In baseball, the All-Star break signifies the end of the first half of the season though more than 81 games have already been played. The All-Star break is a perfect time for teams to gauge whether they are going to be buyers or sellers at the non-waiver trade deadline on July 31st. It is also a good time for teams, fans, and the media to assess where the different aspects of their teams stand and what has been learned about the team in the first half. We have learned a few things about the Detroit Tigers in the first half of this 2013 season, and there still remains things to be learned which we may not know until the end of the season. Here is a rundown of a few of the things that we have learned thus far:
The Tigers offense is scary good:
The Tigers have had some offensive struggles at times this season, but over a 162 game schedule, even the best offenses will go stagnant at times. The Tigers do not have to worry about that extending for a period of time however with Austin Jackson, Torii Hunter, Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder, and Victor Martinez hitting one through five. Jhonny Peralta‘s All-Star season and Omar Infante hitting over .300 when he’s healthy only adds to an already potent lineup to make for arguably the best lineup in baseball. Going into the All-Star break, the Tigers lead the majors in team average with a .281 average and also hits with 936. They are second in the majors with 477 runs scored, trailing only the Boston Red Sox who lead the way with 498. They have done all of this while playing less games than half of the other major league teams. The Tigers have scored 53 runs in their past 10 games and have shown that they are ready to take control of the AL Central and the American League.
The Tigers have arguably the best starting rotation in baseball:
Any time you can say that you have Justin Verlander in your starting rotation and that he has been one of your worst starters at times this season, even with a 10-5 record, you know that you have one of the most powerful starting rotations in all of baseball. The Tigers rotation has been anchored by Max Scherzer this season who has been dominant against his opponents to the tune of a 13-1 record with a 3.19 ERA. Anibal Sanhez has come within two outs of a no hitter and Verlander carried a no hitter into the seventh inning of his final start before the break. Doug Fister has been shaky at times, especially by hitting batters where he leads the team with 13 which is 6 more than he had all of last season. He has been able to overcome a lot of that though and still goes into the break with a 7-5 record and an ERA a shade over four at 4.02. Though the Tigers are middle of the pack with a 3.86 team ERA, a lot of that can be contributed to the struggles of the bullpen and Rick Porcello‘s 4.80 ERA. Even with the high ERA, Porcello has shown this season at times that he is capable of holding down the fifth spot in the rotation with a few solid starts of 3 earned runs or less. This adds to the Tigers quality starts number which is at 60, good for second in all of baseball trailing only the Philadelphia Phillies who have 62. This has been done with Verlander being merely mediocre this season, so if he is able to get everything straightened out, the Tigers will undoubtedly have the most dangerous rotation in baseball.
The Tigers need bullpen help before the trade deadline:
The Tigers have had questions at closer for a good 90% of this season, but seem to have finally found their late innings answers with Drew Smyly taking over the 8th inning duties and Joaquin Benoit closing out games when healthy and available. The only problem is that the Tigers do not seem to have other options out of the bullpen that are pitchers who can come in and get three quick outs without putting the lead at risk. Phil Coke was a big reason the Tigers were able to make it to the World Series last season with his pitching performance in the playoffs, but this season he has been hit around easily to the tune of a 5.83 ERA and a 1.50 WHIP. Al Alburquerque has a slider that can make even the best hitters in baseball look like they have never hit a ball before, but he has not been able to control his walks this year and has walked an average of 8.1 batters per nine innings. In recent days, the Tigers have been rumored to be interested in San Francisco Giants pitcher Tim Lincecum to pitch out of the bullpen which could give them a solid long relief pitcher. The Tigers would also be a lot better off in the playoffs if they were able to acquire division rival Chicago White Sox relief pitcher Jesse Crain. It could be hard and costly for the Tigers to acquire Crain, but if the price is right they would get a solid late game pitcher.
There are many other things that we have learned from the Tigers so far this season, but too many to mention here and some that will not have answers until the season is over. What else do you think we have learned from the Tigers thus far?