Face it: The Tigers miss Prince Fielder's bat
Yes, the bullpen stinks.
And, at times, the lineup is weak.
We saw those elements this past weekend when the Tigers dropped two of three to the Blue Jays in Toronto.
Many fans are scratching their heads. Just a few weeks ago, the Tigers had an eight-game lead over the Kansas City Royals. They appeared to have an easy route to a fourth straight AL Central title.
The Tigers even added David Price at the trade deadline, giving them the last three AL Cy Young winners in the same rotation.
Game. Set. Match. ?????
The Royals are now just 1/2 game out of first place. GM Dave Dombrowski put on a happy face in Toronto and told the media covering the team there that he wasn't concerned with the offense.
"We're not hitting right now," Dombrowski told the media. "Going into the last couple days, we were hitting .235 since the All-Star break.
"It's a combination of a few things, but I don't think we've been playing badly. We just aren't swinging the bats real well right now."
So what is the biggest problem with this team? It's simple: The Tigers sorely miss Prince Fielder's bat.
Fans can pooh-pooh all they want because he's injured and out for the season for the Texas Rangers.
However, the Tigers would not be in this position if they didn't trade away Fielder's bat.
Because Prince, who was dealt last November, had a terrible postseason - no home runs or RBI - fans wanted him to disappear and thought he wouldn't be missed.
In reality, on paper at the time of the trade, the Tigers weren't better without Fielder- an All-Star and their only lefty power bat. Hence, the team dumped both salary and talent.
The World Series title the Tigers have been seeking since 1984 wasn't any closer because they swapped Fielder for Ian Kinsler.
And while Kinsler has played well in his first season in Motown, he doesn't do the same things as Fielder at the plate.
Fans seem to only think of that bad postseason rather than the two productive regular seasons he had here.
Fans were more bent out of shape by Fielder's attitude after the Tigers were eliminated by the Boston Red Sox in the American League Championship Series. Instead of being upset or frustrated, Fielder was rather flip, almost as if he didn't care.
It rubbed many fans the wrong way and turned him into public enemy No. 1 on Detroit sports-talk radio.
Before that, many fans were thrilled to get Fielder. He made the All-Star team both years in Motown. He hit a total of 55 homers and averaged 107 RBI over two seasons in Detroit.
Despite Fielder's bad postseason, the combination of Fielder and Miguel Cabrera made for the most dangerous duo in baseball.
Let's not forget that Cabrera won back-to-back AL MVPs with Fielder batting behind him in the cleanup spot. And Cabrera hit 40 or more home runs in each season, the only two times in his career.
This season, Cabrera has just 17 HRs, 84 RBI and a (for Cabrera) sub-par .304 batting average. Coming into Sunday's game, Cabrera was just 1-for-18 on this road trip.
"I've seen Miggy go through streaks that are - where he doesn't hit well," Dombrowski said. "That's one of those he's in right now."
Sure, Cabrera isn't totally healthy. He appears hurt in some way, even though he won't talk about it. But, there's no doubt, he misses Prince's protection.
And yes, Victor Martinez has had a fine year hitting behind Miggy, but it's not the same impact as Prince had in that spot.
With Fielder there, teams were forced to pitch to Cabrera. That changed in 2014. Let's be honest, it has had a big effect to the Tigers' offense, bigger than most fans could have imagined.
In the last few years, it appeared as if money wasn't an object for Tigers' owner Mike Ilitch.
Fielder's long HR dry spell last summer left many wondering if he was really worth that mega-contract.
The production shutout in the postseason probably sealed the deal for the Tigers and Fielder.
Nonetheless, even without Prince in the lineup, MLB experts still picked the Tigers, not only to go back to the World Series, but to win it all this time.
Now, if the Tigers don't win the division or make the postseason, just remember the absence of Prince Fielder is one of the reasons why.
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