By: Eric Thomas
It’s okay to panic about the Tigers offense. The team is in the midsummer doldrums and they’re not doing much to make anyone feel better. They’ve been lately snake-bit by injuries, which happens in the middle of any baseball season. It’s the unanimity of these slumping bats that can give you pause.
The baseball season is long, and discussing the Tigers has been a grind this year. While they looked like a monster early on in the season, they’ve dipped into the doldrums for months at a time. They haven’t had the pitches and rolls of the 2013 season, when they wandered without a bullpen for months at a time. At least in that respect, this year has been different.
It’s understandable that Tigers fans have spent most of the year focused on the bullpen. As a group they have one of the highest ERAs in baseball (ERA is a lousy way to evaluate relief pitchers, but that’s another blog), but it’s not like they haven’t had an answer. Last year, Bruce Rondon was the named savior in the off season, and we didn’t see him until late in the season. The Tigers bullpen is leaps and bounds more talented than last year. It’s just that they’ve struggled in spite of their talent.
Struggling in baseball is just part of the show. It’s a game of failure, as you well know. Even the greatest players in history walk away shaking their heads more often than not. When you have a 162 game season, these fits and tantrums are part of it.
That’s not to say the offense isn’t worthy of concern, it is. It’s a bad sign when the team can’t bat their way out of a Bento box like Yankee Stadium. You’d expect them to struggle without Miguel Cabrera, but you wouldn’t expect them to turn in a goose egg. They’ve had trouble scoring since the All Star Break. The recent series with the Bombers did nothing to make us feel better about that.
There’s some safety in the numbers. Statistically, they’re still one of the better offenses in the league, but they were last year too. They need to scratch out a lot more games against good pitching before anyone can brush off any trophy space. The Tigers lately score their runs when they’re goring a bad pitching staff. David Price’s first start in New York was one of the few times when the team inched out a win against a good pitching staff. They’re going to need a lot of those before we can start feeling confident.
Miguel Cabrera’s oft-ignored struggles are the most unsettling. He’s looking a whole lot like the Miggy of late last year, and that never stopped. The Tigers can’t win anything without him. Does he need surgery? If so, is it major surgery or a slight tweak? Would it make sense to do it now? If Miggy can’t elevate his game, this season is lost.
That’s the scary question, and we don’t want to think about it, but it’s okay to get worried now.