Monday, July 18, 2011

Hitter should be atop Tigers' shopping list

Pitching is the name of the game in baseball.
I get that.
The Detroit Tigers’ staff earned run average is not pretty.
I understand that, too.
I nonetheless believe a bat would be more valuable than another arm during the Tigers’ final 67 games of the season.
A reliable, run-producing, dangerous-at-crunch-time bat.
The Tigers’ pitching staff has an earned run average of 4.29, 12th in the 14-team American League.
But in Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Brad Penny and Rick Porcello, the Tigers have four starters who can range from spectacular to adequate, especially in the talent-challenged A.L. Central Division.
What’s more, the Tigers lead the league in saves with 27; the back of their bullpen, led by Al Alburquerque, Joaquin Benoit and Jose Valverde has done well.
With a small dose of help from their usually under-producing farm, and proper use by manager Jim Leyland, the Tigers should have enough arms to beat Cleveland, Chicago and Minnesota for the top spot in the Central.
Hitting is another matter.
This Tigers team has the same problem Detroit had in 2009 when it came up one victory short in a bid for the Central Division title: It doesn’t hit in the clutch.
Don’t look at the statistics.
Don’t focus on what you see on paper or online.
Don’t draw conclusions from the .300 batting averages of Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez and Jhonny Peralta, or the near-.300 marks of Brennan Boesch and Alex Avila.
Think about what you see when the Tigers play.
Too many rallies end after only a couple of runs score.
Too many runners are left stranded on second and third bases.
Too many innings go wanting when a key hit could make a difference, and alleviate pressure from a taxed and embattled pitching staff.
Austin Jackson, the leadoff hitter, strikes out too often; Magglio Ordonez, the No. 3 batter, doesn’t drive in enough runs; Ryan Raburn and Brandon Inge are having terrible seasons at the plate; Don Kelly (155 at-bats) and Ramon Santiago (129) have 19 RBI combined.
The Tigers are fifth in the A.L. in runs scored and fifth in RBI.
Those stats are fool’s gold.
Sometimes the timing of runs scored is more important than the quantity.
The Tigers could use a fifth starting pitcher.
But, with other contenders driving up the price of pitching, does general manager Dave Dombrowski have anything to trade that will yield a pitcher who is better than what’s already in the fold?
I think not.
But Dombrowski might be able to pry a hitter loose from somewhere, giving Leyland a difference-making weapon to use every day during a pennant race.
Send comments to