Tigers are good, but not invincible

Tigers are good, but not invincible
April 13, 2012, 1:43 am
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Through six games, Detroit looks the part of a World Series contender. They've scored more runs than any team in baseball (40), and they have legitimate Cy Young and MVP candidates in Justin Verlander, Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder.

But everything isn't as close to perfect as it seems on the outset of the season. And heading into this weekend's series with the White Sox, the Tigers may actually be at a disadvantage.

The pitching matchups for the series are as follows: Jake Peavy vs. Max Scherzer, Gavin Floyd vs. Adam Wilk, Chris Sale vs. Rick Porcello. It's not a stretch to say the Sox have the advantage in starting pitching in every game of the series.

Of course, Detroit's offense is a pretty nasty equalizer. They have the ability to out-slug any team in the majors, especially if Austin Jackson is setting the table for Cabrera and Fielder.

But with Doug Fister out, Detroit's starting rotation all of a sudden looks fairly thin. Scherzer took a step backwards in 2011 and was lit up by Boston in his first start. Wilk had feeble success in Triple-A last year, although the Tigers could probably do worse with Fister on the shelf. And the 23-year-old Porcello has yet to show signs of taking a major step forward.

A healthy and effective Fister won't make or break Detroit's season, but if he's neither it certainly will hamper their success unless Porcello or Scherzer improve.

Jose Valverde already is showing signs of regression, although their setup situation of Octavio Dotel, Phil Coke and Joaquin Benoit isn't the worst.

The biggest issue for Detroit, though, is their defense. Cabrera will cost Detroit runs at third, and Jhonny Peralta doesn't have a ton of range at short. Second base is a mess if Ryan Raburn or Brandon Inge are there. And Fielder's a below-average defender at first base as well.

Granted, infield defense is just a minor problem compared to those of other teams (like the White Sox). But if the bullpen and starting rotation struggle, poor infield defense will be magnified.

The Tigers are the class of the division and, until further notice, remain the favorites. But they're not perfect, and six games is far too few to count out the rest of the competition.