Looking Back on April in the D

Rearview Mirror.jpgI’m a firm believer that April in baseball is equivalent to the second quarter of an NBA game: virtually meaningless.

There’s plenty of time to correct lineup flaws and overcome a slow start. Just think back to 2008 when the Tigers started 0-7. They still managed to finish the month just a game under .500. Or how about 1987? They finished the opening month at 9-12 but wound up winning 98 games — and the division.

So now that we’re a few of days into the second month of the season, let’s take a look back on how the Tigers fared in April and peek ahead at the remainder of this month:

April Record: 14-10 (Home: 7-3, Road 7-7)

American League Rankings

  • Team Batting: 1st, .288 avg.
  • Team Pitching: 8th, 4.30 ERA

Top 3 Hitters

  1. Austin Jackson: .364 avg., .422 OBP, .917 OPS; 36 hits; 5 stolen bases
  2. Miguel Cabrera: .344 avg., .427 OBP, 1.042 OPS; 5 HR, 11 doubles
  3. Johnny Damon: .329 avg., .431 OBP, .890 OPS, 15 walks

Top 3 Pitchers

  1. Phil Coke: 3-0, 1.93 ERA; 14 IP, 11 K — remarkably effective despite his 1.57 WHIP
  2. Joel Zumaya: 2-0, 1.23 ERA; 14.2 IP, 0 BB, 16 K, 0.82 WHIP
  3. Max Scherzer: 1-1, 3.23 ERA; 27.2 IP, 7 BB

Tigers Q&A for April

The Tigers faced several questions on Opening Day. Here’s a look at three of them and how the club answered them — or not.

  • Q: How would Austin Jackson perform, particularly at the plate?

    A: Talk about a pressure cooker: Jackson enters his rookie season as the replacement for popular Curtis Granderson, faces questions about his ability to patrol the vast centerfield at Comerica Park and his strikeout-prone approach at the plate. Well, we don’t hear much about Grandy anymore, his defense has been dazzling and the 34 strikeouts in April have been overshadowed by his .364 average and .422 on-base percentage.

  • Q: How would three-fifths of the rotation, namely newcomer Max Scherzer and questions marks Dontrelle Willis and Jeremy Bonderman, shape up behind Justin Verlander and Rick Porcello?

    A: Who would’ve guessed that it would be the Tigers’ top-two starters that would produce early-season ulcers? Much like last year, Verlander endured a slow start in April but appears to have put it together with two dominant outings to end the month. Scherzer has shown flashes of why the Tigers and Diamondbacks have been high on him. His enduring challenge is locking in some consistency. Willis and Bonderman? They’ve shown that they might be okay — or, in Bonderman’s case, maybe more than okay. Porcello remains the mystery. The Tigers are confident that he’s just a mechanical tweak away from his 2009 form. Let’s hope so.

  • Q: Could the lineup produce enough runs to compete with the Twins and White Sox?

    A: If it weren’t for Ordonez and Cabrera early in the month, the Tigers would’ve been in bad shape offensively. As April moved along the rest of the lineup, for the most part, woke up and finished the month with 120 runs scored — five a game. The Twins scored 118 runs in 23 games (5.1 runs per game) and the White Sox scored 92 runs in 25 games — 3.6 per game. So, if April is any indication, the Tigers can hang — and we’ll have an even better idea after this week’s inaugural trip to the Twins’ Target Field.

Looking Ahead to May: Making the Rounds

In addition to the usual force-feeding of American League Central foes (trips to Minnesota and Cleveland this week), the Tigers will get a heaping helping of the A.L.East this month beginning with back-to-back home series against the Yankees and Red Sox next week. They’ll make a return trip to the West Coast to face the A’s and Mariners. In between they’ll kickoff interleague play at Chavez Ravine against the Dodgers.

Three Questions for May

  1. Will Rick Porcello have it figured out by Memorial Day?
  2. How will the Tigers matchup with the Yankees and Red Sox?
  3. How will Carlos Guillen fare upon his return from the disabled list?

Discuss.

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