By Greg Bowman
Maybe you knew that kid in school. Or maybe you were that kid. The one the teachers said had great potential, tested off the charts, but failed to live up to their potential. That’s what the Tigers have reminded me of in the first half of the 2012 season. Fans and baseball prognosticators all picked the Tigers to win it all before the season started. But after a strong start, the Tigers could not put together any consistent combination of pitching, hitting and defense to win as many games as we all thought they would.
The Tigers couldn’t even put together back to back wins. And they went from mid-May until early July before they could get back up above the .500 mark. Now, the Tigers have won five in a row going until the All-Star break. And they are finally getting production from the fifth, sixth, and seventh spots in the lineup. Delmon Young, who was noticed more for his off-field antics in New York than his on-the-field performance this season, has really been swinging a hot bat lately, and closed the first half with home runs in four consecutive games. Miguel Cabrera is quietly putting together another MVP caliber season. And Prince Fielder is red hot too. Let’s hope that Home Run Derby doesn’t screw up his swing.
As for mid-term report cards. Fielder and Cabrera get A’s. Justin Verlander is having another fine season, and could have 12 or 13 wins with a little luck. But last season is a tough act to follow. So I’d have to give him a B-plus. Max Scherzer is coming on strong after a slow start, so he’s earned a B. Drew Smiley has put together a fine rookie season, and also gets a B. Rick Porcello is again maddeningly inconsistent and gets a C. Jose Valverde has also been up and down and would get a C.
Among the most disappointing players, Alex Avilla and Jhonny Peralta also get C’s, and that’s being generous, after a big fall-off from their all-star seasons last year. Delmon Young has also been a big let down until those home runs over the past week. Another C there. Doug Fister has been another disappointment, with a 2 and 6 record after leading the Tigers to the post-season last year. But he’s been hurt much of the year. So we’ll give him a C-minus. I’ll reserve my only F for Ryan Rayburn, who has done nothing in the field or at bat to deserve the many at-bats that Jim Leyland gives him almost every game.
The most pleasant surprises have to be Quintin Berry and Gerald Laird, who have performed much better than anyone could have expected. They deserve B’s.
Overall then, the Tigers have been fairly mediocre. Not great. Not awful. A “C” team. Not good enough to make it the World Series. But there’s still plenty of baseball to play. And the Tigers can win the weak Central Division. And if they put together a long winning streak like last year, anything can happen in the postseason.