Tigers Could Be Great Value Pick In Coming Weeks
by Trevor Whenham - 04/09/2008
It was only a week ago that the Detroit Tigers were opening the season as heavy favorites in the minds of many, but it's already like that was just a dream. The new-look Tigers with their fancy rotation and stable full of massive bats is playing much more like we would have expected from the team a decade ago than like a real contender. You can't judge anything from the first week of a long, drawn out season, but this week has been as bad as it could possibly be. They have played seven games, and they have lost them all. The only game they lost by one run was the first one. Since then things have gotten worse - they have lost their last two games by a combined score of 18-2. The team that was supposed to give pitchers fits is scoring just a hair over two runs per game, and their staff is giving up closer to 6.5 a game. That is a recipe for disaster, and it is no surprise that they are so lousy when you look at that.
This obviously can't go on forever, and the team will definitely get better. But how much better, and how quickly? A team that was going to be a reliable part of many bettors' toolbox is suddenly a disaster. Here's a look at the future:
First, the dirty details. The team opened at home with sweeps by Kansas City and the White Sox, and they opened their third straight home series, against Boston, with a loss as well. That makes the second most expensive team in the league the only one not to have a win. Yes, they are looking up at the Giants, the Rays, and the Royals (not to mention the Orioles, but in a truly bizarre reality every one is looking up at them). They were favored at prices of -140 or more in their first six games, so they have been burning money like crazy.
The team was supposed to shine at the plate. They obviously really haven't. It doesn't take much optimism or a single ounce of naiveté to know that they will get better. All you have to do is look at what has happened so far. Curtis Granderson is in the top-tier of leadoff men in the league, yet he hasn't played yet thanks to an injury. He's on the 15-day DL until this week, and he will make an immediate impact if his hand is healthy. So many others have been playing but might as well not be. Placido Polanco had 200 hits and batted .341 last year. This year he has started off with three hits in 26 tries - a not-so stellar .115 average. Ivan Rodriguez is only slightly better at .148, and three of his four hits came in one game. Miguel Cabrera has struggled to adjust to his new surroundings, and is hitting just .100.
That's ugly, but the absolutely certain thing is that each situation will improve. Significantly in every case. Polanco and Cabrera will each literally triple their current output, and Granderson will boost things right off the top. The team is going to start hitting sooner or later, and when they do they will score a pile of runs. They can't help but win then. With this roster they have to start scoring runs eventually. Don't they?
The pitching is a slightly different issue. So far they haven't been able to get anyone else out. Dontrelle Willis was the big addition, but he has pitched more like he did last year than like we all know he can. He walked seven without a strikeout in five innings in his first appearance. Justin Verlander has been pretty lousy, too, with eight earned runs in less than 12 innings. He's struck out 10 with just four walks, so he isn't beyond hope, but he needs to rediscover the edge that made him almost unhittable last year. Jeremy Bonderman and Nate Robertson have yet to find their stride yet, either. The strongest starter has been the world's oldest man - Kenny Rogers. His ERA is the best it has been in a decade, and with just a bit of run support and a decent bullpen he would be doing great.
If the starters are a concern, the bullpen hasn't eased those concerns. Todd Jones and Bobby Seay have been flawless in limited appearances, but the rest of the arms haven't fared as well. As disturbing as what has happened is who isn't there. Fernando Rodney and Joel Zumaya would make huge impacts, but Rodney is still not throwing at full force, and Zumaya won't be back until mid-season.
So what does this all boil down to? Frankly, I hope that they keep losing for a while. They are going to get better, much better, so the longer they struggle the more the public will take notice, and the more value there will be when they reach their stride. Two teams have started with the same record and made the playoffs, so hope is not lost. They might not be the third, but they will still end up with a good enough record that this horrible week will be just a bad memory.