Paul Wezner, Senior Editor
I think first it's important to note that offense across the board is down through the first month of the season - which is largely attributable to the incredibly poor weather much of the northern teams experienced for the first month. So this isn't just a phenomena that has struck the Tigers. However, the team still has four regulars hitting .200 or under, and only four guys actually have an OPS over .800. Certainly part of this can be attributed to health (Gary Sheffield is still probably working on recovering), and bad luck, but I think at least a portion of it has to be mentioned; last year the Tigers weren't being gunned for, this year they are. The Tigers get everyone's best effort; and hitters like Brandon Inge and Craig Monroe, while effective against mediocre pitching, can struggle against good pitching. It will certainly get better as players work out of their funks, but for certain players, they may not come close to matching their '06 numbers.
Mark Anderson, Associate Editor, Minor Leagues
In all honesty, I'm not really surprised by the start, and I think there's a pretty easy explanation for the offense sputtering. Things just aren't clicking at the same time. Different guys have been hot at various times, and no one person -- outside of Gary Sheffield -- is capable of truly carrying this offense. Polanco was on fire early, with nobody else swinging with him; that and all he was doing was hitting singles. Guillen got it rolling for a bit, but nobody else was helping him out. Maggs has been destroying the baseball the last several games, and Sheffield appears to be coming around, which could be a sign of things to come. In essence, unless this offense has three to four guys ripping on all cylinders at once, they're going to struggle scoring runs. Once you get past the top five, maybe six guys in the lineup, the pitcher has a pretty easy time working through Casey, Inge, and Monroe. Until everyone in the upper half of the lineup is cruising, this lineup will continue to struggle with run scoring.
Jason Avery, Associate Editor, Amateur Baseball
I think the slow start can be attributed to an inconsistent offense, and a bullpen that has struggled early on. The poor weather had an impact on a lot of teams, with the Tigers included. Gary Sheffield has swung the bat better of late, and hopefully Brandon Inge's walkoff homer on Sunday will get him going, but it's hard to score runs when nearly half your regular lineup is hitting below .200 The bullpen has been a great cause for frustration, because the Tigers'
pen has already blown several leads, with Joel Zumaya and Fernando Rodney standing out for their struggles. Kenny Rogers' injury right before the season started was also a major blow, not only because of the dropoff from his replacement to this point, but with the consistency that you knew Rogers would give you quality innings and keep the Tigers in the game.
If Chad Durbin can build on his terrific outing in Chicago, then maybe the Tigers might have something with him, but he's going to have to have a few more good starts to erase my skepticism.
All in all, the Tigers are 13-11 heading into the week, and are only two games behind the Indians. Given the struggles of several key performers, they are in good shape where they are at, especially in as tough a
division as the AL Central.
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