Tiger Troubles Start and End on the Mound

Wow. That is what I muttered when I turned on the Tiger game yesterday afternoon to see the scoreboard read, Rays: 8, Tigers: 0, in the top of the seventh inning. I turned off the television and started to ponder the same question that has been going through the mind of every Detroit fan since the All Star break: What is wrong with the Tigers?

Before I got too deep into thought by overanalyzing every little mishap, I took a step back and looked at the bright spots. Even with their 11-18 mark after the Mid Summer Classic, the Tigers still hold a record of 63-51 and are only a half game back of the Indians. There are also plenty of games to be played, and with the experience of last year's playoff run and a manager like Jim Leyland, the Tigers have the veteran presence capable of rising to the challenge.

With that being said, why haven't they played up to their enormous potential for the past two months? They have the league's top hitters in Magglio Ordonez and Placido Polonco, the most feared middle of the order in all of baseball and have boasted the best overall offense for a good share of the season. Defensively, Sean Casey scoops everything thrown his way, while Curtis Granderson just may be budding into becoming the game's best defensive centerfielder.

Regardless of the Tigers' success at the plate, the game is still won and lost on the mound – and that is where the Tigers have surprisingly faltered this year. With all five returning starters, and the bullpen expected to bring back Joel Zumaya, Fernando Rodney and Todd Jones, the Tigers were a team with no holes. That is, until reality set in, and the harsh reality is that it's not 2006 anymore.

It is in fact 2007, and as of today, the Tigers are missing flame throwing Joel Zumaya, Justin Verlander is the only starter with an ERA under four, the bullpen struggles have been well documented and the Tigers pitching staff as a whole ranks in the bottom half of the American League with a 4.59 ERA.

As for the Tigers' vaunted starters, Jeremy Bonderman's first inning woes have been troublesome, to say the least. One way or another he must fight through these struggles if he truly is the type of pitcher the Tigers, and experts throughout the game, believe he is capable of becoming. Just as troublesome lines belong to Nate Roberterson, who stands 6-9 on the season with a 4.94 ERA, and 22 year old Andrew Miller (5-4, 4.42), who I firmly believe never should have been promoted in the first place.

With Kenny Rogers landing on the disabled list once again, the Detroit's starting rotation is a shell of what it was expected to be. But that is baseball, as the Tigers weren't expected to contend in 2006 (they did), and as they were expected to roll through the regular season with ease (they haven't).

So, today, is it time to finally start questioning whether or not the Tigers have enough to make the playoffs? That's a firm "yes," and it's due time that the players stop pressing and overanalyzing and remember one thing: they are good. There is a reason that they were pegged as the best team in baseball going into the year, and there is a reason that they are still one of the top teams in the league. They just have to go out on the field and do it.

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