The Tigers are now a couple of innings into the first game of their ten game road trip and this one has some importance because it’s against the first place Indians. The Tigers took two of three against the Pirates over the weekend and that’s quieted some people down. I also have a lot of people asking me what the deal is with the Tigers. Here’s what I tell them.
The Indians aren’t that good. The Tigers aren’t as bad as they’ve been playing. This rough start just means that the Tigers are going to win the division by ten games instead of fifteen. Since we’ve beat the Tigers up a lot of late, let’s look at some of what they’ve done well.
The Tigers pitching staff is first in strikeouts, third (best) in walks and yet they’re tenth in runs allowed. If those first two rankings stand, that last ranking is going to come down. It just about has too. You can probably credit some of that to the defense but even if the Tigers can pop into the top half in the league in runs allowed, it should put them into positive territory in run differential.
While Cabrera hasn’t gotten going at the plate yet (his .850 OPS would be his worst since his rookie year), his defensive cost hasn’t been too bad. Of course this is just one defensive metric but if you look at baseball-reference.com’s defensive WAR, he’s at -.4. If he keeps that pace, he’ll be at -1.6. Last year at first base, he was -1.3 so his cost is only marginally more what he cost them at first base last year anyway. Now if the new position is somehow costing the team at the plate, that could be another story but I’m not quite sure how we can quantify that.
While some of the Tigers farmhands are off to mediocre starts and Jacob Turner had a subpar outing his last time out, Thad Weber has been a nice surprise. He has 35 strikeouts and 6 walks in 39 innings. You don’t like the four home runs but he has a nice ground ball percentage and just a .196 batting average against. Right handers are only hitting .164 against them.
The Indians put another run on the board so it’s 3-2 Tigers at the end of the third. Hopefully Rick Porcello can get through this one.