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Oooof. That’s the sound coming out of Detroit this morning. A few days ago, you might’ve heard “D’OH!” or “GAAAH!” or any number of expletives. But this morning, there is only the resignation and deflation of a drawn-out “ooooof” as the last remaining molecules of enthusiasm leak out of Michigan like air from a punctured tire.

Any day your ace pitcher takes the mound, you want to win. But when that ace pitcher is doubling as the only pitcher on your staff not surrounded by flashing neon question marks and you’ve lost the first five games of the season, you really, really want to win. And when instead of winning, you drop to 0 and 6…oooooof.

If you’re a Tigers fan, you see Justin Verlander taking the mound, you figure their lineup is due to get some hits, and you reckon their time has come. You don’t expect to get routed to the tune of 13-2. Add the info that the team doing the routing, the Chicago White Sox, are a division rival, and it’s just rubbing salt in the wound. And like a bad traffic accident, we can’t look away. Let’s do some rubbernecking and see what some Tigers blogs have to say about this pile-up.

Eric Jackson of D-Town Baseball attended the game, but found it so embarrassing, he left early. “I don’t leave games early too often but I did tonight,” he writes. “It was cold and there just wasn’t a good game out on the field. Listening to the game on the ride home made me feel good about my decision.”

Bless You Boys offers a slightly different take on the sound of woe emanating from the Motor City (EEEEAAAAAK!) as Ian Casselberry asks his readers, “You don’t really want to read a recap of that game, do you? Because I sure as hell don’t feel like writing it.”

At Mack Avenue Tigers, a shell-shocked Kurt Mensching adds more lamentation (“MEHHHHHHH”) and writes: “The ‘greatest lineup in baseball’ averages 2.5 runs per game. The Tigers hit into five double plays. They stranded nine runners.” Yes, Virginia.

Over at Roar of the Tigers, Samara Pearlstein is deep in the denial stage. “What… was… that? Seriously: what did I just see on my TV? Was it baseball? I’m not entirely sure. It LOOKED like baseball, but I’m inclined to believe that it was simply a very detailed fake.”

“Time for chicken-bone cross,” confirms Mike McClary of the Daily Fungo.

And for the ultimate exercise in masochism, you can read a liveblog of the game at The Detroit Tigers Weblog. An abridged version:

8:15 – middle of 1: A 19 pitch inning. Not exactly the kind of efficiency you’re looking for. And Verlander can’t seem to keep his fastball down.

8:40 – I didn’t know it was possible to go 3-0 on Juan Uribe.

9:40 – Aaaarrrrghhhhhh.

So we’ve got “EEEEAAAAAK,” “MEHHHHHHH,” and now “Aaaarrrrghhhhhh.”

10:35 – Top of 9: Do you realize if it weren’t for White Sox errors and wild pitches this would be a shut out?

10:55 game mercifully over: Fitting that it ended on a double play. This blew.

What’s wrong with this team? Lee Panas of Tiger Tales has a sobering diagnosis:

Poor pitching (by their Ace Justin Verlander no less), poor hitting including five double plays, horrible fielding especially by Carlos Guillen….they are just awful in every phase of the game right now. I’m still very confident that this team is going to score a lot of runs this year but other than that I’m not sure what to expect. The pitching is filled with question marks and their infield defense looks much worse this year with the immobile Miguel Cabrera at third and Guillen struggling at first. Even Edgar Renteria, while an improvement over Guillen, is showing his lack of range at shortstop.

So let’s see—pitching, hitting, fielding….yep. That pretty much covers it.

Many blogs note this faintly quivering ray of hope: Curtis Granderson’s hand is sufficiently healed. He’ll resume baseball activities today and rejoin the lineup in about 10 days. Granderson’s return will add speed to a team that one scout called Jurassically slow without him.

But as for the popular idea that a road trip will clear their heads (and heat up their bats), I think Roar of the Tigers put it best:

Hilarious note for the upcoming series: the Tigers were just swept (a billion times, it seems) at home, and the Red Sox were just swept by the Blue Jays on the road (after having been on the road for a billion years, it seems). Everyone is talking about how much good it’ll do the Sox to get home. Everyone (or, OK, mostly Joe Morgan tonight) is talking about how it’ll do the Tigers some good to get on the road. Rock, meet Hard Place.

But Detroit Tigers fans weren’t the only ones to get hit hard in the kisser last night. Home plate umpire Jeff Kellogg took a fastball to the face (Fire Joe Morgan notes that AJ Pierzysnki “got crossed up and just missed it”). Kellogg was wearing a mic for the game, giving Jon Miller got the bright idea of airing the audio from the incident. The moment seems to encapsulate, in allegorical fashion, both Detroit’s 0-6 start (symbolized by Kellogg) and the baseball-watching world’s stunned reaction (embodied by Pierzynski):

(smack)

Pierzynski: Oh — my God.

Kellogg: (on the ground) Fuck.

55 Responses to “Detroit Tigers: Time for the curiosity slowdown”

  1. Paul Moro says:

    Their offense should be just fine. But it would probably help if they stopped batting sub-.300 OBP Pudge Rodriguez leadoff. I mean, I know Leyland was trying to shake things up but come on. Granderson doesn’t belong there either.

    It still surprises me to hear how many people actually think that Dontrelle Willis is going to be any good this year. Face it. The guy’s done. Moving to the AL Central isn’t going to change that.

    And Rogers is done as well. Bonderman really has nowhere to go but up following last year though. But overall, their pitching is a mess.

  2. OK, so where do you think the Tigers will finish in the division – third? fourth? last? They should still be able to finish up second…behind the Tribe.

  3. Nick Kapur says:

    I think the Tigers are still good for at least 2nd in the division. But for what it’s worth, I heard yesterday that only two teams in all of baseball history had started the year 0-5 and still made the postseason, and that was the number for 0-5! I don’t even know what the number is for 0-6.

  4. melissa says:

    Don’t write the Tigers off just yet. Injuries to Granderson, Sheffield, and Cabrera have had an impact on their lineup and run scoring. This group will start to score runs, the pitching is a concern but it shouldn’t continue to be this bad. They couldn’t have gotten off to a worse start but it’s too soon to say they can’t or won’t pick it up. 96% of the season is left, people should hold off before pronouncing them finished. Kansas City didn’t win the division by sweeping those first 3 and Detroit didn’t lose it.

  5. Sarah Green says:

    I agree that they’re good for at least 2nd in their division, but that’s also got a lot to do with the relative weakness of the White Sox, Twins, and Royals. For any of those teams to beat them in the standings, the wheels would have to just completely fall off in Detroit. Which hasn’t happened. Yet.

    Not that I’m not writing them off. I’m just pleased that I have been vindicated—and so soon!—in my then-controversial assertion that Detroit’s offseason moves were overrated. (Nonetheless, my pre-season prediction was that Detroit would win the division but get booted in the first round of playoffs due to their pitching woes. This could still happen, but it would be historic.)

    But yes, they could not have gotten off to a worse start in the first six games than 0 and 6. I will give you that.

  6. Paul Moro says:

    I had the Tigers finishing second and I’m obviously not going to change that so soon. As Sarah points out, the rest of the division just isn’t very good. They’ll right the ship, but I still think the Indians are better.

  7. Sarah Green says:

    I’m not sure which transportation metaphor is more apt, here. Clearly, I originally chose to go with the automotive metaphor—a pile-up, yes, but the wheels are still on (for now). On the other hand, perhaps Paul’s more nautical metaphor works better. You could also properly describe the early going for Detroit as “a train wreck,” though it is still too soon to dub it “a tailspin.”

    Thoughts?

  8. Nick Kapur says:

    I just going to go ahead and say that this 0-6 start is a “dirigible wreck” of Hindenbergian proportions.

  9. Sarah Green says:

    Oh, the humanity!

  10. melissa says:

    So Sarah, it sounds like you think that the rest of the Tigers’ season will be rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. I’m not sure that early season struggles caused by injuries to key offensive players indicates their off-season moves were over-rated. Even the best off-season moves can’t guarantee a team will be able to avoid injury and perform as expected. I think Dumbrowski made good moves but they haven’t paid dividends just yet. Does the Red Sox poor start mean Theo doesn’t deserve an A grade for his off-season moves?

  11. Paul Moro says:

    Melissa, I’m with you to an extent. It’s six games. There isn’t much we can learn.

    But so far, what’s been going wrong with the Tigers are exactly the things that people were talking about prior to the season (but it’s happening to the Nth degree). Sheffield’s age might be showing. His best asset has always been bat speed, which is a skill that can go away pretty suddenly. While adding Miguel Cabrera is huge offensively, there is the downside of losing Inge’s glove. Also, while I think that Guillen will be a fine first baseman, the transition hasn’t been smooth. Renteria isn’t good enough to hit in the AL. Bullpen is a huge question mark without Zumaya and Rodney. And starting pitching isn’t as deep as, say, Cleveland’s.

    But it really has been a Murphy’s Law type situation for Detroit so far, and things will start breaking for them soon. Although not even Curtis Granderson could have turned around that negative 24 run differential, he’ll obviously help.

  12. Sarah Green says:

    As I said above, the Tigers will be fine. They’ll finish at least 2nd in their division. They could still make the playoffs. But people got a little too excited about their “big moves” over the winter and forgot they had no pitching. But I think you are giving false hope to Tigers fans by focusing on their injuries. Every team has injuries, first of all. Second, injuries to Gary Sheffield should surprise no one at this point in his career. And finally, even completely healthy Grandersons and Cabreras would have had a lot of work to do when their team is getting outscored 34 to 11. The fact is, if the Tigers are going to give up an average of five or six runs a game, even a lineup as potent as Detroit’s is going to have a tough time making up for it. They’ll have to a) never get injured and b) never slump. But injuries and slumps are like the death and taxes of baseball.

    Matt Taibbi had some good thoughts on this over at BP: “Sportswriters love slugging teams and love teams with big-ticket home run hitters in the middle of the lineup, which is the main reason why Detroit is getting so much love despite the fact that their pitching looks even worse than last year. Despite the fact that recent history is littered with early collapses in the form of big-slugging teams that went into the season with ignored relief staffs….[But] in choosing between a team that hits a lot and has no relievers and a team that hits some and relieves well, you always take the latter. Which means Cleveland is the obvious choice for the AL Central this year.”

  13. Sarah Green says:

    Ah, Paul. I see you bested me, this time around.

  14. melissa says:

    I completely agree that injuries alone haven’t caused Detroit’s early struggles. I could be dead wrong but I don’t think their pitchers are as bad as they have shown. I thought going into the season they needed more in their bullpen for sure and their pitching will determine whether or not they win this division. It just seemed to me like the point being made was that Detroit is off to 0-6 solely because of off-season moves. It seems kind of quick to me for anyone to say a bad start means bad off-season moves. I will ask again if the same standards are going to be applied to Epstein for counting on Schilling and other aging pitchers?

  15. Sarah Green says:

    No, Melissa, that’s not what I’m getting at. That’s not the point that is being made. Yes, I thought their offseason moves were overrated. And yes, people said I was crazy. (The Tigers were going to score ONE BILLION RUNS! They had Miguel Cabrera! They had—wait for it—EDGAR RENTERIA. What team has ever—EVER—lost with the mighty bat of Edgar Renteria?! Pitching, schmitching!) The baseball world went momentarily crazy for the Tigers, as if they were Miley Cyrus or sub-prime mortgages. So Detroit’s lopsided start is a sort of market correction in the world of hype. Now everyone’s all, “Oh…yeah. Right. Pitching. Right, the bullpen. Not going to score one billion runs. Miguel Cabrera not one-man World Series victory. Edgar Renteria not a golden god. Okay.” The Tigers are still good. They’re just not golden gods. I really don’t think the Red Sox have anything to do with it.

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