Well, we’ve seen worse weekends in Ohio. But hey, this isn’t the Jim Harbaugh Newsletter.
No, it’s the Detroit Tigers Newsletter — hello and welcome! — which means we have to talk about that sweep down in Cleveland, which only felt like it finished up at 62-39. The real score was 20-6 over 27 innings, and that might be giving too much credit to the Tigers — they led for just three of 54 half-innings over the weekend, and those were the first three Sunday. Six half-innings in —the bottom of the third in usual parlance —though, and Cleveland was back to an imposing 2-1 lead, never to be caught again.
The sweep — and two losses in three tries against Minnesota before that — dropped the Tigers’ record to 3-6. That’s a 54-108 pace, which is, uh, a bit of a drop from last newsletter’s 108-54 pace.
But that’s what happens when you deal with small sample sizes – which, unfortunately, are all we have in April. Look, we knew the Tigers weren’t going to out-slug their opponents, not with a plan to distribute playing time at first base via Magic 8-Ball — “Who’s on first? “Outlook not so good” — or Ouija board. (How did you think they were going to bring Miggy’s bat back from the dead?)
But hitting .197 with an on-base percentage of .268 and a slugging percentage of .352? That’s uncomfortably close to their nine-game start in 2019, when they had a slash line of .182/.283/.281. Somehow, that team opened at 6-3, then lost 111 of its final 152 games. Things can get worse, is what we’re saying.
Those small sample sizes aren’t all bad, though. With 11 homers already, the Tigers are on pace to hit 198, their most since going deep 211 times in 2016. And their 88 strikeouts — only 13th in the majors! — means they’re on pace for 1,584 whiffs, which is a few under the franchise’s MLB-record 1,595 in 2019.
And then there’s the players. Wilson Ramos has four homers, putting him on pace for 72 this season, which, yes, would be an AL record, and one behind Barry Bonds’ 73 in 2001. Robbie Grossman, meanwhile, already has 10 walks and is on pace for 180; that would be good for third all-time in a single season (behind Bonds’ 2002 and 2004 seasons).
But if these Bonds-ian performances aren’t enough to give you hope for the future, the Freep’s Jeff Seidel has some thoughts here on why there have to be brighter days ahead for the Tigers.
Happy birthday (and a speedy recovery), Miggy!
Speaking of aged sluggers, Miguel Cabrera turns 38 on Sunday, and he’ll have some extra downtime to celebrate, as the Tigers placed him on the 10-day injured list Sunday with a left biceps strain. The IL stint will further slow down Cabrera’s pursuit of the 3,000-hit and 500-homer clubs; he’s 131 hits and 12 homers away. The Freep’s Evan Petzold has the scoop here on how the Tigers plan to handle his absence and recovery.
Other Tigers birthdays this week: Brennan Boesch (36 on Monday), Woodie Fryman (would have been 81 on Monday, died in 2011), Kyle Farnsworth (45 on Wednesday), Steve Avery (51 on Wednesday), Brad Ausmus (52 on Wednesday), Fernando Vina (52 on Friday), Ryan Raburn (40 on Saturday), Jake Rogers (26 on Sunday), Sam Crawford (would have been 141 on Sunday; died in 1968).
So … who’s on first?
Yes, that feels like a question we (and Our Man Seidel) have asked a few times already this year. For at least the next few days, the answer appears to be “Renato Nunez.” Who? Our Man Petzold checked in here with the ex-Orioles slugger who opted to stick with the Tigers when he didn’t make the Opening Day roster.
Akil-ing us softly with his song
The man of the week was certainly Akil Baddoo, who went from “the Rule 5 draft pick” to “the best thing in April since Opening Day” in a span of four games. Of course, when those four games feature…
A.) A home run on the first pitch of your career…
B.) A grand slam in your second game…
C.) A game-winning single in extra innings in your third game…
D.) A triple and an outfield assist in your fourth game…
Well, yeah, you might draw a little attention, especially from the seamheads here at the Freep. Our Man Seidel has the inside story of how Baddoo had to get his house keys from a stranger at the airport after his walkoff single. Our Man Petzold got the scouting report on him from the folks who watched him the most growing up. The Freep’s Shawn Windsor pondered here what a player as exciting as Baddoo would do for Detroit’s other downtrodden squads — the downsquadden, if you will — and Carlos Monarrez apologized for doubting him. (In a different week, Our Man Monarrez copping to an error in baseball judgment might be leading this newsletter.)
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Remembering Mr. Tiger
The Tigers honored another one-time 20-something wunderkind on Tuesday when they paid tribute to Al Kaline on the anniversary of his death in 2020. Our Man Seidel was there, a few hours before Baddoo sent everyone home happy; click here to find out why the ceremony was so needed.
At the other end of the hype train, we have second-year (though still Rookie-of-the-Year-eligible) pitcher Tarik Skubal. The lefty looked sharp in his first start of the year against Cleveland at Comerica Park, then got bombed in just four innings Saturday night in Ohio, as his ERA went from 3.38 to 7.71. But Skubal isn’t worried, as Our Man Petzold noted here: It just means another opportunity to ask himself, as his dad said, “What did I do wrong, and how do I get better?” (Skubal was already processing the question Saturday night, as Our Man Petzold reported here, saying: “What happened today is unacceptable. That’s not who I am.”)
Three to watch
Skubal wasn’t the only Tiger drawing attention on the mound. Here’s three to watch this week:
GREGORY SOTO: Hair today, closer tomorrow?
It was a busy week for the Tigers’ rotation, and not just because pitching coach Chris Fetter exited COVID-19 protocols and rejoined the team Friday. Veteran right-hander Julio Teheran missed his scheduled start Friday with a triceps strain, which soon turned into a 60-day IL stint with a right shoulder strain Sunday. Teheran’s spot goes to Michael Fulmer, whose performance Friday suggested he might be on track to his old self, according to Our Man Petzold. Click here to find out what the 2016 AL Rookie of the Year did to make it through four innings of work for the first time since 2019.
Mark your calendar
The Tigers head west for a pair of series against AL West foes: First up: Three games against AJ Hinch’s former squad in Houston, beginning today. Then, it’s a four-game set — with 9:40 p.m. start times on Thursday and Friday, so start rounding up some cans of Red Bull — in Oakland, where the Tigers haven’t won multiple games in a series since 2015.
If there’s one Tiger not looking forward to the trip to the Bay Area, it’s Hinch. The manager is likely to get an earful from the Oakland crowd, which spent the majority of Houston’s four-game visit there to open the season taunting Astros players. The Astros, for their part, made it a non-factor by hitting eight homers and outscoring the A’s 35-9. We suspect the Tigers will not be helping Hinch out the same way. Our Man Monarrez, though, is hopeful here that Oakland fans — and fans in the Bronx and L.A., for that matter — will lay off Hinch when the Tigers visit. (Yeah, we’ll let you know if he admits he was wrong about that, too.)
But seriously, Barry Bonds hasn’t played since 2007, and turns 57 in July. Are we sure he couldn’t hit .197/.268/.352 right now? If Michigan football can put its faith in a 57-year-old who earned fame and fortune in the Bay Area….