Weekly record: The Tigers opened their first week of the season with a 4-3 record against the Blue Jays (1-3) and Rangers (3-0).
Star at the plate: This one’s easy. Miguel Cabrera, .520 avg, 3 HR (including a grand slam), 5 R, 10 RBI
Star on the mound: This one’s a bit harder. I’m going with Fernando Rodney, for pitching 3 perfect innings with three strikeouts for two saves
- Already this season, the Tigers have won two games they wouldn’t have last year. They kept a hot-hitting Rangers team from mounting a comeback on Saturday for the 4-3 win, then rallied from a 4-0 deficit to win on Sunday. This is definitely a better team than 2008, I say that with certainty.
- The Tigers have been more consistent at the plate as well, having scored four runs or more in six of seven games. Remember last year and all the shutouts? Probably not gonna see a repeat of that.
- Brandon Inge certainly can’t keep up a 4 home run per week pace, but are we looking at a new Brandon Inge with his new batting stance? Some signs he may be a new Inge? He has two strikeouts in 25 plate appearances (or 8% of plate appearances) , and five walks (20%). His career averages are 22% for strikeouts and 7.8% for walks. I don’t know if you can credit the stance change for Inge’s sudden ability to make better decisions, or if it’s just a fluke of the “limited sample size” thing. Just looking at the advanced stats at Baseball-Reference, Inge seems to be swinging at fewer pitches than normal and making a bit more contact. Via Bilfer, John Dewan pegged Inge as a possible breakout player due to Inge’s incredible spring. Almost any team that make a playoff run needs a few guys to play above their norms, so Inge having a great year would definitely help. Will he have one? Time will tell. Oh, and he hit his 100th career home run, so congrats to him for that!
- The Tigers have really improved their decisions at the plate this year, with the team strikeouts at 14.2% for the week and just 1.32 strikeouts per walk.
- Miguel Cabrera! Wow! What a batter. I wonder how many times he’ll be intentionally walked this year. Carlos Guillen’s going to have to provide better protection than he did this week, or else other teams will catch on fast and give Cabrera the free pass in pressure situations. Thankfully Sunday he made the Rangers pay. But before that, he had less than a .582 OPS and ground into a pair of double plays for the week.
- Say what you will about Justin Verlander, but the way he bounced back Saturday was nice. And while Jim Leyland wanted Verlander to take a bit off his pitches, Detroit’s ace showed he has enough in the tank to rear back and throw fire when he needs to. That final inning, he whipped in a 98 mph fastball. I think Verlander is capable of making the adjustments on the fly he needs to and will smooth out this roller coastery start he’s had to 2009 sooner than later.
- The Tigers got nice starting pitching this week. Really, the only day the starter didn’t give the Tigers an opportunity to win was the season opener with Verlander. Five of the other six days, Detroit was within a run when the bullpen took over, or leading when the bullpen took over. Armando Galarraga was especially strong, as he seems to be a pitcher with a capital P. I hope to see more out of Rick Porcello in his second major league appearance. Edwin Jackson will probably not be as good as his first start but I hope continues to be a battler like he showed Sunday.
- The bullpen has been a strong point so far, too, with the exception of Juan Rincon in his two appearances and Brandon Lyon in his first. Right now, it’s riding a streak of getting 24 consecutive batters out. The late innings team of Bobby Seay, Ryan Perry and Ferando Rodney give me confidence Detroit will be a lot better this year than the last two. Rodney was injured the past two seasons, and the Tigers staff worked with him to improve his delivery this year. So I think his improvement is real and sustainable. Seay has been good all along. Perry is in his first year, but seems to bring the poise he’s advertised as having, though he needs to throw a few more strikes. I’m also liking how Nate Robertson has taken to the pen. All along, I thought his bulldog fighting ability coupled with the shorter stints of relief work would make him into good player. So far, he is. I’m yet to figure out what to make of Lyon. He looked a lot better Sunday. His breaking ball actually broke! I feel like Rincon is on a short leash and needs some good outings soon, too. If Joel Zumaya does get back, the late innings could, in fact, become the Tigers’ strength this season. It feels a bit weird to say, but the bullpen is growing on me, and the Tigers are obviously dangerous at the plate against other teams’ relievers. But it is April, so you can never say these things with certainty. I don’t want to be eating my words in May.
- All in all, not a bad start to the season, but starting today, it’s a bit more real. Now the White Sox come to town, and we know how Detroit has struggled with Chicago. This will be a good test. Then Detroit heads west to Seattle for the second half of the week.