When DJRadiohead and I made our predictions for the upcoming baseball season, we both pegged the Detroit Tigers to be a fourth place team in their division.
Well, right now they’re in first place. So shut us up.
Yes it’s only been a week, and yes it’s early. But the Tigers will be the last team in the American League to lose a game this season, and only they and the Milwaukee Brewers have yet to lose.
The toast of the league this week was their first baseman, Chris Shelton, who was hitting .700 after Saturday’s games. That’s 14-for-20 with 5 home runs and 9 RBI. Let’s say that again. “Five homers in 20 at-bats.” Last year it took him 75 at-bats to get 5 dingers, and people said he had a hot start last season.
So while a lot of fans will pour attention on to Shelton for the time being, the entire team is hitting the laces off the ball. They are third in the majors in runs scored and tied for fourth in batting average (.327), but they lead all other teams far and away in home runs with 16. (Atlanta is second with 11.)
As of Saturday 23 players in the majors had at least two homers. Six of those wear the gothic ‘D’ (Shelton, Carlos Guillen, Brandon Inge, Magglio Ordonez, Curtis Granderson, Marcus Thames).
But as admirable as that hitting has been, the pleasant surprise was the rotation. All five starting pitchers earned a win in their starts, and only Nate Robertson gave up more than one run. Kenny “Say Cheese” Rogers, Jeremy Bonderman, Mike Maroth, and rookie Justin Verlander gave up a combined three runs in 26 innings. Closer Fernando Rodney is also a perfect 2-for-2 in save opportunities.
As full disclosure, the Tigers are my home team more so than the Indians, but I’ve always thought the Tigers to be a fun team to watch. They were fun to watch last year. They will be fun to watch this year. But I don’t believe this 5-0 start is indicative of how their season will finish.
They may flirt with the Wild Card standings in September, but they have to play a lot of divisional games against the White Sox and Indians. That will ultimately wear them down.
And granted, these five wins came against perennial cellar dwellers Kansas City and Texas. Their first homestand — seven games against the White Sox and Cleveland — may not bode so well for their perfect record.
But to shut down the bats of the normally dangerous Texas lineup at a bandbox like Ameriquest Field is a nice accomplishment for a young team.
And additionally, new manager Jim Leyland — who was never fired from any of his three previous ballclubs– always had faith in Detroit’s baseball team. In this rare photo obtained by Blogcritics, Leyland had them in his thoughts when he managed the Florida Marlins to the 1997 World Series championship.
So here’s to hoping that faith builds a competitive ballclub in what should be one hell of a season in that AL Central for several years.