The 2016 version of the Detroit Tigers entered the All-Star break slightly above the .500 mark at 46-43 and in second place in the American League Central standings.
For many Tigers fans, their record at the break is a bit of a disappointment. Even though the team finished in last place in the division last year, new General Manager Al Avila made some key changes that were expected to make them a contender once again.
In one of the first moves of many, Avila signed starting pitcher Jordan Zimmermann to a five-year $110 million contract
Avila then revamped the bullpen which has been a problem in recent seasons. He brought in Justin Wilson from the Yankees and Mark Lowe from the Blue Jays to nail down the 7th and 8th innings.
He then went out and got an experienced closer in Francisco Rodriguez to handle the 9th inning and finish off games.
Offensively it was expected the team would stand pat in the offseason. The Tigers have a strong hitting team with the likes of Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez, J.D. Martinez and Ian Kinsler.
But Avila surprised many by nabbing one of the most sought after Free-Agent outfielders in Justin Upton to take over in left field.
So you can see why Tigers fans had a renewed level of optimism heading into spring training this year. However, those moves haven’t totally worked out as planned.
Although Rodriguez has been really good so far (with a couple of exceptions), Lowe has been a disaster. In 35 games so far with the Tigers, his ERA sits at an almost hard to believe 9.39.
Wilson on the other hand has been about what the team expected with an ERA of 3.31 in 39 games. He has also provided a lefthanded power arm from the bullpen that all teams need.
Zimmermann started off really strong but after a few injury concerns has tailed off a bit. He is still considered a strong asset going into the second half of the season.
Upton, however, has struggled mightily. Always considered a streaky hitter, the Tigers are still waiting for one of those positive streaks. The hope is that after a half-season to get comfortable in Detroit, Upton gets hot for a few weeks and carries the team.
Some of the positives from the first half of the season is the production from second baseman Ian Kinsler, the emergence of Cameron Maybin in center-field and the pitching of rookie sensation Michael Fulmer. Oh and then there’s that guy, Nick Castellanos. He seems to finally be developing into the player they always hoped for.
There is some level of concern as their two best hitters, Cabrera and Victor Martinez, have struggled through slumps recently. But the expectation is that their bats will come around as long as they stay healthy.
So to make that push for the postseason they will need their bats to heat up which includes J.D. Martinez who is currently on the disabled list.
They also need starting pitchers Justin Verlander and Fulmer to continue their dominance with assistance from Zimmermann and Daniel Norris down the stretch.
Tiger fans will be watching closely and hoping they can get on a roll and make it into the playoffs in 2016. If you can get in, anything can happen.