YOSHONIS: Frustrated, Detroit Tiger fans? Well, get used to it

Detroit Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire talks before a baseball game against the Cleveland Indians in Detroit, Sunday, July 29, 2018. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Detroit Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire talks before a baseball game against the Cleveland Indians in Detroit, Sunday, July 29, 2018. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

To say this has been an inconsistent season for the Detroit Tigers would be indulging in understatement.

As one might expect from a team of which one has no idea what to expect, the 2018 campaign has its good points and bad points.

The good news is, they will probably not lose 100 games. That was the big question going into the season, and the Tigers would have to lose 38 of its remaining 55 games to hit 100 losses.

The bad news is, that’s still not outside the realm of possibility. They have been playing at a steady .500 clip lately, winning every other game they have played since July 14, but that is an anomaly in itself.

With all of the growing pains and rookie mistakes and anxiety over who will get traded and when, finishing the season on a losing skid is a virtual certainty. it’s just a matter of how bad a skid it will be.

Insiders have been calling players like Jose Iglesias and Michael Fulmer “trade bait” all season, which can’t help an already depressed clubhouse. As expected with a young team (with a couple of notable exceptions), the road between Detroit and Toledo has been well-traveled, with only six players on the roster having enough at-bats to qualify for the batting title (3.1 at-bats per game).

Not that a batting title is coming to Detroit any time soon. Just saying. Nick (or is it Nicholas? I have yet to get the official word) Castellanos is far and away the team’s leading hitter, and he’s currently batting at a nice-but-not-great .292 average with 15 home runs and 58 RBI. Those are numbers the third- or fourth-best hitter on a championship team puts up.

One of those age exceptions happens to be the team’s hottest starting pitcher, Mike Fiers. Fiers is currently 7-6 (most wins on the staff) and leads the team with a 3.54 ERA.

Fiers has been a pleasant surprise, but he’s 33 years old, and will likely not figure in the Tigers’ future plans.

And that what this season is all about: The future. Ron Gardenhire was brought on with the specific purpose of taking young talent and turning them into major-league ballplayers. At this point, wins are secondary to blooding new players, and so results down the stretch may be somewhat less than a top priority.

The good news is, the end of the season is packed with division opponents, and the American League Central is the worst division in baseball. The Cleveland Indians will ease to a division title, currently winning at a .548 clip, the worst winning percentage of any division leader. In three of the other six divisions, that gets you fourth place. No other team in the division has a winning record, making the AL Central the only division in baseball without at least two.

Detroit just sent Cleveland out of town with two wins in a 3-game series, and will play them only three more times this year.

The bad news is, of the eight non-division teams left on the schedule, seven of them have winning records (only Cincinnati, whom the Tigers will only face twice, tonight and tomorrow, does not), and five of them have better records than Cleveland. Two of them are division leaders, Houston and the Chicago Cubs.

What has not changed is that Tiger fans’ expectations are not ambitious ones. Those who foresaw a 100-loss season will likely be pleasantly surprised at the end of the year.

Those who are frustrated at the team’s inconsistent results only have themselves to blame for that frustration. You can’t say you weren’t warned, everybody knew this was going to be a rebuilding year. Those are rarely fun to endure in modern, small-market baseball.

Those who watched Jack Morris and Alan Trammell inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame over the weekend and longed for the halcyon days of 1984 need to remember that there were a few years of similar frustration in the late 1970’s as that team came together.

Detroit Tigers fans need to have patience. The big question now is, will that patience be eventually rewarded?

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Posted by Scott Yoshonis

Scott is the sports editor of the Manistee News Advocate. You can reach him at (231) 398-3112 or syoshonis@pioneergroup.com.

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