It's panic time here in Detroit, and for good reason. We're now in the middle of August and the Tigers are still struggling with some of the basic things legitimate World Series contenders have figured out by now: defense and offensive consistency.
The only reason many haven't recognized it until now is they've been blinded by the underwhelming performance of the Tigers' bullpen. Those relievers had dominated our conversations for the most part, but suddenly people are starting to realize the lack of offense is just as troubling.
This team is 13-18 and hitting a measily .253 since the All-Star break, and they have had too many inexcusable defensive lapses, allowing the opposition to extend innings and raise pitch counts.
In their three game series with the Mariners, the Tigers scored just seven runs, but only three off the Seattle starters. The Tigers are averaging a full run less in the second half than the first, and they are surrendering a half run more. In addition, this team has made the fourth most errors in the league to date (Oakland actually has made more).
Our argument in the past might have been, "every team has a flaw," or "it's early." Sure, other teams have warts, but their strengths are such that they hide them better than the Tigers.
And now, it's August 18th, so it is no longer early. There are just 40 games left for the Tigers. Now granted, they play a lot of games against the Central Division, but they are just 24-21 within the division so far. That, coupled with their recent struggles, is what makes us believe they aren't going to go on some run to overtake the Royals in the division, or the Mariners for the second Wild Card spot.
Before, their inconsistency bothered me. They had too many ups and downs, but today I think they are just an average baseball team that possesses (when healthy) very good starting pitching. That opinion might change if they go on some run like they did to start the year (27-12), but even then I might be questioning whether they could sustain it in a playoff series against the best the Major League Baseball has to offer.
The Tigers aren't playing inconsistent baseball, they are playing a bad brand of baseball that screams they are fundamentally unsound and impatient at the plate. Until they fix that, they won't convince anyone they are a threat to win the World Series.
If they have an intention of proving me and other doubters wrong, they better do it quickly, because a month in a half goes by fast ... and baseball season here in Detroit will be over before you know it.
Matt Shepard is the play-by-play voice of University of Michigan basketball, Eastern Michigan University football and the Detroit Lions television network. He can also be found on TV locally on Fox Sports Detroit and nationally on the Big Ten Network for college hockey and baseball.Learn more.