Monday, September 11, 2006

The only solution to what ails the Tigers is more home runs. But who's going to hit them?

The Tigers are broken. They are a very good team with a major, major flaw. We all know what that flaw is, and how it needs to be fixed. In fact, we've known about the Tigers achilles heel since the start of the season. The Tigers are a team full of free swinging, low on base percentage players, a team that can only score using the long ball, and lacks the ability to "Manufacture" runs. We also know that any real fix is not going to happen till the offeason. Not damn thing can be done at this point.

So now what? Nothing, really. About all that we can do is pray to the baseball home run gods. A Tiger can't change his stripes. Especially these Tigers. You can't expect career long free swingers like Pudge Rodriguez, Craig Monroe, and Magglio Ordonez to suddenly become patient OBP machines. You can tell, beg, plead to, threaten, and pray for them to take pitches, but it's not going to take. They're hackers, and it's worked for their entire careers. But they were often surrounded with more patient hitters. Unfortunately, Dave Dombrowski has assembled a team full of nothing but impatient hackers.

We can only hope that the hackers start connecting for the long ball again.

I'm not complaining, or blaming the GM. Dombrowski managed to improve the Tigers quicker than anyone ever thought possible. But with a patchwork lineup being put together mostly through trades and free agency, and held together with scotch tape, the Tigers ended up with what we see today. Great pitching, decent defense, and a team that lives and dies with the home run. A strange combination, considering the Tigers don't have any true big boppers, and play 81 games in a stadium that's not condusive to the home run.

For the most part, the pitching and defense have held up. Held up enough to hold on to the division lead. But the power well has run bone dry. This weekend's shellacking by the smoking hot Twins being the latest Tiger power outage. Sunday's 12-1 massacre was just rubbing salt in a gaping wound.

In today's News fishwrap, Lynn Henning talks about this obvious, but rarely mentioned in the MSM, problem.

A team with baseball's best pitching -- by far -- in 2006 could end up missing the playoffs for one glaring reason.

And before anyone says the Tigers' problem is hitting, think some more.

It's on-base percentage. It reflects a much deeper flaw in Detroit's offense than its .274 team batting average, which is ninth in baseball and, by itself, good enough to make a division winner of a team equipped with supreme pitching.

Well...Duh. I know, I know, the fishwraps have to write down to the lowest common denominator casual fans. At least he's bringing a little saber style talk to the masses. The masses that think batting average is the be all, end all.

Henning also talks about the suddenly missing power element to the Tigers offense.

First base, for example: No position more requires power and run production. The Tigers are 24th (Chris Shelton) and 48th (Sean Casey). Nineteen first basemen have more RBIs than the Tigers' combined RBIs (64) from Shelton and Casey.

How many of those one-run games from the past month might have turned around if Detroit had even middle-of-the-road power production from a first baseman?

The outfield -- another prime area for run production -- features a cleanup hitter (Ordonez) who is 30th in home runs and 12th in RBIs. Craig Monroe is 18th in home runs, but his .310 on-base percentage is low. Ordonez, at .340, is beneath the mean for top-shelf outfielders. Curtis Granderson presents a separate challenge: He leads the AL in strikeouts with 152 and is third overall behind Adam Dunn and Ryan Howard.

That's just outright ugly. Amazing for a 1st place team. We all know that there isn't anything that can be done, other than hoping the Tigers find their power stroke. Soon.

There have been signs of Ordonez finally finding a groove, and we know how clutch Monroe has been. But with the rest of the lineup, either thru inefectiveness (Thames, Casey, Shelton, Pudge, Inge, Granderson), injury (Guillen and Polanco), or just being plain awful (Neifi Perez), there's not a productive OBP or power guy to be found anywhere.

I'm not a fan of "Small ball." I hate the thought of giving up an out by bunting, unless a bunt is absolutely necassary. I'd rather see the Earl Weaver endorsed 3 run homer, than a small ball rally of a walk, a bunt, a ground ball to the right side, and a single. But...There is a place for that kind of 1 base at a time strategy. Late in games during a pennant race. To their extreme detriment, the Tigers rarely have the ability to get that guy on base, let alone move him over to scoring position.

Thankfully, there are only 18 games left in the season. The Tigers still have a 2 game lead, and a 3 1/2 game playoff cushion. The schedule finally gets easier. But it's not going to make one whit of difference if the Tigers' big guns continue to hit like pop guns. I'm NOT panicking. Yet...

But I am facing reality. If the Tigers don't hit for at least average power over the next 3 weeks, they won't make the playoffs.

The bats HAVE to come alive. Absolutely HAVE to...

I don't want to think about what will happen to the Tigers playoff chances if the their lineup remains so impotent.

1 comment:

  1. Yep, it's so freaking aggravating to watch this collapse, knowing that just an average OBP would have us raging into the playoffs instead of clinging to the division lead. I swear I am getting grey hair watching this team.