Why the Tigers mediocre start is no reason to panic

"What me worry?" says new right fielder Torii Hunter.

“What me worry?” says new right fielder Torii Hunter.

At the one-eighth mark of the season, the Tigers – the Las Vegas odds-on favorites to win the whole enchilada – are 10-10. Break even, .500, even Steven.

For many Tiger fans that’s unacceptable. But I want to tell you that it’s going to be alright, Tiger faithful. No reason to panic.

I thought about titling this article “Why the Tigers mediocre start is no reason to panic even though it might appear that the front office has peed their pants.” But that’s a very long title and we have rules around here about how long our titles can be.

First let me address the return of a certain reliever we’ve all had a love/hate relationship with over the last three years.

The triumphant arrival of Papa Grande from Lakeland (his own personal Elba) has turned the Motor City on its’ head. Half of the city is enraged that The Big Potato is back, while the other half seems to have shrugged and said, “Might as well try it, since the bullpen has been a failure.” I have to say I’m a little surprised that their are so many fans who are willing to welcome Jose Valverde back to the team. have they forgotten The Nervous Breakdown of 2012? When we last saw Papa pitch he got baked by the Yankees in New York. But as my friend and Tiger fanatic Christal Frost pointed out to me last month, the temptation to bring back Valverde is the Tigers version of sliding back to an ex-boyfriend or girlfriend. A few flirty texts, a meeting for coffee, and all of a sudden – BAM – The Round Reliever is back in the closer role and you’re saying stuff like, “No, I love YOU more…”

But most of us know what usually happens when we take back our ex – it’s soon followed by guilt, regret, and an even worse breakup than the first time. The Tigs probably should have deleted Papa Grande’s number from their cell phone, unfriended him on Facebook, and never looked back. But, here he is, back in a Tiger uniform. It’ remains to be seen whether the Tigers will fall back in love with the flaky Valverde, or if Dave Dombrowski will have to get a restraining order.

Now, back to the 10-10 start. Take a breath, Tiger Nation. The Tigers are too talented to stick around the .500 mark for too long (like last season, for example). As Michael Betzold pointed out earlier this week, Detroit has the best pitcher and best hitter in baseball. They will win games.

The rotation has been very good, outside of a few cruddy starts by Rick Porcello and a bumpy start or two from Max Scherzer. Justin Verlander is pitching better earlier than he ever has in his career. He’s not getting wins, but remember – wins are a team dependent stat. Verlander might win “only” 15-17 games this season but still lead the league in everything else and throw two more no-hitters.

The bullpen is taking some hits (and giving them up), but actually they haven’t been terrible. Early in a season it only takes 1-2 really bad outings by a reliever to inflate the stat line. Joaquin “Slow Poke” Benoit, Drew Smyly, Al Al, and Darin Downs have been effective. The bullpen will be a strength, whether Valverde remains the closer all season or not. It will benefit young Bruce Rondon to have Big Potato with him in Detroit to show him the ropes. (Like how to dance a two-step and look like a fool after saving a game where your team is up by three runs and you walk four batters to make it nerve-wracking… but I digress.)

It’s a cliche, but one of the rare cliches that’s absolutely true – the baseball season is long and talent tends to creep to the top. Detroit has a very good team. There are some concerns, for sure:

  • Is Andy Dirks ever going to hit again, and if he doesn’t can we ask Nick Castellanos to come out and play?
  • Will a foul tip finally kill Alex Avila? (This guy gets dinged up more than Brittney Spears’ Mercedes)
  • Will Smyly finally supplant Slick Rick in the #5 spot in Jim Leyland’s rotation?
  • Will a piece of chicken come flying out of Leyland’s mouth during one of his post-game interviews? (Can you save the coleslaw until AFTER the reporters leave your office?)
  • Is there something wrong with Victor Martinez or is he going to warm up when the weather does? (I say he will)

We’re 20 games in and the Tigers are just a couple of games off the pace in a division where they are clearly the thoroughbred in a race against mules and ponies (I’m looking at you, KC). Just having Torii Hunter and VMart in the lineup makes things seem like they’re going to be fine. Those two guys ooze confidence and success.

The Tigers are far from being buried in the standings and they have no major concerns (yet). A few of their losses have come on some fluky plays and a few others in extra-innings. Getting upset over a handful of games here and there at this point in the season only creates undue anxiety. Besides, creating undue anxiety is Papa Grande’s job.

10 replies on “Why the Tigers mediocre start is no reason to panic

  • Delissca Belleville

    On Valverde, I feel we have nothing to lose at this point. No one in that bullpen can assure us of a win. He’s only blown 8 saves out of 119 attempts as a Tiger. I’d say that’s pretty darn good. Show me any other “pen” member that can even come close to that. My concern is with Leyland using a washed up Don Kelly and Santiago way too much! We already have enough struggling going on with Avila, Vmart, and Dirks. He must stop letting those losers play, unless they are absolutely needed! I’ve got my fingers crossed for a good season, but so far, it’s been very disappointing.

    Reply
  • Beverly Holmes

    Nice article … I have a question about Jim Leyland … I caught a short clip of his after-game comments on the news last night … I could not understand a WORD he was saying ! Mumble-mumble-mumble ! Is he ill ? Is he eating peanut butter during interviews ? Just wondering, cause it was VERY disturbing. If he had been in front of me in person, I would have asked the “four questions to find out if someone is having a stroke !”

    Reply
  • Kevin

    I’m surprised that the Detroit organization has panicked and brought back Valverde. I wish they would get a manager and a coaching staff with more than one year contracts, and I’m not talking about Leyland. Good coaches will not sign on for one year. Don’t you get it Dombrowski?

    Reply
  • Duane Lindstrom

    Could it be that Leyland and Dumbrowski know what they are doing by bringing Valverde in to mentor Rondon? Could it be that the Tigers don’t need to turn it on until late August or early september becuse they play in a division no one wants to win? Or maybe it’s just been too damned cold! We got a lot of great Latin players who could be adversely effected by having to play in 28 degree weather(who wouldn’t!). Worry in September, for now, enjoy the show, ’cause it’s getting to be just that!

    Reply
  • Gary Steinke

    10-10 after 20 games seems to be the norm for the Tigers. In 2011 & 2012, The Tigers were 10-10 after 20 games and we all know were they ended up after 162 games. FIRST PLACE in the Central. Sit back, relax and enjoy the rest of the season. The last to seasons were fun to watch and this one will be fun too. (Has any Tiger fans NOT enjoyed the last 2 games against the Braves? the so called “best team in baseball” this year. I know I have)

    Reply
  • Gary Steinke

    Sorry for the mistakes, should read, ‘The last two seasons were fun to watch’. Even though I went to school in the Detroit Public School system I do know how to spell (2) two.

    Reply
  • Dan Holmes

    Bev,

    Leyland eats his dinner (or late night snack?) after every game. It’s annoying and disgusting to hear him talking with his mouth filled with whatever it is (cole slaw and french fries?)

    Dan

    Reply
  • Dan Holmes

    Duane,

    Given the teams success the last two seasons, maybe DD and JL deserve to be given the benefit of the doubt?

    Dan

    Reply
  • Dan Holmes

    Kevin,

    It may be that the Valverde move is less of a panic and more of a common sense thing. With Dotel hurt and Villareal struggling, they needed to make a move, and Valverde was one of the very few options.

    He does appear to be throwing the ball well FOR NOW.

    Dan

    Reply

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