Roundtable: Biggest Position of Concern

The offense has some holes. The outfield defense has been a mess. The starting pitchers started struggling out of nowhere. And the bullpen has the 2nd worst ERA in baseball. This week's Roundtable question: What's your biggest position of concern for the Tigers for the remainder of 2014?

Paul Wezner, Executive Editor

There are a number of areas that we could discuss, but for me, if the goal of this team is to win the World Series, then you need a lock down back end of the bullpen to do that, and the Tigers don't have that, or anything resembling it. Joe Nathan, signed to be the club's closer and reliable ninth inning man, has already blown five saves (25% of his save opportunities) while posting a 6.18 ERA. And outside of Joba Chamberlain, there has been little else to be encouraged about. Ian Krol has a .467 wOBA against right-handed hitters. Al Alburquerque has remained his inconsistent self. And thus far, none of the arms summoned from Triple-A have been effective enough to warrant keeping around. Plus, Joel Hanrahan, who was signed in May to hopefully provide a boost, still hasn't faced live hitters in Lakeland and the reports about his bullpen sessions haven't been overly positive. To win games in October, you have to be able to hold onto close games late, and right now, the Tigers can't do that consistently.

Mark Anderson, Director of Scouting

Of all the things Tiger fans should be worried about right now, I would say the top of the list is the starting pitching. Long held as the backbone of this current Tigers run of success, consistent struggles have left the Tigers frequently out of ball games and unable to get back in. The Tigers can win games if the offense sputters or the defense has a few mis-steps, or if the bullpen falters occasionally. They can overcome those obstacles and make a deep post-season run; just as they have in years past. The Tigers cannot win games if Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer are not at least above-average starters from one start to the next. Verlander and Scherzer don't have to be the best pitchers on the pitching staff for this to work; Anibal Sanchez can carry that torch this season, but the two former front of the rotation horses must at least be quality starters that give the club a chance to win. The club cannot count on Drew Smyly having the stamina to last and help in the rotation down the stretch, and that puts even more pressure on Verlander and Scherzer to figure it out. The Tigers season hangs on the ability of their two former Cy Young winners to regain some sliver of their former success and help lead them back to the American League Central crown and another deep playoff run.

James Chipman, Senior Lakeland Correspondent

Wow; where do I begin? The outfield production on both sides of the ball has been disappointing to say the least. Then again, the Tigers' defense in general--something that was supposed to be a strength--has been downright atrocious this season too. I suppose it's easy to point a finger or two at the surprising regression of the front of the rotation. Although I actually believe that situation irons itself out though, for what it's worth. What else can i complain about? Oh, of course, the bullpen. Second to only the Houston Astros for worst ERA in the majors, the Tigers' bullpen (aside from Joba Chamberlain I suppose) has been an exciting game of Russian roulette on a day-to-day basis. So in short, while I firmly believe that there's several concerns with this team, if I'm forced to just pick one area, it's gotta be the bullpen. The Tigers can probably sneak into the postseason with sketchy defense and streaky production from their supporting cast at the plate. The bullpen continues to be their Achilles' heal though; and without a major overhaul, similar to seasons past, it will undoubtedly be their nail in the coffin.

Neil Weinberg, Senior Analyst

It's a tough call, because the bullpen has some serious problems, but the outfield is starting to worry me the most. The collective defense, anchored by Hunter, is a pretty serious problem when you boast a collection of mostly fly ball pitchers, and they aren't doing much to make up for it at the plate. Jackson is showing some positive signs, but Davis is a limited hitter with one great tool and Hunter's on base percentage is hovering below .300. Package that with his awful defense and the Tigers are hurting themselves big time with Hunter and not making up for it anywhere else. Dirks should be on his way back, but one solid replacement might not be enough.

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