Wednesday, April 16, 2008
The Tigers were all over every station after their first week maladies, but after a 2 game win streak they find themselves only a single game behind the also struggling (but under the radar) Cleveland Indians. Tonight the two face off for the first time of the season and since everyone picked one of the two to win the division lets see who has a bigger cause for concern.
Both teams have experience a decent amount of injuries at the start of the season, with the Tigers suffering more. The Indians had Victor Martinez on the shelf for a little bit but it seems that he is back to near 100%. The Tigers sat Gary Sheffield for a bit with a torn finger tendon and now he's currently playing daily with it. The Indians had to put their closer Joe Borowski on the DL early this week while the Tigers have spent the entire season thus far without Joel Zumaya and Fernando Rodney perhaps their best two setup men. Carlos Guillen is currently playing despite a hamstring strain whcih could potentially worsen at any time. The Tigers additionally have played the entire season without their leadoff man Curtis Granderson. Finally, the D-Train somehow hyper-extended his knee and will miss at minimum two starts.
It's obvious that the Tigers have suffered more injuries thus far this season but should we treat this as a cause for concern or as the reasoning for their slow start? Getting Curtis Granderson back will certainly bolster their roster and when they get back Zumaya and Rodney their bullpen will be significantly improved. But to me not having Zumaya for half the season and potentially having lingering debilitating injuries Gary Sheffiled, Carlos Guillen and the D-Train are a big time cause for concern. So the Tigers are worse off in the injury department.
Both teams have gotten reduced production from players that they hoped would carry them this season. For the Indians the biggest cause for concern has been the pitching of defending Cy Young Winner, CC Sabathia. Through three starts this season Sabathia has an ERA of 11.57. That's miserable. The concern with Sabathia lies with his innings build up and post season failures of 2007. There is a reasonable chance that Sabathia simply won't return to his 2007 self because of the overwork he suffered last season. The other big time cause for concern for the Indians has been their bullpen. Both Rafael Betancourt and Rafael Perez who were studs in 2007 have ERAs over 5, I would imagine that both find a way to turn it around this season.
Meanwhile the Tigers struggles have been everywhere. No starter on their roster has an ERA below 4.5 including Verlander who has an ERA above 6. I don't expect Kenny Rogers, Jeremy Bonderman, or Nate Robertson becoming studs but I do expect them to pitch much better than they have. Similarly their hitters should turn it around eventually. Miguel Cabrera, Gary Sheffield, Ivan Rodriguez and Placido Polanco are all hitting under .216 thus far this season. There is no way that this continues.
Really with the exception of the bullpen and CC the Indians haven't performed that poorly, just run into some bad luck and poor timing. Meanwhile the Tigers have sucked for a lot. I'd expect most of the Tigers to significantly improve what they are doing right now and would really be concerned if I was an Indian fan that the 3,000,000 innings they threw Sabathia last year is going to wind up landing him on the DL in 2008.
If you're a fan of either team you have to be concerned, but to me the Indians fans are the ones who should be a bit more antsy. Sabathia would worry me a ton if I was an Indians fan and the fact that they are only a single game ahead of the Tigers despite Detroit playing miserably for two straight weeks. If I was a Tiger fan I'd figure that my hitting was going to come around and that my pitching is going to markedly improve but would certainly have concerns over lingering injuries and the fact they are starting somebody named Armando Gallaragga tonight. Either way both of these teams need to start winning if they want to exit April without being buried in a ditch.