The Detroit Tigers are having a bad week, but I wouldn’t push the panic button just yet – first year manager Brad Ausmus is doing just fine.
At 28-17, the Tigers have lost four of their last five games, but still own the best record in the American League and stand 3 games behind the San Francisco Giants for the best record in baseball.
You can blame the Zubas or the team’s delay in getting from Boston to Cleveland earlier in the week, but a few bad games in late May won’t make or break the entire season.
The one-two punch of Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer is getting the job done despite rough starts for the pair in Baltimore.
In 10 starts, Verlander sports a 5-3 record with a 3.55 ERA while Scherzer is 6-1 with a 2.59 ERA. Scherzer has the edge in strikeouts to walks, however – with 78 punchouts and 22 walks, while Verlander has only struck out 49 batters and issuing 27 free passes.
The bullpen has been the shakiest (and lately overtaxed) part of the team.
Right-hander Al Alburquerque has emerged as the team’s workhorse to date, appearing in 25 games with a 1-1 record and a 3.60 ERA. Alburquerque has struck out 25 batters while only walking six. He’s converted his only save attempt.
Closer Joe Nathan has appeared in 18 games, with 11 saves in 14 opportunities. He also has a 2-0 record and a slightly alarming 4.08 ERA.
Phil Coke is the real issue for the Tigers bullpen right now. Sporting an 0-1 record with a 6.06 ERA, the real problem for the lefty is that opponents are hitting .339 against him.
On the flip side, fellow left-hander Ian Krol (acquired from the Washington Nationals in December along with LHP Robbie Ray and utility man Steve Lombardozzi – who was later traded – for RHP Doug Fister.) has arguably been the best pitcher out of the pen for the team.
Appearing in 22 games, Krol has a 1.53 ERA with 11 strikeouts and 2 walks. Opponents are hitting .227 against him.
Offensively, the team is much more stable.
Designated hitter Victor Martinez is swinging a hot bat right now. He is hitting a team-best .331 (57-for-172) with 12 home runs and 28 runs batted in.
One of the newest Tigers, second baseman Ian Kinsler, is also playing well. He was acquired from the Texas Rangers for Prince Fielder in January.
Side note: Fielder did not make the trip to Detroit with the Rangers for the 4-game weekend series against the Tigers and was put on the 15-day DL Saturday with what is expected to be a season ending neck injury.
Kinsler is second on the team with a .333 (64-for-192) average and tied with Miguel Cabrera for first on the team in doubles (17).
The Tigers are also much better on the base paths this season – stealing 38 bases through 45 games, good for third in the league.
They stole 35 bases during the entire 2013 season.
Newly signed outfielder Rajai Davis leads the team with 14 steals. Center fielder Austin Jackson and Kinsler are tied for second with six.
The season is roughly one-third complete and the Tigers have the second best record in baseball. There are 117 games left after Saturday’s 12-2 loss to Texas and I’ll say this much: sit back, relax and enjoy the show. This season is going to be a special one for Tiger fans.
Follow Al Willman on Twitter: @AlWillmanEcho