‘Twas a week to forget for the Detroit Tigers this past stretch.
After salvaging one game in Houston that could have went in a number of directions, they concluded their eight-game road trip against the Kansas City Royals, dropping two out of three at Kauffman Stadium. Detroit finally returned home, only to get swept by another division rival, the Cleveland Indians.
It was the first time the Indians completed at least a three-game road sweep of the Tigers since 2008.
So what can we take away from the Tigers last week?
WHERE DID THE OFFENSE GO?
The Tigers bats have suddenly gone ice cold. After scoring four or more runs in eleven of their first twelve games, they have been held to three or less in five consecutive games, scoring a grand total of eight runs in that span.
Also during their last five games, Detroit is just 5 for 26 with runners in scoring position. They were 4 for 12 in their last victory, a 3-2 win on Wednesday over the Royals.
The team has a collective slash line of .192 BA/.250 OBP/.286 SLG over their last six games. Their only two home runs last week both came off the bat of backup catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who remains a pleasant surprise filling in for the injured James McCann.
Second baseman Ian Kinsler is still piling up hits, registering a .320 batting average last week and is hitting .333 on the season. His 25 hits are tied for second-most in the AL so far.
The biggest outliers for the Tigers’ lineup is first baseman Miguel Cabrera and outfielder Justin Upton. Both received a mental day off Sunday afternoon according to manager Brad Ausmus. Last week alone, the two combined to go 5-for-41 with just two extra-base-hits and two runs batted in.
When you watch them, both appear to be pressing, trying to do a little too much. This could certainly apply to Upton, who has already struck out a league-high 30 times. He’s on pace to fan over 280 times, an absolutely absurd amount. Cabrera hasn’t struck out in five straight, but he’s not squaring up balls like Tigers fans have grown accustomed to seeing from mighty Miggy.
Given their track records of both being top-notch run producers, one should not panic yet about their early season struggles at the plate. But there is enough reason to be concerned and frustrated if you’re a fan, and both Cabrera and Upton would be the first to agree.
BULLPEN STILL GETTING IT DONE
We at DSN will be keeping track of which aspect of the Tigers will be responsible for all their losses this season, separated into three categories – starters, offense, and bullpen.
A number of factors go into why a certain category will be tallied for a loss, but this is our own experiment to see how well the bullpen will perform in 2016, seeing as it has without a doubt been the Achilles’ Heel for the Tigers over the last handful of seasons.
So far so good on their front, for the most part at least. Justin Wilson has been the most impressive thus far, and last week he continued that trend, pitching two scoreless innings and striking out three.
Detroit has also seen last year’s mainstays Alex Wilson and Blaine Hardy return to the club in the last week after starting the year on the disabled list. The two last week combined to pitch 5.2 innings, the only run allowed was a solo shot off the bat of Royals catcher Salvador Perez.
The two that have logged the most work early on are youngsters Kyle Ryan and Drew VerHagen. Ryan had started the year hurling six shutout innings but was pressed into long relief duty on Saturday when starter Anibal Sanchez was rocked to the tune of six earned runs in less than three innings of work. Ryan came on to pitch 3.2 innings, surrendering three earned.
VerHagen meanwhile has been using the ground ball to get his outs all season long. However on Sunday, he had his second ‘clunker’ of an outing, giving up 5 ER in just 1.1 innings of work. Like Ryan the game before, VerHagen was asked to get some outs after an early exit from a Tigers starter. All of Drew’s eight earned runs allowed came in just two of his ten games (9.2 IP).
WHAT IS NEXT FOR DETROIT?
The Tigers stay home for four more beginning on Monday against the Oakland Athletics, who are off a 7-2 start away from their home ballpark to start the season. Hopefully Cabrera, Upton, and company can string together a boatload of hits ad runs again and get back on track.
After Oakland leaves town, Detroit is back on the road beginning a three-game weekend series in Minneapolis, facing the Minnesota Twins for the first time this season.