At 6-3, the Tigers could be feeling good about themselves and their ability to come from behind on several occasions so far this year. Or they could be concerned – as most fans are – about their inability to do any damage against an opponent’s starting pitcher.
While I’m sure that carving up the Kansas City and Cleveland bullpens must feel good it’s not the same as knocking out a stud starting pitcher like the one they face tonight in Seattle: Felix Hernandez.
(Come to think of it, I’d settle for them pounding a pedestrian starter along the lines of Kyle Davies.)
How big a disparity is there between the Tigers’ offensive attack against starters versus bullpens? Try five-and-a-half runs. (Yes, I realize it’s the Royals and Indians. Play along, won’t you?)
On the flip side, through the first nine games opposing starters have amassed 54.1 innings pitched and surrendered just 19 earned runs. That’s good for a 3.16 ERA.
Against relievers, of course, the Tigers are faring marvelously: in 25.1 innings they’ve tagged bullpens for 24 earned runs – a 8.61 ERA.
That trend is likely to end against the Mariners, if the first two weeks are any indication: Seattle’s bullpen boasts a 2.35 ERA and closer David Aardsma is perfect in four save opportunities.
Then again, the reverse might be true in this series. Get past the winless-but-brilliant Hernandez (3.29 ERA, almost six strikeouts per nine innings in his first two starts) and the starters that follow — Ian Snell and Ryan Rowland-Smith — each have an ERA of five or higher.
In Anaheim, the series that follows Seattle, the Tigers might be able to pounce on the entire Angels staff which has a 5.83 ERA. What’s more, two starters — Joe Saunders and Ervin Santana — have ERAs close to or above seven. And a third, lefty Scott Kazmir, sports an ERA of 13.50.
(By the way, you might enjoy hearing that new Angels closer Fernando Rodney has allowed four earned runs in four innings of work.)
Yes, it’s the second week of the season. Yes, these disparities and micro-trends will likely even out soon enough. But the reality for the Tigers is that the starting rotations they’ll see the most this year, particularly the Twins’ and White Sox’, will be stingy.
That’s why Detroit best get its head around the notion of pasting a starter or two right quick.
And this weekend would be a good time to start.