The baseball season is 162 games. It is usually safe to assume the first few weeks will be a warm-up for the teams. The real talent does not usually begin until May.
My oh my, how happy we should be for that.
Do not get me wrong. Detroit finished April first in their division with a respectable 14-9 record. A winning record in the training wheels month of the season is little to complain about. Combine three games postponed to weather and a couple walk-offs, the Tigers found consistency in an inconsistent month.
The inconsistency is partially due to the weather. Perhaps a bit more due to that pesky Detroit bullpen.
I have spoken about the woes of the bullpen before. April was an ugly month for the men in left field, posting a lovely 5.40 ERA for non-starting pitchers. Second worst in the MLB to the Houston Astros. Joe Nathan blew his first two saves in the Old English D, Luke Putkonen landed on the 15-day DL with elbow problems and Phil Coke could not find the strike zone if Alex Avila’s glove was magnetized.
Despite the inability for starting pitchers to get in grooves and relief pitchers getting, well, anything, Detroit kept finding ways to win. As a soon-to-be-magical May entered, the Tigers entered with a two-game winning streak against the Central foes, the White Sox.
And that is when the team went berserk.
I’m not sure if Ausmus fed this team encouraging words or Adderall, but something lit a fire under this team. Detroit continued their division road trip to Kansas City, where everything went right. In their three games in KC, Detroit outscored their rivals 26-8 and outhit them 42-16 in a three game sweep. It was not even close. In the current month of May, this Detroit team is matting an insane .359.
They did not stop there. Returning to Comerica, the Tigers happily hosted the team with the worst record in baseball, the Houston Astros. So far, Detroit has taken all three games of the four game series. The bullpen during the Houston series has given up just four hits in three games and recorded two saves.
It may seem minimal, but it is a sign of change. With Dombrowski adding relief pitcher Joel Hanrahan to the depth chart, change is definitely coming in May. Or June. Whenever Hanrahan feels he won’t snap his arm in half after his Tommy John surgery.
There is also this man named Miguel Cabrera. Not sure if you have heard of him. An up and coming star, Cabrera had his quietest April of his career. With a perfectly mediocre batting average of .236 on April 23, many started questioning whether Cabrera would ever regain his power after his groin injury in 2013.
It did not take long to silence those haters either.
Cabrera had 15 RBI’s and two homers in the month of April. Through six games in May, he has hit another two bombs and tallied 10 RBI’s. He has hit .417 during those series, and raised his overall average to a slightly higher than mediocre .292. When a .292 is mediocre for a player, you know there is little to worry about.
Detroit is currently riding the high of an eight-game winning streak and snatched the top record in the majors from the Brewers. While it is fair to assume Detroit won’t go 153-9, we would certainly welcome it.
With Putkonen and Hanrahan adding support to a bullpen finally finding its form, Detroit is in good shape. In our most recent Tiger Talk podcast, panelist Zac Swierad called this scrappy Detroit club a “team of destiny.”
I might be crazy enough to agree with him.
Richie Cozzolino is host of Tiger Talk for Impact Sports.