DETROIT – Everybody loves Opening Day in Detroit. It means we’ve survived another long winter and the Tigers are finally back in town. Even though the team had already played six games, last Thursday was a party at Comerica Park.
But unfortunately, the good vibes didn’t last very long. After the Tigers built an early 3-2 lead over the Boston Red Sox, Spencer Turnbull and Jose Cisnero coughed up four runs in the sixth. And that was the end of that.
Saturday was never competitive, with the Red Sox dropping a six-spot in the second inning and eventually scoring 14 runs. The Tigers technically kept the finale close on Sunday, but it never really felt like they would be able to fight back after falling down 3-1, and that did end up being the case.
So after an exciting series win in Houston, the Tigers have lost all momentum. Suddenly, they are tied for the worst record in baseball, and also have the worst offense.
Last year’s team finished dead last in scoring by a wide margin, and these Tigers seem determined to defend that title. Detroit ranks last in runs, homers, slugging percentage, and OPS, and is bottom five in the league in hits, batting average, OBP, doubles, and walks.
It starts with Javier Baez, who is supposed to be the anchor at the heart of the order. Instead, he’s 4-for-33 with no extra-base hits and an unsightly .293 OPS. It’s only nine games into the season, but considering Baez’s numbers in 2022, his early performance is discouraging.
Riley Greene and Matt Vierling are playing reasonably well, but Greene is striking out at a downright alarming rate, while half of Vierling’s hits came in one game against Houston.
There aren’t many encouraging pitching performances to point to, either. Matthew Boyd has as many walks as strikeouts, Alex Lange hasn’t struck out a single batter, and Turnbull has been unrecognizable in his return from Tommy John surgery.
For an organization that swore up and down that it was going to emphasize the strike zone (something that is within their own control), well, apparently we can’t even count on that.
The latest example came on Saturday, when Joey Wentz walked the two worst hitters in the Boston lineup with the bases loaded, forcing in two runs and setting up a Rafael Devers grand slam that had Tigers fans turning off the TV by the second inning.
The five pitchers in Detroit’s starting rotation have a combined 23 walks and 24 strikeouts in 39.2 innings. That is a really, really terrible ratio, no matter the sample size.
Nobody expected the Tigers to be any good this season (which is a problem in itself nine years into a rebuild), but it wasn’t unreasonable to hope for some signs of improvement. So far, everything looks pretty much the same, if not worse.
The Tigers have only managed to score 4+ runs three times in nine games, and one of those was a 14-5 loss. That consistent lack of offensive production is exactly what doomed them last season, and the difference this year is that the Tigers aren’t pitching well, either.
There are still 153 games to go, and the offense could heat up as the summer rolls around. Unfortunately, by then, this might already be another lost season.