This has been, for the most part, a miserable stretch of baseball for the Tigers. But while frustration grows each day, the team’s architect, Dave Dombrowski, has been calm and realistic.
That’s because there’s little he can do now to change this troubling situation. Dombrowski chose to bolster his pitching staff with the acquisitions of Joakim Soria and David Price, knowing full well that by not reinforcing his inconsistent offense, he was taking a calculated risk.
That risk, at least so far, hasn’t panned out because the strength of the team, pitching, has been hampered by injuries and the continuing saga of Justin Verlander.
Toss in the news that Andy Dirk’s return this season isn’t going to happen now — leaving the Tigers with a left-handed hitting corps (aside from Victor Martinez) that’s anemic — is major cause for worry.
Dombrowski has certainly made some mistakes over the past 12 months, but when he traded for Price, he asked the assembled media if a major-league slugger was dealt during baseball’s trade-deadline frenzy. Except for Yoenis Cespedes — whom Oakland never would have moved to Detroit — the answer was no.
We will never know for sure if Dombrowski tried to acquire any everyday players to compensate for his team’s offensive deficiencies, but it’s safe to surmise that once the market for proven offense was non-existent or the asking price too steep, Dombrowski then moved forward with his focus on pitching.
By his own admission, the trade for Price sort of fell into the Tigers’ lap and made sense. Price could be a Tiger for many years to come, and if Max Scherzer bolts, Price is more than an adequate replacement.
And regardless of what offensive talent was available, Soria was definitely needed to shore up a weak bullpen.
Once Price was acquired, Dombrowski tossed the dice with a starting rotation of Scherzer, Price, Verlander, Anibal Sanchez and Rick Porcello. Coupled with a back-end bullpen of Soria, Joba Chamberlain and Joe Nathan, it’s pretty clear what Dombrowski believed Detroit’s game plan was for the remainder of the season.
With a starting rotation that’s considered one of the best in the majors, the chances of each starter going deep into games was a reasonable expectation. Then the Tigers would hand the ball over to a proven reliever in the late innings.
As long as this scenario played out during most games, the Tigers just needed to have a speck of offense and would win more than they lost.
Obviously, this hasn’t been the case. Sanchez and Soria are on the disabled list; Verlander is a walking soap opera; and Nathan appears to be a shell of himself.
Because of this calamity, the pressure on the Tigers’ offense has been tremendous, and it hasn’t been able to respond.
The hard truth is, unless Sanchez, Soria, Verlander and Nathan put together a September rebound that’s legendary — and Price, Scherzer and Porcello win almost all of their starts — pitching isn’t going to carry this team like Dombrowski hoped it would.
The Tigers are going to have to consistently hit more, and it’s looking more and more like that’s not going to happen.