How the Tigers bullpen problems and hitting slump go hand-in-hand
While the woes of the bullpen are likely the Tigers' biggest long-range concern, it wouldn't have become this much of a factor, this early in the season, if the Tigers were hitting better.
For a lineup that is supposed to be among the most productive in baseball, the Tigers hitters have been below average.
Their .249 team average is below the American League overall mark of .250. The Tigers also below the American League average in runs scored, hits, OPS and doubles. In their last five games, the Tigers have scored two runs three times, three runs once and five once. The Tigers haven't necessarily been seeing the best pitching, either. None of Seattle pitchers that worked against them Monday, for example, had an ERA of under 4.00 entering the game.
It's not just one segment of the lineup that isn't clicking, either. It's the entire lineup, including the big guns, Miguel Cabrera (0-for-3 with runners in scoring position Monday) and Prince Fielder have been under-performing, although Fielder has shown signs the last couple days of snapping out of it.
Slumping Delmon Young and Brennan Boesch are other key factors. I know Andy Dirks is a fan darling, and so far he has done OK in the second spot in the order, but he must maintain his performance better than he has in the past when he has been streaky.
The Tigers have won two of their last five games - despite their lack of hitting. Their pitching isn't that bad, but their fortunes are based on offensive production. They are not built to help their pitching staff with speed and defense, but rather with run support.
The sooner the Tigers start to provide that run support, the better their bullpen will become. Ideally, Dotel would have been used in a mop up role Monday with Valverde unavailable. I do expect the Tigers bullpen to stabilize, but it won't happen until it is not forced night after night to be the deciding factor.