Inside The Numbers: June turnaround for Detroit Tigers was not to be

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Photo Credit: Keith Allison (flickr.com/photos/keithallison

Ah, summertime. Warm weather in the Metro Detroit area. Grilling, construction zones, golf, and of course, the best time of year to watch the Detroit Tigers play baseball. Unfortunately, the month of June was not a banner month for the 2017 Tigers squad and there is some blame to be assigned.

Detroit lost 15 games over the 30 days of June. This included a sweep at the hands of the Seattle Mariners (?!?!).

On the bright side, all of the losses (except 1 to the Kansas City Royals on 6/28) were to opponents outside of the AL Central. While Detroit is playing fairly good baseball inside their division this year, they have been frustratingly bad with other teams.

Last month, I predicted that the Tigers would rebound in June and play themselves into contention by Independence Day. Obviously, that did not happen.

Let’s take a painful look inside the numbers of what was not a stellar June for the boys in the Old English D. Check out my retrospectives on April here and May right here.

June Loss Breakdown:

  • Starters: 4.5 (I’ll explain the 1/2 points later)
  • Bullpen: 7.5
  • Offense: 3
  • Team: 0
  • Outlier: 0

Starting Pitching – 4.5 losses

The pitching overall in June was flat out bad. To start out the month against the Los Angeles Angels on June 6 Daniel Norris had a C- outing. He gave up four runs in 6 innings. The bullpen surrendered another run later on and the offense just couldn’t come back. 1/2 a point of blame assigned to Norris/starting pitching in this one. The other 1/2 point went to the bullpen.

Two days later on June 8, Michael Fulmer was absolutely shelled (4.1 IP, 9 H, 5 ER) by the Halos. Arcenio Leon (1.1 IP, 2 H, 4 ER) was almost unwatchable in long relief and the Tigers lost 11 – 4.

Other losses tagged to the starters in June included two epic fails by Buck Farmer on 6/13 and 6/18.  For all you Francisco Rodriguez haters out there, KRod and Norris combined to dash the team’s hopes of winning on 6/22 combining for nine ER between the two players. Norris picked up the last 1 point of blame all by himself in a rough outing on 6/28.

Bullpen – 7.5 losses

The bullpen shared some blame with the starters as I discussed in the above section. They were responsible for 6 more losses in June. Here’s a quick breakdown:

  • 6/9 – Alex Wilson with the blown save
  • 6/10 – Warwick Saupold and Leon give up a combined 8 ER
  • 6/19 – After a decent outing from Anibal Sanchez (5 IP, 2 ER) it was a close game. Then the bullpen gave up 4 ER in only 3 innings. Tough to dig out of that.
  • 6/20 – Tight game lost in the 10th inning when Justin Wilson gave up a run.
  • 6/21 – Tigers had the lead until Shane Greene gave up 4 in the 7th.
  • 6/24 – Greene again gives up 4 runs in the 8th to lose the lead and the game.

The bullpen is going to give up runs from time to time during a season (see 6/20 loss and Justin Wilson). Players are not perfect. However, the pen overall is not performing well. It could be due to fatigue because of the weak starting pitching. For more on this click here.

Offense – 3 losses

Michael Fulmer has a legitimate beef with the offense this month. He had excellent outings on 6/17 and 6/23. In those games, the Tigers were unable to provide much run support scoring 2 runs on 6/17 and 0 runs on 6/23.

On 6/14 Jordan Zimmerman was looking for some help from the offense and didn’t get it. Detroit scored only 1 run that day on 7 hits.

Conclusion

Here’s what I predicted after reviewing the losses in May:

“Ever the optimist, I’m expecting an offensive turnaround for Detroit in the month of June. The schedule is pretty favorable and there is an opportunity at the end of the month to rattle off some wins against AL Central Division opponents.

Hang in there, Tigers Nation. With the bullpen on the right track and the starting pitching staying solid, the offense will come around. Look for this team to be in good shape by Independence Day.”

Well…what can I say other than I was wrong about that!

At the time of this writing, the Tigers have played themselves to a 36-44 record. They are 21-18 at home and a paltry 15-26 on the road. Of those 44 losses the blame breakdown for the season so far is as such:

  • Starters – 7.5
  • Bullpen – 15.5
  • Offense – 15
  • Team – 4
  • Outlier – 2

Even though Justin Verlander and the starting pitching has been up and down this season, they are responsible for only 17% of the losses. That’s not bad.

I think we all expected the bullpen to be the soft spot for the team.  To be fair, they have been overworked and fatigue among long relievers seems to be the biggest culprit. This team needs a solid closer so that Justin and Alex Wilson can go back to the 7th and 8th innings where they perform the best.

Frankly, I expected more from the offense this year. Despite a decent June, they are underperforming as a group. I expect more from certain players on this team and Victor Martinez and Miguel Cabrera need to pick it up a little. On paper, this should be one of the toughest lineups to pitch to in Major League Baseball. Hard to do that when the pitching and defense can’t seem to keep the games close.

There is a small window for the team to mount a comeback this season and become competitive. However, that window is closing…and may, in fact, just be a tiny crack at this point.

This feels like the last chance for the Detroit Tigers as currently constructed. There are rumors of the team selling at the deadline (again). Trade rumors are swirling around Alex AvilaJose Iglesias, and even Justin Verlander. Sadly, it feels like the end of an era. One where Detroit had a roster full of incredible players including a Triple Crown Winner and some of the best starting pitchers over the last decade-plus. All that talent and no championships. Disappointing for all Tigers players, management, and fans.

It’s possible that Detroit can get it together after the 4th of July holiday. Maybe the upcoming All-Star break will do them some good. If not, sadly, this may be the last ride for this team. A great roster on paper, but, somehow unable to put it together on the field.

 

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