Tigers not as good as predicted?

It’s easy to kick a team when it’s down and with the Detroit Tigers, it’s even more so.

After starting out 27-12, the club had gone 7-17 heading into Saturday’s game. Its big lead in the American League Central has dwindles to a meager 1 1/2 games.

To say the Tigers are scuffling would be an understatement. They’re just plain awful right now.

Poor hitting, even worse starting pitching and a bullpen that can’t hold off anyone have led to the team’s slide of late.

Other than Victor Martinez (.324 entering Saturday) and Miguel Cabrera (.324), who have combined for 28 home runs and 95 RBIs, Detroit batters have been in a funk for a long time.

No other Detroit regular hitter is batting .279 or better, though rookie Eugenio Saurez – in his first five games – was at .333. That won’t last.

Does it seem like every time the Tigers put people on base, Austin Jackson (.258) or Alex Avila (.216) come to the plate and make an out?

The team’s starting pitching, meanwhile, has unraveled of late.

Justin Verlander is now 6-6 with a 4.61 ERA; Rick Porcello, after a quick start, has fallen back to earth to be 8-4 with a 4.04 ERA; and Drew Smyly at 3-5, 3.58, has been inconsistent, at best.

Defending Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer is pitching well. But before Thursday, when he pitched his first career complete game, he has rarely gotten past the sixth inning due to a high pitch count, which taxes an already shaky bullpen.

And Anibal Sanchez, after a stint on the DL due to a blister, was 2-2 with a 2.24 ERA before Saturday’s game with the Twins. Though he has pitched well, he hasn’t gotten much run support.

The Tigers’ bullpen has fallen on hard times of late. Closer Joe Nathan’s ERA is a staggering 7.04 and Phil Coke – why is he still on the team? – has an ERA of 5.73.

That kind of relief pitching doesn’t cut it.

It’s tempting to say a lot of Tigers are underachieving at this point of the season. But it’s probably more likely they just don’t have as much talent as fans had hoped for or expected.

It’s still early, of course. The Tigers have played just 63 games of a 162-game schedule. They could win a couple of games, then go on a hot streak that makes them one of Major League Baseball’s best teams.

Unless team President-General Manager Dave Dombrowski shores up the bullpen and adds a lefthanded batter with some pop, however, the odds aren’t favorable of that happening.

Craig Remsburg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 251. His email address is cremsburg@miningjournal.net.