Failure is so much easier to handle when you have someone to blame. That one guy, who no matter what goes wrong gets the brunt of the blame makes it easier on the rest of us.
The Tigers had that guy.
While Brandon Inge is now—ironically, not surprisingly—smacking three run dingers for the Oakland A’s, his departure failed to be the cure-all that nearly every fan hoped it would. When he was here you could blame him for just about anything. Justin Verlander got touched up…I think Inge was looking at him too much. Miguel Cabrera grounded into a rally killing double play, he must have talked to Inge before that at bat and got jinxed. Inge was a terrible player but a great person to point the finger.
Now we’re all stumped that his departure didn’t instantly lead to a 10 game swing in the standings. The truth is the Tigers mediocre start had nothing to do with Brandon Inge, but has everything to do with Jim Leyland finding out the correct formula for this year’s team. Last year it was Cabrera carries the offense, Verlander and Doug Fister lead the rotation and Joaquin Benoit and Jose Valverde close the game out. However, it’s obvious that it’s not going to be the same recipe this season.
While Doug Fister’s loss in the rotation was felt immensely, Drew Smyly has emerged as a legit starter. Cabrera has been good, but hasn’t quite exploded with the addition of Prince Fielder—who’s had a mediocre season of his own.
Outside of Cabrera, Prince and Austin Jackson, the rest of the offense has ranged from awful to below average. Let’s not even get into the bullpen as it seems every player has had a hand in losses this season.
With Fister back and Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello at least showing signs of life, the rotation seems to be in good shape. Leyland has begun to tinker with the lineup and perhaps a move of Andy Dirks to the number two spot and more playing time for Don Kelly will provide a spark while Brennan Boesch and Ryan Raburn try to figure themselves out. The bullpen, however, is going to be a chore for Leyland, because it’s been worse the further you work your way down it.
Long reliever Duane Below has been unhittable, but closer Jose Valverde has been anything but. Everyone else has
ranged somewhere in between.
Valverde, meanwhile, is getting dangerously close to assuming Inge’s vacant role of Tigers blame-all—and it’s certainly been warranted. Two blown saves and four nearly blown saves haven’t endeared him to Tiger fans. In fact, of Valverde’s 13 appearances this season just 1 has been a perfect 1-2-3 inning. Fans are completely justified in questioning Valverde’s ability right now based upon his abysmal performance. He hasn’t had a bad day or week. He’s had a bad month. Leyland can’t rely on this Valverde all year. Something—his performance or the closer—has to change soon.
So while I told you a couple weeks ago to relax, it’s become obvious that the Tigers aren’t going to succeed without change—change that they’re totally capable of making to just get this team clicking again. Dumping Brandon Inge didn’t hurt, but it wasn’t the move that would be the catalyst to a playoff run. Maybe it’s tinkering with the lineup, making a move or just getting the rotation settled. This team right now looks suspiciously close to the pre-Doug Fister 2011 team. Maybe his return is all they need. However, it’s up to Leyland and GM Dave Dombrowski to figure out exactly what needs to happen to get this team back on track. Give them a little time and see where they are, if things aren’t better then we can find our new Inge.