Analysis: Are the Tigers Really This Bad?

Now just over a quarter of the way through the season, Tigers fans are pondering a thought they never thought they'd be thinking about – are the Tigers really THIS bad? Common sense, talent, and statistics all say the same thing.

And that same thing is a resounding 'no'.

Looking up and down the lineup and the rotation, there's not too much to truly evaluate. The Tigers' lineup speaks for itself – virtually every position has a player that was an All Star at one time or another. The rotation to its credit has a perfect game, a no-hitter, and a Cy Young runner up.

But how the team has looked on paper and how the team has performed on the field have been two very different things.

The good news? Statistics indicate this stretch of putrid baseball shouldn't continue.

The Tigers 17 wins leave them with the least wins in the entire American League. But by taking a look at adjusted standings using equivalent runs scored, the Tigers would actually be sitting at about 21-23, just two games under .500 (rather than the ten that they are). In layman's terms, the Tigers are better than their record indicates.

Why is there reason to be optimistic? For starters, the Tigers are hitting just .245 with runners in scoring position. The newly acquired Miguel Cabrera is hitting .270, but just .182 with runners in scoring position. Neither trend is likely to continue as the season wears on.

Further, the stats indicate the Tigers offense has been hitting better than they've been turning that into run production. The Tigers' offense currently ranks seventh in the AL in runs scored, but ranks fourth in OPS, and is just 1/100 behind the Chicago White Sox for third. So, the offense isn't scoring plenty of runs right now, but a good portion of that can likely just be attributed to bad luck, something that will even out as the season wears on.

The pitching staff of course is another matter – struggling for much of the first six weeks of the season, and currently ranking last in the AL in ERA. But things have already begun to turn around. Over the six game road trip in which the Tigers went just 1-5, the pitching staff's ERA was just 3.86.

The rotation also posted four quality starts in six chances, addressing a concern that had come up numerous times from fans – and of the two that weren't, one was a start from Nate Robertson that allowed four runs over 5 2/3 innings – not a quality start by definition, but certainly not poor.

And what about the bullpen, that had everyone (this writer included) concerned? For the season, the group has combined for a 3.90 ERA. That is good for tenth in the AL, but they've also been working without Fernando Rodney for the whole season, and Francisco Cruceta for the first month.

So what does one get when they combine some poor starting pitching, a lineup short on luck and lacking in "clutch" hitting, and a bullpen missing its top two setup men? Well, you get an under-achieving group like what the Tigers have been through the first quarter of the season.

What do you get when you combine an improving rotation, a lineup bound to find some better luck, and a bullpen that isn't so bad after all? Well, you get a team that is likely to show much better results in the second quarter of the long and grueling major league season.

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