COMMENTARY| Picking just one thing that has been the most bothersome of the Detroit Tigers season thus far would be impossible. Defense, lack of power from expected producers, injuries, managing blunders -- it's like picking the lesser evil at this point.
Injuries aren't the team's fault. No one could have anticipated Austin Jackson being out for over two weeks, nor could they have foresaw Andy Dirks' misfortune. The injuries are by far the No. 1 culprit, in my mind, that has taken its toll on the Tigers. Opinions vary. I won't argue against them. Detroit was losing with everyone healthy, but to bounce back and regain their lead in the American League Central, the Tigers have to be at full strength.
Doug Fister's time on the disabled list has been one of the more irritating parts of 2012. I know he can't help it, but the Tigers needed him to complement ace Justin Verlander in order to be a threat. Sure, the Tigers have hitters like Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder, but their success would be predicated on strong pitching, which they haven't come through with.
And that's partly due to injury. And it's partly due to the fact that Verlander hasn't been as phenomenal as he's been in the past. Don't get me wrong, he's still one of the best pitchers in the game. However, he's been left to do it all himself, which I can't help but think has taxed the 2011 AL MVP and Cy Young winner.
Without Fister in the rotation, Verlander would be the only sure win, I thought. But that hasn't been the case. He's struggled in his past handful of starts, owning a 6-4 record and giving up more hits that usual. He went 24-5 in 2011, with two losses coming in April. Granted, he was pretty good Wednesday against the Chicago Cubs in a 5-3 victory; he gave up two earned-runs, five hits and struck out eight in eight innings pitched. Not the typical Verlander gem, but an effective one.
Fister is slated to start Saturday. When he came back the first time, Tigers fans thought the pitching problem would have some sort of potential fix -- Fister's return warranted that thought. But he's 0-3 with a 3.15 ERA and hasn't looked like the guy who set the summer on fire in 2011.
I doubt that he'll return to form anytime soon, to be honest. Detroit can only hope that he comes through when it matters most, late in the summer when it's in a divisional title race.
Sure, Tigers fans all have their gripes: "Why is manager Jim Leyland doing this, or why isn't he doing that?" They're understood. "Why is Ryan Raburn back up with the team?" Or, "Why isn't this guy playing everyday?" It's been an unstoppable flood of whats, buts, and whys.
But the lack of punch at the No. 1 and No. 2 spots -- the should-have-been great duo of Verlander and Fister -- has been the kicker for me.
Adam Biggers has followed Major League Baseball for over 20 years, specifically the Detroit Tigers. He can be found on Twitter @AdamBiggers81.
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