Since my last post the Tigers have completed the first “inning” of baseball, or initial 18 games (assuming my math is right this time…). They ended the top half of the first at 3 games over, and the bottom half at 3 games under, for an even 9-9. Not the start we were hoping for, but probably in line with most expectations. The White Sox are off to a sizzling start, but we’ve seen this before. It’s too early to worry about the standings.
So what did we see in the first inning?
1) Cabrera was a bit worrisome to some, but he’s been back to his old self this week, and there’s no reason for concern in my mind. He’ll hit his usual .320/.400/.560 with 30 HR and 120 RBI. Note that his OPS over the past week is 1.100+.
2) Despite a .231 BA, Saltalamacchia is murdering the baseball, leading the team with a .673 slugging. He’s not going to keep this up, but considering that he’s a backup, I’m thrilled. I love the idea of his lefty power coming off the bench late in games.
3) Verlander is a real concern. His average FB this year sits at 93.01 MPH, just a hair above the MLB average of 92.59. Let’s call it what it is, his days as a power pitcher are done. He has problems starting and finishing games, and his lack of command is going to lead to a lot of early exits. I still have hope that he can transition to a dominant finesse pitcher because he’s always had a plus plus curveball and has developed a legitimate change and slider; but the change is less effective with the loss of velocity on his fastball, and he regularly has problems locating his slider. He’s throwing his slider more than ever before (17.9% of the time), so keep an eye on how well he locates that pitch is moving forward.
4) Anibal Sanchez has had enough starts to put doubts in my mind about his place in the rotation. He hasn’t completed the 6th inning this year after doing so in 20/24 starts last year (excluding his last one where he got injured). His WHIP is nearly 2, and his GO/AO is an awful .68. Groundballs are good. Flyballs are bad; unless you’re a power pitcher. Sanchez is striking out a ton (9.89/9), but that is quickly offset by a 6.08/9 BB rate. Seriously, he’s a problem.
5) Fortunately, the bullpen (other than VerHagen and FRod), has been stellar. If we’re only gonna get 5 innings out of Verlander and Sanchez, we’re going to need the pen. The middle guys have been as advertised, and I think that FRod will progress to normal.
6) VMart looks healthy, we’ll need his bat to keep up with the runs our starters are giving up.
7) Casty had an amazing first inning at the plate, and he’s been better in the field. If he can be an average third baseman I’ll be thrilled.
8) Ausmus looks like he’s “still learning”, though let’s credit him with the recent JD 2-hole move (even though this is post “first inning”). Early returns are positive. I’m curious to see how long he leaves JD in that spot.
Anyway, the Tigers travel to Minnesota for three, and take on a Twins team that looks destined for the Central cellar. Here’s a fun fact. The Twins have only scored 77 runs in 22 games, or 3.5 per game. The Royals have only scored 77 runs (one less game), but the Royals are 5.5 games up on the Twins. That’s pitching right there.
A shocked Michael Fulmer gets the rock tonight in his first big league start. Fulmer is the Tigers’ top pitching prospect, but let’s consider the comparison pool.
Hopping on a plane this evening, someone please post the lineup later today. Baseball-Reference game preview here.