It was fun while it lasted.
I'm trying not to be a victim of the moment here. It's not hard to get overly volatile about your team's current situation when they go 1-5 on a six-game homestand, including a brutal 13 to 10 loss today against the Angels in which they had a 10-2 lead in the sixth inning, and then spit it up.
I'm trying to take a step back and take the emotion of the moment out of this. It is fair to say that the 2021 Detroit Tigers have exceeded expectations in many ways. Don't get me wrong, they're not a good team, but considering the expectations and how they started the season with a 9-24 record, a few things have fallen into place. Some of the pitching has come along nicely. They've got some surprise contributions from guys like Akil Baddoo and Eric Haase (both of whom are on the I.L. right now). You've had a very nice season by Robbie Grossman, who has had a career year. Jeimer Candelario and Jonathan Schoop have been consistent as well. They went all summer playing above .500 baseball, which is the last thing that I expected out of this team. It's been a nice little story. With that said, I think the best is over, and I'll tell you why.
A.J. Hinch has managed his ass off this season. He has done a great job constructing and fixing the lineups, and he has managed the bullpen well. He and Chris Fetter have done a great job of handling the young starting pitchers in the rotation like Casey Mize and Tarik Skubal. They have had to deal with a whole plethora of injuries to the starting rotation, and I think they've done the best they can. With that said, the injuries are mounting up a little bit too much. The Tigers just had one of their worst homestands of the season. They went 1-5 against the Indians and the Angels, who are not exactly thriving ball clubs. Now, they will head to Rogers Centre to face a Blue Jays lineup that features four All-Stars. The Tigers' rotation for that series will be Tyler Alexander, Willy Peralta, and Drew Hutchinson.
Alexander started the year in the bullpen. Until a couple of months ago, Willy Peralta had not started a major league game in four years, and Drew Hutchinson hasn't seen major league action since 2018. It took longer than it should've, but the injuries to the pitching staff are finally being felt. The Spencer Turnbull injury was an absolute backbreaker. As much as people (including myself) criticize Matthew Boyd for his inconsistency, he is a legitimate major league pitcher. He was having arguably the best year of his career until he got injured. José Urena is the definition of a fifth starter and a pretty bad one, but he is still a better option than at least two of three pitchers the Tigers will be throwing out there against the Blue Jays. And hey, maybe they prove me wrong.
Perhaps all three of them pitch gems and shut down the Blue Jays lineup. That would be beautiful because winning is always fun. But it's not just this upcoming series that I worry about. 26 of the Tigers' final 39 games are against teams about .500, with 10 of those games coming against 1st place teams. As enjoyable as the last few months of Tigers baseball have been, it is fair to say that they have had a relatively easy schedule. They have played many games against the Rangers, Orioles, and Twins. They took advantage of that. You can only play the teams that are in front of you, And if this was a month ago, and this team was relatively healthy and playing some good baseball, I'd be the first to come on here and say, "Hey, bring it on. Let's see what they can do against the best." But right now, I kind of feel like the Tigers have picked an insufficient time to play some poor baseball.
My genuine hope is that we look back on the summer of 2021 as the beginning of the ascension, the start of something great for the Detroit Tigers. But we can't allow a solid stretch of baseball to blind us from the fact that there are still many holes on this baseball team. Now they could fill those very quickly. Next year, Riley Greene and Spencer Torkelson, two of baseball's top 10 prospects, will be in the major leagues. If Chris Ilitch decides to grow a pair and spend some money, they could have a pretty darn good baseball team next year. But there are still some tough times ahead. It'll all be worth it one day, won't it?