The Bad and The Ugly

The Detroit Tigers

There has been a lot of talk about the Detroit Tigers setting a new record for futility this year.  I have even been guilty of pondering that they might exceed the ineptitude of the 1962 New York Mets (40-120) or the 1899 Cleveland Spiders (20-134).  And there's no question that the talent level of the Tigers in large part is below average by major league standards.  There's also a problem that the Tigers have so much inexperience on the roster.  There is no aspect of their game that they can depend on not to fail.  If their starting pitching performs well, as was shown by Mike Maroth's 7-innings of no-hit ball last week, their bullpen or defense has inevitably let them down.  If they get great pitching the whole game, their offense doesn't show up and visa versa.  This shouldn't be blamed on the players necessarily; it's just poor construction by management.  

However, it is extremely difficult to lose 80% of ones' games.  Just as there is bad luck, there is dumb luck.  And both tend to come in streaks.  The Orioles finished last season losing 32 of their final 36 games.  As a first hand witness, I can testify that their sorrows were due to a combination of a lot of things that went wrong, but it was always something.  And that is what appears to be going on with the Tigers this year.  Granted, this year's Tigers aren't as talented or experienced as last year's Orioles, so they might very well break the record for most losses in a season.   The fact that they are 1-6 in one-run games hasn't helped.  Even with a .500 record in those affairs, they would have only won 7 so far, still putting them at a pace to challenge those woeful Mets.  But just as it was next to impossible for the Royals and Giants and Yankees to continue their hot starts all season, it'll be very difficult for the Tigers to continue their cold start at the same rate.

Grady Little and the Red Sox DHs

I'm not sure what it is, but the Red Sox have had very poor luck getting anything out of their DHs the last two seasons.  Last year, Tony Clark was brought in to supply some pop and a chance at redemption after a couple of injury plagued campaigns in Detroit.  But he was so ineffective last year that some people wondered if he had been afflicted with a debilitating disease.  As it turns out, he's fine and healthy and on pace to hit 27 homers this season in his new home with the Mets.

This winter, the Red Sox brought in Jeremy Giambi and David Ortiz to replace Clark, and apparently, both have come down with the same malady that destroyed Clark last year.  Giambi, who topped .330 in 5 different minor league seasons, is hitting .125 so far this season.  And Ortiz, who has a similar pedigree, is hitting .226.  Both hitters have shown good discipline at the plate - Giambi has walked 12 times in 68 plate appearances, and Ortiz has 10 walks in 72 ups.  So it could be that both are just in a bad slump.

Or it could be the way that Grady Little is using them.  Neither has been given consistent enough at bats to hit their way out of their slumps. Giambi's usage, for example, has been sporadic and somewhat mercurial.  He has played on consecutive days just 6 times this season. And it hasn't seemed to matter whether he has done well or not.  For example, he went 3-for-7 in two games at home against Tampa Bay, with 2 doubles and 3 RBI, then was given the next two games off.  If he had an 0-for, he got the next day off, too.  Ortiz has a similar story.  

I'm not saying that Little should sit hot hitters like Bill Mueller, Shea Hillenbrand and Kevin Millar.  What I am saying is that the Red Sox brought in Ortiz and Giambi because, based on the players' past performance, they thought those two would be more productive hitters than the guys who are currently hot.  And that it's very hard for a hitter to get hot when he only plays a couple games a week, especially if that hitter is used to regular playing time.  I'm also saying that if Little doesn't start to give them more regular playing time, it would not be at all surprising to see a double redux of Tony Clark's 2002 season.

(editor's note: those of you who own Giambi in fantasy leagues should take some solace in the fact that Giambi began the 2000 season hitting .179 in April, and the 2001 season hitting .182 in April, so a slow start is not altogether uncharacteristic.)

(update: after Giambi had a 4-for-4 evening with 2 home runs on 5/11, Little felt compelled to sit the suddenly hot hitter down the following game.  Look for this pattern to continue, regardless of how well any of the DHs are hitting.)

Tout Update

Speaking of Giambi, he's not the only hitter on my Tout team that isn't hitting.  Travis Hafner (.191), Mark Teixeira (.187), Matt Lawton (.204), Kevin Mench (.219 and currently demoted to AAA), Luis Rivas (.205), Geronimo Gil (.193) and Chris Woodard (.223) are all hitting well below reasonable expectation.  Is it me?  Do I curse hitters with my touch?  I'm not sure.  I suppose I should be optimistic, since realistically there is very little chance these guys can continue this degree of ineptitude for a full season.  However, I had Tony Clark last season and he proved that it is possible.  So who knows.

One thing that does seem certain and positive is my knack for picking pitchers.  Each of my starters has performed well so far this season and other than a few horrible outings from Juan Acevedo and Jesus Colome, I have no complaints with my pitching.  In fact, it may get even better with the imminent return of Aaron Sele.  Having another starter should only help in both wins and strikeouts.  It would also help (and make perfect baseball sense) if Rod Gardenhire would move Johan Santana into the rotation, but I can be patient for the time being.  

Something, though, will have to happen with the hitting.  But since it is next to impossible to get reasonable value for guys who are doing this poorly, that "something" may have to be "wait and hope for a hot streak."