Monday, July 04, 2005

Chien-Ming Wang?? Tigers Make Another No-Name Look Like An Ace

Cy Young has been dead for over 50 years, but the Tigers are gonna just keep on trying to revive him, apparently.

Their latest efforts at recreating the great Young came yesterday, as the Tigers succumbed meekly to a pitcher named Chien-Ming Wang of the Yankees, 1-0. Rookie Wang pitched seven innings of the shutout, and added himself to the growing list of pedestrian pitchers the Tigers have, over the last several years, made look like the legendary Young, who won 511 games and who has an award named after him, as I'm sure you are aware of by now.

So the Tigers continue to treat the .500 mark like a deadly, highly contagious disease. They are 2-8 since their latest bob over the break even mark. Hard to believe this team was actually 35-33 a short while ago.

I have come to the conclusion -- and I highly doubt I am alone on this one -- that our baseball team will never amount to much of anything until they start clobbering these mediocre and/or rookie pitchers on a more consistent basis, instead of making them feel as comfy as an airline passenger in first class. But for whatever reason -- and maybe new hitting coach Kirk Gibson has some answers -- the Tigers, despite increased firepower the last couple of seasons, rush through at-bats like they have a train to catch. They continue to be awful with runners in scoring position and less than two outs. They're great at loading the bases, but not so good at unloading them, unless it's out number three. They are wasting a simply terrific year from their pitching staff, a performance that we haven't seen from a staff here in years. Poor Nate Robertson, who pitched the complete game 0-1 loss yesterday, hasn't won a game in Comerica Park this season and only has three wins overall despite an ERA of 3.35. But it's not just Robertson who has been devoid of support. The starters are pitching deep into games, the bullpen is holding them down, yet the Tigers' offense, supposedly a strength, is scuffling around to score three or four runs a game. Hence the maddening game of peek-a-boo with the .500 plateau.

What it boils down to is the Tigers' offense is feast or famine. They are terrific enough to win 10-2 but are just as likely to be awful enough to lose 1-0. This inconsistency is troubling and a classic symptom of a struggling offense. You play 162 games, you're gonna have a few games where you kick the other team's butt. But you also have to win the close, low-scoring affairs, and that's where the Tigers have been undeniably horrible lately. Look at the White Sox with their sparkling record in one-run games -- something like 27-9 or thereabouts -- and you'll see what winning the close ones will do for your place in the standings. Just last week, in the middle game of their three-game set with the Chisox in Detroit, the Tigers had far more chances to win in the late and extra innings, but guess who found a way to win after all? And guess which team ended the game by leaving the bases loaded -- again?

The Tigers need to go on one of those 20-10 kinds of rolls to make some real noise and sneak into the back of the line of wild card contenders, but that absolutely will not happen as long as they continue to channel Cy Young through the body of guys like Chien-Ming Wang. My goodness, what will Curt Schilling and his ilk do to this ballclub?

Oh, one more note to Tigers' hitters: "walk" is not a four-letter word.

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