The Detroit Tigers have not yet been mathematically eliminated from anything. But it’s time to accept the fact that this team probably isn’t going anywhere. They’ve hung around long enough to keep the hope of fans on life support, and even won against the Marlins yesterday, but after their 9th consecutive loss to the division leading Cleveland Indians earlier in the week, it’s safe to say that this season is dead.
There’s just too much missing for this squad to make any type of sustained run at the division title or a wild card berth. They missed the playoffs last year, after winning 4 straight division titles prior to that. New general manager, Al Avila, tried to plug some holes and make the roster viable last offseason, but it wasn’t enough. With sub-par managing, a less than satisfactory starting rotation, a stable of players getting older by the day, and another team taking control of the AL Central, it might be time to turn the page on this team. And here’s why.
For years, the starting rotation has been one of the Tigers strongest position groups. This year however, they lack a clear cut ace, such as Max Scherzer or David Price, and because of that they’ve underperformed as a unit. The original ace of the modern Detroit Tigers, Justin Verlander, seems to have finally gotten himself back together, but he is far from the pitcher who earned a $28 million per year contract extension back in 2013. Jordan Zimmermann started the year off very strong but has since cooled off, especially since coming back from a groin strain. Anibal Sanchez has been a disaster, as has Mike Pelfrey for most of the season, and Shane Greene has been living in the bullpen since coming back from the DL.
The brightest spot of the starting rotation has been rookie, Michael Fulmer. He has been lights out and currently has a 7-2 record with an ERA of 2.40. His emergence has given fans hope for the future, but the team is already starting to talk about limiting his innings so as to not ruin his young arm. If he continues to develop he should be an important piece for years to come, but he will not carry the team to the promised land this year. The rotation ranks 19th in the league, with a collective ERA of 4.69. That won’t get it done.
Miguel Cabrera is still solid, but he is also slowing down considerably with every passing year. There are streaks where the brilliance of his game continues to shine through, but there will be a time very soon when his contract won’t be justified. That time may have even already come. He can’t carry the offense the way he once did, and no one around him, save an also aging Victor Martinez, has proven they can pick up the slack on a consistent basis.
With J.D. Martinez still recovering from a broken bone in his elbow and Justin Upton in the running to lead the league in strikeouts, the outlook isn’t good for the offense. It’s not that this is a bad offense, but it is nowhere near as prolific as it has been in recent seasons, and definitely not good enough to cover up for the other deficiencies that this team has. There are too many times when the bats don’t show up, and with the pitching issues, that’s a real problem.
The Cleveland Indians have become kryptonite to any sustained success the Tigers manage to muster this season. The Tigers seem to be able to find at least some success against everyone else except the Tribe. The Royals have also been a thorn in the side of the team, but with the Indians leading the division and absolutely owning the Tigers this season, it’s the team in Cleveland that is writing the obituary for these Motor City Kitties.
The Indians’ starting pitching has had their way with the Tigers every time the teams have faced off. They seem to be hitting their peak as a team, just as the Tigers seem to have already shown us their best baseball. They were early favorites to win the division for a reason and now that they’ve woken up everyone else should be worried.
Don’t expect the Detroit Tigers to completely fall apart. They will to continue to play .500 baseball for the rest of the season. I just hope that Al Avila doesn’t try too hard to squeeze a playoff run out of this current roster because in order to do that he will have to mortgage the few promising, young pieces that the team does have. It’s time to deal with the reality that the Detroit Tigers, as they are currently assembled, have missed their window to win a championship. If Al Avila retains his position with the team after the season he must work towards the future and start planning a rebuild that will likely be painful for everyone involved.