After painful rebuild, Tigers still stuck in neutral

May 29, 2022, 11:33 AM | Updated: 11:34 pm
Detroit Tigers' Tucker Barnhart reacts after popping up to second during the fifth inning of a base...

Detroit Tigers' Tucker Barnhart reacts after popping up to second during the fifth inning of a baseball game against the Cleveland Guardians, Thursday, May 26, 2022, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

(AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

              San Francisco Giants' Joc Pederson, right, runs the bases on a two-run home run, as New York Mets third baseman Eduardo Escobar looks away during the fifth inning of a baseball game in San Francisco, Tuesday, May 24, 2022. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)
            
              Detroit Tigers' Tucker Barnhart reacts after popping up to second during the fifth inning of a baseball game against the Cleveland Guardians, Thursday, May 26, 2022, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
            
              Toronto Blue Jays' Vladimir Guerrero Jr., left, is congratulated by Santiago Espinal as teammates throw sunflower seeds at him after he hit a solo home run during the sixth inning of a baseball game against the Los Angeles Angels Thursday, May 26, 2022, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

After an encouraging second half in 2021, the Detroit Tigers were significant spenders last offseason for the first time in a while. It hasn’t yet worked out like they hoped.

Javier Báez (six years, $140 million) is hitting .194. Eduardo Rodriguez (five years, $77 million) has one win in eight starts with a 4.38 ERA.

Detroit hasn’t made the postseason since 2014, and the Tigers are reaching the point where they should expect their rebuild to pay dividends. It’s not happening this season, so far. The team is 17-29, 11 games out of first place in the AL Central.

Detroit started slowly last season too, but when a 9-24 mark eventually turned into a respectable 77-win season, it seemed the worst might be behind the Tigers. An anemic offense has prevented Detroit from building on that. The Tigers have been held to two or fewer runs 24 times already, going 2-22 in those games.

Of the six hitters with the most at-bats for Detroit this year, five of them are hitting below .200. That includes Spencer Torkelson, the top pick in the 2020 draft. Detroit also has Casey Mize, the No. 1 pick in 2018, but the right-hander has made only two starts in 2022 because of elbow problems.

If there’s an obvious bright spot for Detroit, it’s been the performance of 25-year-old lefty Tarik Skubal, who is 3-2 with a 2.44 ERA, 55 strikeouts and just nine walks. He’s one young prospect who seems to be panning out nicely for the Tigers.

REBOUND

After losing 22 of their first 25 games, the Cincinnati Reds have won 13 of their last 22. That’s not enough to climb out of last place, but two teams — Pittsburgh and Kansas City — now have a worse run differential than Cincinnati.

The Reds helped themselves in that department by clobbering the Chicago Cub s 20-5 on Thursday.

TURNING POINT?

Toronto’s run differential is still below zero at minus-1, but the Blue Jays have now won five games in a row to pull within 5 1/2 games of the AL East-leading Yankees. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. homered off Shohei Ohtani on Thursday night, but he was also scratched from Sunday’s game because of a sore wrist. He’s hitting just .256 with nine homers and 24 RBIs this season.

Still, the Blue Jays have scored 35 runs during this winning streak and are starting to resemble the team that was expected to be a real threat in the American League this year.

TRIVIA TIME

Who are the only teams with a lower batting average this season than Detroit’s .220?

LINE OF THE WEEK

Joc Pederson — who was in the news for other reasons later in the week — had three home runs and eight RBIs in San Francisco’s 13-12 victory over the New York Mets on Tuesday night. Pederson hit a tying single with two outs in the ninth, and the Giants eventually won the game that inning.

New York’s Francisco Lindor homered, tripled and had six RBIs in that same game.

COMEBACK OF THE WEEK

That wild Mets-Giants clash could have certainly qualified — no matter which team prevailed. New York had a 0.7% chance to win, according to Baseball Savant, in the seventh inning while trailing 8-2. Then the Mets scored two runs that inning and seven in the eighth, and in the bottom of the eighth New York’s win probability peaked at 96.1%. Then the Giants rallied for the victory.

But the comeback of the week goes to the Baltimore Orioles, who also trailed 8-2 in the seventh and had a 0.9% chance to win at Boston. The Orioles scored three runs in both the seventh and eighth and four more in the ninth, and unlike the Mets, they held on for a 12-8 win.

TRIVIA ANSWER

Arizona (.217) and Oakland (.215).

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Follow Noah Trister at www.Twitter.com/noahtrister

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