On paper, the Detroit Tigers are the best team in all of baseball.
Six games into the 2008 season, though, the Tigers carry a Scarlet Letter-like record of 0-6, and are the only team without a win.
Prior to the season, many chose Detroit to win the World Series, thanks in large to their offseason acquisitions of Miguel Cabrera, Jacque Jones, and Edgar Renteria.
Although it’s too early to say exactly what this team will end up looking like, there’s no doubt that Jim Leyland’s club has some work to do.
In six losses — three to the Royals and three to the White Sox — the Tigers have been outscored by a total of 38-15. Even with the most potent lineup in baseball, it couldn’t be more obvious that Detroit is mired in a run-scoring slump.
If the Tigers wish to get on track, they’ll need the following:
Avoid going 0-10 or 1-9
Since the expansion in 1995, no team in baseball has made the playoffs after starting the season off with either record.
Curtis Granderson back in the lineup
As the Tigers’ natural leadoff hitter and an established 20-20-20-20 threat, Granderson is a foundation for scoring runs, and lead the team in 2007 with 122. According to GM Dave Dambrowski, Granderson’s broken hand has healed enough to allow him to resume baseball activities, and is expected to rejoin the lineup in the next 10-14 days.
Edgar Renteria hitting down in the order
With Renteria down, the rest of the team benefits from his ability to drive in clutch RBI’s. For now, though, he’s the logical choice as the team’s leadoff hitter, due to Granderson’s injury. After that, we should see him slide to the 7 spot.
Placido Polanco regaining his confidence
In 2007, the second baseman had 200 hits and hit at the .342 clip, the highest average on the team. In 23 at bats this year, Polanco has 2 hits and a .087 batting average, a number that looks better as an ERA rather than a batting average. For the final game against the White Sox, manager Jim Leyland sent a message to Polanco by starting Ramon Santiago in his place.
Miguel Cabrera adjusting to American League Pitching
In six games, the offseason’s biggest acquisition has only 2 hits in 18 at bats. He did have a home run in his first game, but it’s been all downhill from there. Most likely, this is just an adjustment period for the young stud, and sooner than later, he’ll feel comfortable hitting against pitchers in a new league. And when he does, there’s really no telling what the limit is for him in terms of production.
With flame-thrower Joel Zumaya hurt once again — no, not another Guitar Hero injury — and out until midseason, the Tigers have little to rely on. It was thought that their hopes for getting to closer Todd Jones in the 9th inning would rest on the shoulders of Fernando Rodney, but that’s not really an option given the fact that he, too, is out with a shoulder problem.
The offensive shortcomings, coupled with unreliable pitching is devastating to say the least. Before the season began, it looked as if the above-average lineup and the decent pitching staff were a match destined for instant stardom.
Six losses in as many games, and the signs seem to be pointing elsewhere.