That’s what we Fantasy Baseball addicts call it. Studs Or Duds. Meaning you have drafted a couple of superstar players and only have money left to fill the rest of your roster with players who cost a buck. Or a quarter in some cases. And not to say silly fantasy baseball is anything like the real deal. But this year’s Tiger team does bear some resemblance to that strategy.
All the baseball experts picked the Tigers to run away with the American League Central Division because they have two of the best hitters in the game back-to-back in the lineup, Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder, and the best pitcher in baseball Justin Verlander. Cabrera is off to another great season, and Fielder has been good, although the home runs have been slower in coming than Tiger fans might like. But they will come. And Verlander has been outstanding, although some tough luck has kept him from winning more than two games.
The problem has been the rest of the lineup and the bullpen. Austin Jackson got off to a hot start, then cooled off, but has started hitting again. And Jackson must get on base in the leadoff position to make sure Cabrera and Fielder have a chance to knock in some runs. But the Tigers have had a tough time finding a number two hitter who can get on base. Brennan Boesch has gotten off to a very slow start. And the team has gotten no production from 2nd base or DH. Brandon Inge is gone, so we can’t blame him anymore, especially since he’s now hitting big home runs for the Oakland A’s. But Ryan Rayburn has been awful, batting just a shade over .100. The usually steady Ramon Santiago isn’t hitting much either. And Alex Avilla and Jhonny Peralta are down considerably from last year. Delmon Young has been a big disappointment, with only one home run and off the field trouble that kept him off the field for a week after he was suspended for that alleged assault in New York.
The Tigers need someone with a hot bat, and especially someone who can drive in runners from 3rd with less than two out. In Sunday’s game against the White Sox, the Tigers left 12 men on base! Fortunately, they hit three solo home runs, enough to win the game. But they simply can’t rely on home runs to win all the time. And the back end of the bullpen has to get better. Jose Valverde has already blown two saves after going a perfect 49 for 49 last year. And Joaquin Benoit, who was very effective in a set-up role last season, hasn’t been much better. Valverde managed to save Sunday’s game in a shaky performance. So maybe he has turned himself around. If not, Manager Jim Leyland may have to consider using Octavio Dotel or Duane Below as a closer.
There were some good signs this weekend. Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello both had outstanding outings. And Doug Fister is due to pitch Monday night. And Drew Smiley continues to impress. So it looks like the starting rotation is shaped up. Now, the Tigers just need to get more consistency at the plate. And that might mean more changes in the lineup.