Tough week leaves Tigers licking their wounds

Joaquin Benoit has struggled with his control this season and he blew a save against the Yankees last week.

What a week to be a Tigers fan! There was a little bit of everything: drama, horror, comedy. Well, maybe not any comedy, but it seems like laughter would have helped.

The Tigers went from 10-6 to 11-11, while their fans went from slightly worried after losing three of four to the Rangers, to on suicide watch after losing five of six, including an embarrassing sweep at the hands of the Mariners, in Detroit no less.

Add the end of The Brandon Inge Era and the Where’s Delmon? NYC drinking game, and it’s been a rough week for Tiger followers. Nevertheless, the team is only a game out of first place and still clearly the most talented team in the division. We’re just 22 games in to the season, so there’s a ton of time to “right the ship” as it were.

Week #4: 1-5 (0-3 vs. Mariners, 1-2 @ Yankees)
For about two years now, the M’s have played the Tigers real tough, especially in Motown. They kept it up by sweeping the dazed Tigers in the middle of the week. There’s no other way to say it other than the Tigers stunk in that series. The starters (Max Scherzer, Adam Wilk, and Rick Porcello) were no real mystery to the M’s bats, and they all got beat around to varying degrees. Scherzer’s struggles are the most worrisome. He continues to have troubles with his delivery and location. He was smacked around pretty good by the Yankees on Sunday too. Wilk won’t be starting anymore, at least for the time being, (more on that Below, er I mean below), while Porcello looked bad early and then settled in. It sure would be nice if someone could get Scherzer to tighten up his wild delivery. Porcello’s problem seems to be concentration. As former Tiger Denny McLain wrote here a few days ago, concentration is key for a starting pitcher. The offense sputtered against the M’s too, and really, the offsense is the issue early this season, along with the bullpen.

As much heat as the starting rotation is taking from critics, the Tigers starter ERA is just below league average in the AL, and the staff has produced more quality starts than any team in their division except the White Sox (13 to 11). They have more quality starts than the Rays and Orioles, also. Yes, the Tigers should be getting more from Mad Max and Porcello has been inconsistent, but the starting pitching is not the glaring problem.

The problem is an offense that averaged 3 runs per page over a 13-game stretch until scoring 6 and then 7 against the Yankees thiis past weekend. The Detroit offense is good enough to score 875 runs this year, or 5.4 per game. Instead, they’re averaging 4.4, a full run less than that. Since the staff is giving up about 4.4 runs, it makes sense the Tigers are at .500 at this point.

The culprits so far on the offensive side are the second base spot (OBP under .220!), Brennan Boesch, Jhonny Peralta, and the DH slot. That’s four spots in the lineup that when you add up their OBP it’s under .290 and the SLG is only over .400 because of Andy Dirks. How many rallies have been aborted because Peralta, Ryan Raburn, Boesch, Brandon Inge, or Ramon Santiago bounced out or fanned? A lot.

The other reason the Tigers are struggling is their bullpen. Already, the team has three blown saves, and their two main guys: the setup man and the closer have been allowing way too many baserunners. Between them, Papa Grande and Joaquin Benoit have allowed 23 hits and 16 walks in 19 innings. That’s 42 baserunners. Amazingly, it hasn’t hurt the Tigers as much as it could have. Valverde wriggled out of a self-induced drama against the Yanks on Saturday, and Benoit has been lucky enough to get himself out of several jams. Phil Coke and Octavio Dotel have been wonderful out of the pen, but too often they are used for only one inning or situation. If the Tigers are going to repeat as division champs, the two big guys in the pen are going to have to pitch better or be replaced.

The Shuffling Rotation
Since Doug Fister was injured in the second game of the season, the Detroit rotation has not been what we expected so far in 2012. Adam Wilk was inserted in Fister’s spot, and he delivered one solid start, but has struggled to go deep into games, putting stress on the bullpen. Meanwhile, as I mentioned above, Mad Max (or should I say Devil Eyes?) has been terrible most of the time. Only JV and rookie sensation (we can call him that now) Drew Smyly have been dependable.

Manager Jim Leyland demoted Wilk after his last start and announced that Duane Below, another rookie lefty, would take over that slot in the rotation, at least until Mister Fister gets back (which might be on the Tigers next road trip out west next week). Below has earned it – he’s pitched 12 innings and allowed just seven hits, all of them singles, and he hasn’t walked a batter yet. (Take note, Benoit!) If Below keeps up his mastery or even comes close to pitching as well as a starter as he has from the pen, Leyland will have two rookie southpaws with promising futures at his disposal.

It’s quite possible that traffic to this blog will plummet by 30% now that Brandon Inge has been released by the Tigers. (We ran an ode to Inge last week, and I also explained how the Tigers bungled the entire Inge situation) But I have a feeling that we haven’t heard the last of the love him/hate him fascination with Inge by Detroit rooters. Plus, we now have the DY case to talk about …

A few words about Delmon Young and athletes as people
It had been less than 24 hours since the Tigers had cut loose Inge when we heard that our left fielder had been arrested in New York early Friday morning for apparently assaulting a person outside the Tigers hotel in New York. All sorts of rumors started to fly around, but here’s what we know now:

  • After the team arrived in NY, Young went out for drinks and when he returned sometime around 2 AM, he got into an altercation with some people on the street in front of the Tigers hotel.
  • Young allegedly pushed or assaulted an individual in some manner, the person suffered minor injuries and was not hospitalized.
  • DY was arrested after first being taken to a NYC hospital because he was inebriated.
  • He was booked and charged with “aggravated harassment” – a misdemeanor.
  • Someone in the NY Police Dept. stated that there was an investigation concerning an anti-Semitic comment or comments allegedly uttered by Young during the incident. The NYPD did not say that Young was being charged with a hate crime, but many news outlets are making the connection. If it is found that Young made such comments, he COULD possibly be charged with a hate crime, which is much more serious, both criminally, and in regards to his career.
  • Young posted bail and issued a brief statement on Friday. He did not play, and on Saturday the team put him on the inactive list, where he can stay for a long time and not count toward the 40-man or 25-man roster while this is all settled.

That’s what we know right now. Yet, there are already people calling for the Tigers to release Young, to suspend him, to put his head on a stick and wave it around Comerica Park. There are “Jewish leaders” in Detroit calling for him to be sanctioned, urging him to apologize and “do the right thing, etc. These demands are made before it’s apparent at all if Young is going to be charged with a hate crime or if he did anything at all that was anti-Semitic.

Why the rush to judgment? I’ll tell you why – publicity. In a constantly changing news cycle, the media and media critics realize you have to jump on an issue fast in order to get attention. Waiting for the facts doesn’t fit into that strategy. Too bad, and shameful. If Delmon did something that constitutes a hate crime, is charged and is convicted, I’ll be one of the many who will condemn him. The level of condemnation will depend on many factors, and it will be my opinion, but at least it will be arrived at based on the available evidence, not rumor and assumption.

DY is a person, a citizen, and a professional athlete. He’s not perfect, he’s not a saint. He made a mistake by being on the streets of NYC and in a situation where he ended up involved in some sort of altercation at 2 AM. But let’s not be holier than though here, how many people out there have been out for a drink and had too many? I’ve read some people condemn DY for going out for a drink at all, as if pro athletes shouldn’t be allowed to have a social life. Let’s take a deep breath and wait for more details before we slam the man. And -dare I say it – even if Young is guilty of being drunk and getting into an altercation on the street, does that mean he doesn’t deserve to be a member of society anymore? That he loses his job, and should slink away somewhere to never be heard from again? I suggest not. In regards to the possibility of him using hate speech or targeting someone based on their religious beliefs, I reserve judgment until he’s actually charged with that AND convicted. I know that seems quaint and old-fashioned in the Era of Twitter, but I prefer to give people the benefit of being innocent until proven guilty. I’m crazy that way.

Tigers this week:  3 games vs. Royals in Detroit; 3 games vs. White Sox in Detroit

One reply on “Tough week leaves Tigers licking their wounds

  • Peter Comstock Riley

    I say just cheer for the visitors then it doesn’t matter what the Tigers due or don’t due. I’m afraid that until the Tigers address where they came from they won’t get where they want to go 275 games under .500 with ILITCH as the Owner suggests Im right!!

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