The Bullpen has been worse than advertised (somehow, that is possible). The offense has looked amazing at times, yet has been shut out more times this year already, than all of last year. The starters have pitched pretty well for the most part, but have not been staying in the game long enough to minimize the damage done against the bull pen.
Jim Leyland is still running Don Freaking Kelly out there more than once a month in a starting role, including 3 times last week. This is your Detroit Tigers for 2013. Despite being much better on paper than the very frustrating (but still AL Champions) 2012 Tigers, this is very much the same team.
On May 31st, 2012 the Tigers were 24-27, treading water in a very long baseball season that many fans were worried about. They managed to turn things around, have the AL MVP for the second straight year and make the World Series.
If last year was too much of an up and down, you may want to turn your head: 2013 won’t be any different.
Justin Verlander is off to his best season start ever, which is going to be an issue for the rest of baseball, because he is notoriously awful in April. Miguel Cabrera has only 2 home runs yet has a .440 OBP and .959 OPS so, again, scary for the rest of the league, his numbers are also probably going to improve.
Victor Martinez, who missed all of 2012 has only a .518 OPS, compared to his career average .834 and the only season in Detroit at .850…he will get things turned around in the coming weeks as he keeps getting back into playing shape and help knock in Cabrera and Fielder and make this offense something that no pitcher will want to face.
The real question actually revolves around the bullpen. Drew Smyly has pitched well enough that he has probably won the 5th starting spot from Rick Porcello and Al Albuquerque has been a bit erratic, but has also struck out 18 hitters in just 10.3 innings. Joaquin Benoit and Darrin Downs have also pitched well in middle relief, but the rest…well…its been real ugly.
Octavio Dotel has been pitching with a sore elbow and was put on the DL. The Tigers called up Bruce Rondon, the attempted closer in spring training and noted flame thrower to replace him. This simple move could turn around the pen in and of itself. If Rondon can keep his control like he has so far in Toledo, he can come in and work out of jams in the middle innings, something that has been lacking (cough/Brayan Villareal/cough).
But in another, surprising and frustrating move, the Tigers have recalled Jose Valverde. The former, disgraced closer is back. He has reportedly lost weight and regained some velocity on his fastball, (which wasn’t a problem before, so I don’t know how that helps) and was able to strike out 18 year old kids in Florida for a week.
The Tigers did not sign him for much and can easily send him packing once again, so there isn’t a lot of risk in the move from their standpoint. Unless keeping your fans alive by not giving them crippling heart conditions from watching your product is considered a risky move. So, fine, give him a shot, 1 for 1 so far, and if he can pitch, then great, if not, they’ll cut him pretty quickly this time around.
So, remember, this team will still be frustrating for weeks to come, but in a week division and with established players that can win like Verlander, Fielder, Cabrera, Omar Infante and Torii Hunter, this is nothing to be concerned about. But check back in June.