Take 1. Starting pitching is too inconsistent.
Remember the days not so long ago when no Tigers fan had to give a second thought to the starting pitching? Verlander, Scherzer, Porcello, Fister, Sanchez? Throw David Price in the mix for a half season and you’ve got a pretty outstanding rotation no matter how you look at it. But, oh, how those days have passed. JV is not the JV of old (although he’s been very good this year), Sanchez and his big contract are now coming out of the bullpen, and Jordan Zimmerman, who was brought in to be a top arm, looks like he, too, has chinks in the armor. The bullpen has actually been, surprisingly, pretty solid – despite all the fears many had going into the season. But the starting staff has not been consistent enough (a running theme for this ball club) – 4.60 ERA and 1.37 WHIP (both of which rank 13 of 15 in the American League).
Take 2. The big names are not making a big impact.
Leaders on this team, like Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez, Justin Upton are not impacting enough games in meaningful ways to help put this team over the top. Star players need to play like star players – and they need to do so all the time. The Tigers are not getting the contributions necessary from their top players to be a club that opponents fear on a nightly basis.
Take 3. The Tigers are just not as good as the teams they are chasing in their division.
A combined record of 2-14 against division rivals the Indians and the Royals as we near the midway point of the season. I’m willing to admit the 0-9 record against Cleveland is an anomaly, but the eye test is a powerful assessment. And based on that, I just don’t see how anyone looks at the Tigers and thinks they’re as good as either of these franchises that they’re chasing currently.
Take 4. The buy-sell debate from last season is back!
Those who clamored for the Tigers to sell off pieces like David Price and Yoenis Cespedes (which they did) expected the team to use that freed up payroll to make more high-priced moves in the winter offseason. Again, they did – Justin Upton and Jordan Zimmerman were the big-name hauls that first year General Manager Al Avila pulled. But now the debate is rekindled – and will only gain steam as the trade deadline approaches next month – so long as Tigers don’t reel off 20 wins in 25 games to skyrocket back into the division race. This year’s buy-sell debate may get more spirited than last year’s – names like Kinsler, Upton, Zimmerman, Sanchez are sure to come up. Owner Mike Illitch is known for not throwing in the towel if there is even a shred of hope for the team. But not committing to a rebuild may only make winning in the very near future all that more difficult.
Take 5. Don’t get caught believing in the Tigers.
Hey, a great part of summer is enjoying the weather and a ballgame. This team appears destined to be a .500 ball club. They win 5 straight, drop 5 of their next 6. Sweep a series, get swept the next. It’s this back and forth, up and down inconsistency that has plagued this team the entire first half of the year. Don’t get caught up in the expectations after the team sweeps the Mariners; at the same time, don’t get too down when they drop 7 of 8 against the Red Sox and Rangers. Turn on a game, head down to the park – enjoy the sunshine and the summer air. And don’t take the team too seriously.