Sunday, April 06, 2014
One Week In The Books
The Tigers are off to a strong start but Phil Coke and the bullpen has some fans worried.
(Photo Credit: John T. Greilick, Detroit News)
After one week of play, the Tigers are 4-1 giving them the best record in the American League. They could very easily be 1-4 as there have been three one-run victories including two walk-offs in the first two games. Those three wins can't be taken away though and they count just as much in the standings as they would in September. Some observations on how they got where they are and where they could be going follow.
The Tigers starters have posted a 2.20 RA (using runs rather than earned runs) and have allowed no homers and just 20 hits in 32 2/3 innings. Surprisingly, they have just 18 strikeouts which makes one wonder if they are holding something back. At any rate, it's not a concern. The strikeouts will come.
The bullpen, on the other hand, has been a mess with a 6.08 RA in 13 1/3 innings. Phil Coke and Joba Chamberlain have looked especially awful and may not stay on the roster through May at this rate. The biggest disappointment so far though has been closer Joe Nathan who has not been sharp at all. He was the only supposedly reliable reliever entering the season, so seeing him struggle early is a bit concerning, although not too alarming yet. On the bright side, journeyman Evan Reed is looking as if he could be an important piece of the bullpen puzzle.
Don't blame the bullpen struggles on the Bruce Rondon injury. That was a tough loss but he was far from a guarantee to lock down the setup role - not with less than 30 MLB innings and a season-ending injury (I'm talking about the 2013 season here) under his belt. The bullpen was very questionable even before than injury. During the off-season, they lost Joaquin Benoit, Drew Smyly and Jose Veras from an already shaky pen and added just Nathan. That's the one area I really wish they had addressed further during the winter.
The shortstop situation is about as unsettled as the bullpen. Alex Gonzalez is showing that he has something left with the bat, but his defense has been awful so far. Not only does he have limited range, but he also appears to be unsteady with poor judgement. I don't think he'll last more than a few weeks. Andrew Romine will last longer, but he's not a full-time player.
Other than the starting staff, the other thing that has carried the team so far is the offense. They are fourth in the league with 4.8 runs scored per game. Moreover, they lead the AL with an .825 OPS. Rookie third baseman Nick Castellanos and center Austin Jackson have looked particularly promising thus far and could exceed expectations.
So, it's been a mixed bag so far, but they have four wins in the bank already and that's important.