Injuries and inconsistent pitching have slowed Tigers fast start

Miguel Cabrera is off to a great start in 2015, but the offense has cooled due to injury and slumps elsewhere in the lineup.

Miguel Cabrera is off to a great start in 2015, but the offense has cooled due to injury and slumps elsewhere in the lineup.

During the Detroit Tigers’ 11-2 start, everything was clicking, but since then the club has gone plop, going 8-11 over the past three weeks through Monday. At the end of an exciting seven-game home-and-home set against their main division rival, Kansas City—which could be seen as a surrogate for a post-season seven-game playoff series and which ended in a disheartening ten-inning loss on a rainy night in Comerica—the key strengths and weaknesses of the team make for some interesting headlines:

Tigers run wild!
Speed is a word you don’t normally associate with Detroit baseball, at least not since a guy named Cobb left the squad. But under Brad Ausmus, in the last two seasons the Tigers have been transformed from plodding to prancing. In 2013, they stole thirty-five bases. Last year, with the addition of Rajai Davis and Ian Kinsler, their total tripled, to 106. This year, they also have Anthony Gose and Jose Iglesias, enhancing this exciting new dimension.

With a fifth of the season gone, the Tigers are second in the American League in stolen bases—behind only the surprising Houston Astros. With 29 steals in their first 32 games, Detroit is on pace to steal 146 bases. That would be the most since 2001, when a bad Tigers team ran the bases like thieves. And it would be the third-highest total for Detroit since Cobb’s heyday, topped only by the 176 stolen in 1979 (led by Ron LeFlore) and the 161 in 1997 (led by Brian Hunter).

Tigers spin gems!
David Price on Opening Day: five-hit shutout, eight and a third innings. Shane Greene on Mother’s Day: eight innings, four hits, one run, no walks (almost an exact duplicate of his first start of the season against the Twins). Greene’s three-hitter for eight innings in Pittsburgh; Alfredo Simon, two-hitter the next day. Kyle Lobstein, shutting down the White Sox for eight innings. And several other good performances from the starting five.

Tigers lay eggs!
Same pitchers, different days: Price, getting seven outs and allowing eight runs in Yankee Stadium; Greene, four innings and eight runs against Cleveland; Simon, four and a third and six runs in KC; Sanchez, nine outs and ten runs against the White Sox. Jekyll and Hyde taking the mound.

Tigers have a closer!
Joakim Soria hasn’t blown a thing, other than the minds of any Tigers fans who thought it was a tragedy when Joe Nathan got hurt.

The Rest of the pen sucks
(Though this is not big news). Six straight hits off Joba, a special giveaway night. Al Al can’t find the strike zone (hint: it’s not in New Mexico). Brad Ausmus looks under every rock for a dependable bridge to the ninth inning. Hardy, Gorzy, just call Angel in the early morning…Is help on the way? Get on the phone, Big Dave.

Holes in the lineup
J.D. Martinez 0-for-25; oh for that 2014 model (discontinued?). Nick Castellanos and the holy grail of .220. Yoenis, swinging at pitches in the dirt—on pace for two dozen walks this season! The one-legged VMart special (why can’t he bat right-handed against right-handed pitching?).

Tigers play hurt, get hurter!
Knee goes out, Avila keeps playing. Groin blows, Iglesias back in action. Justin Verlander pulls his triceps throwing too soon. VMart with the unique rehab regimen of everyday baseball games. (Who’s in charge here? Do the players make their own lineups? Anyone have a trainer to trade?)

76 games until the Tigers play the Royals again in August. Stay tuned to this developing drama.