Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Where the Tigers Stand After Two Weeks

After a sweep of the Royals at Kansas City, the Tigers are sitting in first place in the AL Central with a 9-3 record.  That is their best 12-game start since the 1984 championship season  (when they started 11-1).  The White Sox are 2 games back and the Indians 2 1/2 back as I write.

After a hot start in week one, the Tigers offense slowed down in week two including a 0 for 22 slump for slugging third baseman Miguel Cabrera.  He has since snapped out of it, but their pitching has carried them more than their hitting in recent games. 

For the season, the Tigers are fifth in the American League with 4.8 runs per game.  Despite going zero for eight in his last two games, center fielder Austin Jackson has been the team's leading hitter batting .333 with six extra base hits, eight walks and 11 runs scored in 12 games.  Other hot Tigers include Prince Fielder (.945 OPS) and Alex Avila (.879).

On the downside, Ryan Raburn is off to another horrendous start batting .081.  Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately for him) the other second basemen - Brandon Inge and Ramon Santiago - are not doing much better in limited action.  Right fielder Brennan Boesch has also been a disappointment with a .540 OPS.

Defensively, the Tigers are second in the league to the Rangers with just 3.3 runs allowed per game.  They are doing it without right hander Doug Fister who is still on the disabled list with a side injury.  Rookies Drew Smyly and Adam Wilk have filled in nicely so far and one or both could still play an important role upon Fister's return. 

Justin Verlander leads the league in innings pitched (25 1/3) and is tied for the league lead in pitching runs (6) and strikeouts (23).   Rick Porcello has looked sharp in his first two starts and Max Scherzer has recovered well after his shelling in game one.

The Tigers fielders lack range but have been fairly steady so far with just three errors and not as many bonehead plays as you might expect from a team clearly built on hitting more than fielding. It's too early for advanced fielding metrics, but their Defensive Efficiency Ratio of .695 is 18th in the majors.

Individually, Cabrera has looked better than expected at third base and as long as he stays fit, he should not be a big problem over there.  Inge has also proven to be adept defensively at his new second base position.  On the other hand, Boesch, Raburn and Delmon Young have all had their problems in the field.

Next up for the Tigers is a showdown with the west division leading Texas Rangers at Comerica Park. The Rangers have lost just two games so far, so it should be a very entertaining match-up.    

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