Posted on April 21, 2011
The best teams in any sport have an identity.
Even the teams who do everything well, that’s their identity.
The Tigers don’t have one. They’ve won and lost games with pitching. They’ve won and lost games with hitting. They’ve won and lost games with defense. For now, they don’t know who they are, and, if they don’t develop something soon, something like the Giants did last year, it’s going to be terminal.
It’s early. I recognize that. 20 games in the grand scheme of a marathon season is fairly meaningless, especially the first 20. That said, injuries and frustration can snowball. We saw that tragically in 2007 and 2008. And, in a way, it’s starting to feel that way again.
For those of you who have read my stuff in the past, you know I pride myself on collectedness and being the consummate “non-panicker.” So don’t take this the wrong way, I reserve judgment on this team, I still think there is potential for a postseason run.
I just relay concerns. Concerns that you probably already have, but I wanted to put on paper.
I worry that the aforementioned snowball is even more possible given this is Jim Leyland’s 6th year with the organization. Is his act wearing thin? Will he be able to do what he did in 2006 after a lackluster start, sitting the team down and snap them into a contender? I don’t know, but I’m concerned he may be a Larry Brown type.
I worry that my sabermetrician friends were right about Austin Jackson and his BABIP all along. Identity or not, you cannot expect to be successful with a leadoff hitter on a record-setting strikeout pace (24 Ks in 80 PA).
I worry that Rick Porcello might, just might, not be that good. His inability to adjust (barring yesterday’s performance in Seattle) has been infuriating.
I worry that Victor Martinez may have a lingering groin injury all season. Without him, it’s hard to envision a penant chase. I worry about Magglio, too.
I worry that even with Brennan Boesch playing out of his mind, this team is still sub-.500.
This team has played 13 road games, 7 on the west coast, and only 6 home games. There’s plenty of opportunity and time to develop into a team that knows who they are. What they must be, is a team who can depend on starters one through three and hope four and five can alternate quality starts. They must be a team that, despite Leyland’s aggravating aversion to small ball, manufactures runs.
I think they can be those things, but right now, I don’t know who they are.