Roundtable: Tigers Midway Checkup

The turn of the month into July and the All-Star game just over a week away means we've reached the halfway point of the 2014 season. This week's Roundtable question: After just over 81 games, how do you think the first half of the season has gone for the Tigers?

Paul Wezner, Executive Editor

Coming into the season, I expected a marginally weaker starting rotation with a bullpen that would have its ups and downs but be solid on the back end, an offense that didn't have as many fireworks but still was above average at scoring runs, and an improved defense. Compare that to what's happened, through Saturday's game, the offense is right on track, and maybe even slightly better than expected given the unexpected power from the Martinez's - the Tigers are 6th in runs scored and 2nd in wOBA (last year they were 2nd in both). The starting rotation produced 25 wins (WAR) last year which was the best in MLB, while their ERA ranked 4th. This year, the ERA is more middle of the pack at 3.78 (13th in MLB), but still tops with 9.4 wins. The bullpen wasn't great last season with a 4.01 ERA, but they only blew 16 saves (remember, that includes all close leads lost in the late innings, not just the 9th) which was good for 6th in MLB. This year, the Tigers ERA is 3rd worst in MLB with an ERA a half a run higher, but they've only blown eight saves, good for 5th in MLB. Of course, Joe Nathan alone has blown six of those, while Joaquin Benoit only blew two saves last season. Finally, the defense lost the team 66 runs last year, 3rd worst in MLB, but aren't trending any better this year with the struggles in the outfield, the team is -39 in defensive runs saved, 2nd worst in baseball. All in all, the club is still very competitive and in prime position to contend in the postseason again, but the bullpen remains a concern and with a pitching staff that gives up lots of fly balls in a big outfield, the outfield defense will have to be watched closely.

Mark Anderson, Director of Scouting

For all the gnashing of teeth and crying when the team was struggling, it is still pretty difficult to argue with their overall performance in the first half of this season. The Tigers currently own a four game lead in the Division and have the third best winning percentage in the American League; all of this coming on the heels of a three-game sweep of the team with the best winning percentage in baseball. That's a helluva finish to the first half, a first half that has seen the team struggle but ultimately play quality baseball in all phases of the game. The starting pitching has begun to round back into form. The offense, while not the bashing, slugging offense we have come accustomed to in Detroit the last few years, is still producing enough runs to win ball games, and the defense has been improved over recent seasons. The bullpen remains a question and the performance of outfielders not named J.D. Martinez is an issue, but even with those warts, this club looks poised to runaway with the Central Division crown and will have strong odds of making a deep postseason run.

Neil Weinberg, Senior Analyst

If you evaluate the Tigers season on the whole, rather than in the three distinct pieces, it makes perfect sense. They're a good, but not great team who are a few games up on some reasonably weak competition. That's exactly what I expected. Their offense has some holes, their infield defense is improved, their outfield defense is rough, and their pitching is a step back from 2013 but still ahead of most of the league. There's no particular reason for why they tore it up for forty games and then played like a rookie ball team for thirty games, but the quality of the overall performance is right where they should be. If the Tigers want to be a serious World Series favorite they need to make some upgrades, but they're built to make the playoffs and are playing like it. They need more from the bullpen and the outfield especially, but their rookie manager also needs work out his early season missteps before the leaves turn brown and one loss can mean elimination.




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