By Eric Thomas
1. The Tigers have one of the best records in baseball – You’d never know it if you focused on fan discussion. You’d think the Tigers are among the worst teams in baseball. The Tigers were in free fall for an entire month and they still have the third best record in the AL. (At the time of this writing.)
2. The bullpen will get better – Dave Dombrowski pulled the proverbial rabbit out his hat again when he grabbed Joakim Soria from the Rangers. Soria is a good pitcher in a position of severe need. His presence alone will make things much better. Drew Smyly will likely be in the bullpen when the playoffs come. The Tigers might finally have the World Series bullpen they’ve needed for years.
3. Joe Nathan hasn’t been bad, he’s been average – Forget Joe Nathan’s ERA. It’s a lousy statistic for evaluating closers. Nathan has been heavily snake bit by the fielding behind him. Let’s look at something called Fielding Independent Pitching, or FIP. Better yet, let’s look at xFIP which adjusts his home run rate against the number of home runs given up by the average pitcher. (Stats geeks argue that home runs happen to every pitcher and mess up the statistics. It’s random chance meeting random chance.) His xFIP is, at the time I wrote this, at 3.79. That number places him a little above average for all of baseball, and not that far above his numbers last year with the Rangers (3.27). While I understand that Tiger fans are quick to jump on a closer, the numbers indicate that Nathan will be fine down the stretch.
4. The Tigers are built for the postseason – With Price Fielder, the Tigers were built for the long ball. They lived and died by the random chance of a home run. As soon as Prince started striking out, their playoff chances were erased. Ian Kinsler has a history of performing very well in the playoffs. Rajai Davis can manufacture runs. If Torii Hunter’s second half continues at its current pace, the Tigers will be fine.
5. Individual games aren’t a big deal – You’d have thought the Tigers lost the whole thing in game two against the Diamondbacks. Rick Porcello left the game because Brad Ausmus decided to pinch hit for him in the eighth, and the bullpen melted. We all knew—pretty sure even my dog knew—that Dombrowski was about to make a move to help the bullpen. There was no reason to freak out as bad as we did. Let it go. I know it’s a cliche, but this is a marathon. If the Tigers keep winning a majority of their series for the rest of the year, nothing else matters. Don’t freak out. Act like you’ve been here before, because you have.