Home Team Assessment Part 1

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

As we reach the third week of the season, we have arrived at the perfect time to begin jumping to conclusions. Being a Tigers fan, I can now say that after twelve games, they will win the Division. I’m exaggerating of course. Going into the season I have been cautiously optimistic. When the off-season started and there were rumors of us getting younger, I was concerned. When they signed Justin Verlander and Miguel Cabrera to their contracts, I knew we were paying for some past performances. Typically, these contracts aren’t going to be worth the money in the end, but I am ok with that. I want to see Miggy get his 500th and hopefully 600th home-run in a Tigers uniform. I want to see JV get to 200, 225 and hopefully 250 wins as a Tiger as well. I may be in the minority, but as someone who enjoys celebrating major career milestones, I believe those accomplishments are worth the money down the road (It’s not my money!). The Yankees attempted to capitalize on the very same situation with A-Rod before that blew up.

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(Photo: Michael Caples Michigan Hockey Now)
It was interesting to watch the Tigers come to Tigerfest in February, and when they started interacting with the media, you could tell some of the players experienced a reality check. They showed a genuine appreciation that they have another shot at a playoff run. Then we had the unfortunate passing of Mr. Illitch. He was such an iconic figure in the city of Detroit. His contributions went far beyond sports. He was a true gentleman and he will be greatly missed. Some of the players were visibly distraught at the loss. They all know how badly he wanted a World Series title as our owner. He purchased the team in 1992, and was a former minor league baseball player so baseball was a strong passion of his. Going into Spring Training, I was curious to see how those two things would affect this team. They had a pretty rough spring if you look at their record (14-21), but I wouldn’t put too much stock into that. There were some promising things coming out of training camp. Jacoby Jones looked strong, Matt Boyd won the fifth starter spot, and Joe Jimenez showed why he is considered the closer of the future.

When I am watching the Tigers throughout the season there are two things I use to assess their performance: Win the games you are supposed to win and win series at home. Play .500 baseball on the road and win 2 of 3 at home and you will be in the hunt for the playoffs. Using these metrics, I believe we are right where we should be. We split a road series in Chicago, we took 3 of 4 from the Red Sox at home, and took 2 of 3 from the Twins at home. That led us to the weekend series against the Indians in Cleveland. I said going into the weekend that 1 of 3 was crucial to us re-establishing confidence in being able to beat Cleveland. Last year was tough. Cleveland was due for some comeuppance. From 2013-2015 (In between Cleveland’s two most recent playoff appearances), we owned Cleveland. For those three years, our record against them was 37-19. At some point, they were going to get their opportunity and last year they got it, going 4-14. We managed to take 2 of 3 from them in Cleveland and that was with Justin Verlander getting hit hard.

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                                                        (Photo: Ken Blaze USA TODAY Sports)

The Tigers are 8-4, and If you would’ve asked me at the start of the season, my expectation would have been 7-5 at worst, and 9-3 at best case scenario. The starting pitching is looking solid. The bottom of the lineup has over-performed and for the most part the middle of the lineup has under-performed. It is encouraging to have had this kind of success without strong numbers from Miggy, J-UP or VMart, all three of which consistently hit their numbers. The bullpen has been off to a rough start, but there are a handful of teams in the exact same position. K-Rod always starts off slow. He never gets in a lot of work in the spring and usually works his way in the first week of the season. Justin Wilson looks much better than last year. After that the rest of the bullpen is questionable at best. There is still a need there.

Jim Leyland always said the first bench mark used to judge a team is 40 games. Based on their schedule, if they are sitting at 24-16, they are right where they need to be. Maybe then, some of these “experts” will start giving them more credit in their rankings then they have so far.


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