The start of this season has been a mystery, not just for Tiger fans, but for other teams as well. The whole Baseball World has been turned upside down with the Cleveland Indians riding high in first place in the American League Central, after a weekend sweep of the Tigers.
The Tigers have now lost six straight, while the Indians have won 13 in a row at home. If misery loves company, the Tigers aren’t alone. The Minnesota Twins are in last place, having lost a team record 19 games in April. The Red Sox have also gotten off to a lousy start, after nearly everyone picked them to be a shoe-in to make it to the World Series.
The reason for the Tigers woes is not difficult to determine. They simply are not hitting. Especially the top three hitters. Austin Jackson has been struggling all season, although he seems to have picked it up a bit in the last few games. Will Rhymes is playing a solid second base, although he’s not hitting either. And Magglio Ordonez has been struggling all year, with no home runs and only one rbi.
The pitching has been fairly solid, especially the starters. Rick Porcello and Phil Coke had quality starts against the Indians, but the hitters let them down. Al Albuquerque was fantastic in three innings of relief, striking out six in a wasted effort that went 13 innings before the Tigers finally lost. The rest of the bullpen has been shaky, especially highly touted free agent Jaquin Benoit, who has been hit hard in his last two outings. He has now given up ten runs, more than he allowed in all of last season with Tampa.
And not to harp on old news, but a decision the Tigers made at the end of the 2009 season has really come back to haunt them. The Tigers chose not to offer a contract to Placido Palanco, who left to go the Phillies for what now seems like a bargain contract. Palanco is exactly the kind of player the Tigers need now; he was a gold glove second basemen who rarely made an error, almost never struck out, and got the big hit when it was needed. Palanco was one of the main reasons the Tigers won the pennant in 2006, and was named the MVP of the ALCS. But the Tigers decided they needed to cut payroll, and thought they had a young second baseman named Scott Sizemore who could take over.
Of course, he wasn’t ready for the job, and still isn’t, since he’s back in Toledo. And Will Rhymes doesn’t look like he’s the answer either. Who knows if and when Carlos Guillen will be well enough to play second again. And after declining to make an offer to keep Palanco, the Tigers shelled out big bucks for Johny Damon last season, with less than inspiring results.
I’m not sure if sending Jackson or Rhymes to Toledo is the answer, but the Tigers have to do something. Who should they bring up? Without Jackson, who would play Centerfield? And who would lead off? The Tigers need to find some answers soon, before the season is a lost cause. And guess who’s coming to town next? A four game series with those Damn Yankees!