After a strong first two weeks of the season, the third week was a disaster for the Tigers. It wasn't so bad that they lost three out of four to a powerful Rangers team. Getting swept by the lowly Mariners is another story. Their record now stands at 10-9, but somehow they remain in a tie for first with the White Sox and Indians.
Offensively, the Tigers are 8th in the American League with 4.2 runs scored per game. That's certainly disappointing and there is lots of blame to spread around, but the bulk of it belongs to three positions. The Tigers are last in the league in Weighted On-Base Average at second base (.195) and left field (.249) and 12th in right field (.250).
The culprits at second base are Brandon Inge (released on Thursday), Ryan Raburn and Ramon Santiago. Raburn and Santiago will now split second base duties and are sure to improve offensively.
Delmon Young has received the bulk of playing time in left and has not shown any signs of returning to his 2010 form. After his incident this morning, his current status is in limbo. Don Kelly is playing left field tonight, so don't expect any improvement offensively. Right fielder Brennan Boesch has not performed well at the plate or in the field, but we are bound to see an improvement sooner or later.
The Tigers are hoping to boost their offense in the short-term by inserting recently promoted Brad Eldred into the designated hitter slot on a regular basis. He had an astounding 13 home runs and 23 extra base hits in 20 games for Toledo this year. He won't keep that up obviously, but if he can carry his hot streak a little longer, it may help jump start the Tigers offense.
On the other side of the ball, the Tigers have allowed the 10th fewest runs in the league. The statistics indicate that fielding has been a bigger problem than pitching. They are currently 28th in baseball with a Defensive Efficiency Ratio of .661. In other words, they have converted 66% of balls in play into outs versus a league average of 70%. That shouldn't be a big surprised to those who have watched most of the games and noticed how little ground they cover in Comerica Park and elsewhere.
If you believe in Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP), their pitching has actually been quite good. They are tied for second with a 3.58 FIP overall and are fourth in both starter's FIP (3.63) and relievers FIP (3.52). Justin Verlander and rookie Drew Smyly have been excellent, while Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello have been their usual inconsistent selves. The good news is that Doug Fister threw off a mound without pain this week and should be back some time in early May.