyman Francisco Liriano, is a far cry from the glory days of Verlander and Scherzer. It's not terrible, but no one in it will strike fear in the hearts of batters. Liriano is the only starter with an ERA under 3.00, and the bullpen is comprised entirely of names you don't know. It's good enough for a .500 team, basically, if only the offense would cooperate.
With the squad's best hitters on the DL or otherwise ailing, that seems like a big ask. How frustrating.
Players to Watch
Francisco Liriano: The closest thing the Tigers have to an ace, 11-year veteran Liriano is having his best season in half a decade. Of course, it's only May, there's plenty of time for a donwturn, but it's worth noting that he historically does best in the summer months—prior to this season, his career ERA in April was nearly 5.00 with a record of 10-21.
Nicholas Castellanos: Former third-baseman now right-fielder Castellanos had a breakout year in 2017, belting 26 homers and topping 100 RBI for the first time (he also led the league in triples, which you don't often see from a 100-RBI guy). He's following up well this year, on pace to better last season's overall numbers and take his place as the Tigers' best hitter not named Miguel Cabrera.
Victor Martínez: This 5-time All-Star is nearing the end of the line. The 39-year-old still packs a little bit of punch, but last year was the least productive of his career and one wonders if it just goes down from there (though he did bounce back from a poor 2015 with a solid '16 campaign). Solely a DH these days, the ex-catcher and first-baseman is in the final year of his contract and may not get another if his numbers sink yet again this season.
Ron Gardenhire: The longtime skipper of the Twins is now running the show in Detroit. Entrusted with a rebuilding team that's fallen on hard times, "Gardy" has taken a kindly-mentor approach to his younger players, rather than a disciplinary bearing, in hopes of bringing them to maturity with confidence. Earlier in the year, when infielder Niko Goodrum flubbed a play with the pitcher covering first base, Gardenhire didn't have any harsh words; instead he took Goodrum onto the field later on to practice the play. It's an attitude that's impressed the veteran players. "I really like him," said DH Victor Martinez. "I'm going to go a step farther, he's one of my favorites."
Gardenhire, 60, underwent successful treatment for prostate cancer last season and planned on retiring until the Tigers called with an offer. With Detroit, he knew he was being asked to be more teacher than tactician, and readily agreed to the three-year contract. The Tigers may not win much in those three years, but if any of these young Tigers become stars later on, he'll have done his job well.
Leonys Martín: Just off the DL, center fielder Martín has been everything in Detroit that Mariner fans wanted and didn't get from him when he played with Seattle. Heading the lineup at leadoff, Martín was batting .294/.355/.508 when he strained his hamstring on May 8th. An elite defender, Martín only managed a .233 average in his not-quite-two-seasons with the M's, though he did steal 30 bases. Martín was dealt to the Cubs in August 2017 and signed with Detroit as a free agent this past offseason.
|Detroit Tigers||(1901 - present)|
|World Champions:||1935, 1945, 1968, 1984|
|League Champions:||1907, 1908, 1909, 1934, 1940, 2006, 2012|
|Division Titles:||1972, 1987, 2011, 2013, 2014|