April 21, 2011

Identity Crisis

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.

 

3 Comment(s)

  1. Dave Chester | Apr 21, 2011 | Reply

    I am a true Tigers fan and have the same exact worries, the last paragraph hit the nail on the head with Leyland allergic to small ball. I truly believe if you put guys in scoring position more guys will start thinking move thr runner over, make contact, go from first to third, and get the game tied instead of playing for the big one. Usually a swing and a miss. If we start to do the small ball we will then score big time because do whatever the situations asks and everbody will become a “team” do it for the team !

  2. mnemec24 | Apr 22, 2011 | Reply

    I love the Tigers but the inability to get the runner home from third with less than 2 out is driving me insane. This has been a problem spot for this team for the last few seasons under Leyland. They have got to put the ball in play and cash in on those opportunities. The Ks are a killer, Jackson, Rayburn, Peralta, and Inge are the most notable culpits of striking out with less than 2 out and a runner on third. It happens too often in my mind for it to be only attributable to the pitcher bearing down. This has to stop for the team to be successful, and it is up to Leyland to change mindset when they get in the box.

  3. matt | Apr 26, 2011 | Reply

    I want to chime in here. It doesn’t take a good manager to sit back when his team is pounding the ball and let them swing for the fences. I mean it’s not rocket science to let the guys swing for the fences if they’re hitting.

    But it does take a good manager to know that when his team is in a slump and not hitting that he needs to change his tactics. Small ball is one option but Leyland won’t do this.

    He just continues to sit back and “let the boys work out of their slumps”. I don’t think the Tigers have played up to their potential because Leyland is constantly juggling the lineup (for no apparent good reason- other than “to keep them fresh”) and is always replacing hot hitters with ice cold ones and getting… crappy results.

    A good manager manages and doesn’t constantly play hunches or superstitions or read tea leaves or however Leyland goes about making his wacky decisions. Sure once in a while a hunch pays off… but pulling a starter who is breezing along and getting outsand replacing him with a lame-armed mop up man in the 7th inning and seeing the lead evaporate is not- in my opinion at least- good managing.

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