Message to fans: A strong start for Tigers doesn’t necessarily mean a strong season

As with most years, the Detroit Tigers have started their season off with a bang. The team is 6-0, has averaged almost eight runs per game and started the year off with back-to-back shutouts during a three-game sweep of the Minnesota Twins.

But fans must beware of buying into this cast of players so soon. There are several reasons the team is only buttering fans up to be utterly disappointed at the year’s end.

The most alarming issue is the elephant in the room. No, I’m not talking about Alfredo Simon, although the resemblance is uncanny. I’m talking about the bullpen.

With the Tigers, there always seems to be a recurring theme of strong pitching outside of the bullpen. It is like the Bermuda Triangle of pitching, where great careers go to disappear – where the best fastballs and strong sliders go to die.

The most recent examples of this are Joe Nathan and Joakim Soria. Nathan was a six-time All-Star when he signed with Detroit before the 2014 season. Tigers fans took solace in knowing that they finally had a closer who would allow them to relax following the multiple rollercoaster rides former closer Jose Valverde took them on. But instead of finding a sure thing, those following the Tigers have discovered yet another unreliable pitcher at the back end of the ballgame.

Much of the same can be said for Soria, who was acquired last year at the trade deadline to bolster the bullpen. Soria did not add to the ‘pen, but instead added to his ERA (earned run average). Prior to joining the Tigers, his ERA was a solid 2.70 with the Texas Rangers. However, Soria managed to implode multiple times for the Tigers down the stretch, and his ERA jumped to 4.91 in 13 games.

While the bullpen looks like an obvious weak spot, it is important to remember that the starting rotation is not necessarily a strong part for the team, either. On paper they look great: David Price, Justin Verlander, Anibal Sanchez, Alfredo Simon and Shane Greene. It’s a group of veterans with some youth and undeniable talent across the board. There are four former All-Stars and two Cy-Young winners.

But aside from Price, there are questions regarding each pitcher. Verlander has been regressing since winning the MVP a few years back. He has begun the season on the 15-day disabled list, the first time he has found himself on the DL but possibly foreshadowing things to come. Sanchez spent a lot of last year on the disabled list and has a history of be dinged up. Expecting him to stay healthy for the entirety of a 162-game season is not a smart move. Simon was an All-Star last year, but aside from that he has spent his career going back-and-forth between the rotation and the bullpen for the Baltimore Orioles. The team’s fifth starter is Shane Green, a young stud who went 5-3 a year ago with the New York Yankees. Given his youth and inexperience, how many wins can fans expect from him?

With Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez, the lineup figures to be as strong as before. Adding Yoenis Cespedes should even improve it. However, Cabrera and Martinez are both coming off from offseason surgery. As the two sluggers age, how long can they hold up? Without even one of them, the lineup loses much of its flare. JD Martinez came out of nowhere to play well for the Tigers last year, but can he keep it up or was he a fluke? Early on, the offense has been fueled by centerfielder Anthony Gose. However, keep in mind that other players have started well only to finish the season playing poorly (I’m looking at you, Quintin Berry and Chris Shelton).

Yes, the Tigers are a good team, but it is important to remember that they are on thin ice, and one injury could break Tigers fans’ hearts as they hope for a World Series win. I hope they can make something happen, but I am being conservative with my expectations.

This entry was posted on Monday, April 13th, 2015 and is filed under Opinion. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Responses are currently closed, but you can trackback from your own site.

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