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Tigers have lost plenty of games, but not much belief

By Danny Knobler | Baseball Insider
BOSTON -- The Tigers don't have injuries like the Phillies have injuries.

They don't have a superstar who went homerless in April, the way the Angels had a superstar go homerless in April.

They haven't fallen apart like the Braves fell apart.

The Tigers aren't a mess. They don't look like a mess. They don't sound like a mess.

They're just not winning. Not winning, and not -- it seems -- overly worried.

They still believe that they'll eentually hit their way out of trouble. And they may well be right.

But it hasn't happened yet.

Memorial Day is behind us, and the Tigers are still under .500. They're 23-26 after Tuesday's 6-3 loss to the Red Sox.

Nearly a third of the season is gone, and it's the time of year when high-paid, high-expectation sub-.500 teams start talking about urgency -- as Justin Verlander did last week.

"I just think we've got to find our groove, and we've got to find it quickly," Verlander said, after the Tigers were swept in a three-game series in Cleveland.

The Tigers followed that with three straight wins . . . and then with two more losses, including Tuesday night's atypical Verlander loss.

So what's wrong?

The Tigers are awful defensively . . . but we knew that. Can't blame that.

The Tiger bullpen cost them several games early . . . but very few recently. Can't blame that, either.

The Tigers are getting nothing offensively out of their second basemen (their combined .500 OPS is 29th in baseball, ahead of only the Giants), and have already discarded Brandon Inge (who was released) and Ryan Raburn (who was sent to Triple-A Toledo). But if any lineup should be able to overcome one dead spot, this should be the one.

The Tigers may eventually trade for a second baseman, but there's no sense at all that this team will be urgently looking to add at the trade deadline. This isn't like last year, where the Tigers were absolutely determined to find a starting pitcher (and struck gold with the Doug Fister deal).

Despite what Verlander said, there's no real sense in the clubhouse that more urgency is required.

"Being intense doesn't make anything change," Prince Fielder said Tuesday.

The Tigers seem to believe that someday they'll start hitting like crazy, and all will be solved.

And they may well be right about that.

"We're a good team, and in my opinion we will win our share of games," manager Jim Leyland said Tuesday. "I feel my team is exactly what I think it is. That's no different from Day 1."

With Fielder and Miguel Cabrera in the middle of the lineup, maybe the Tigers are right not to be too concerned. With an American League Central division that still looks less than imposing, maybe they still have plenty of time to get things figured out.

From messages on Twitter, I know that Tiger fans are already worried. From two days in the Tiger clubhouse and various conversations, I know that Tiger people don't show nearly as much concern.

When I asked Verlander on Monday whether winning three games in Minnesota had helped the team's mental state, he said "not a lot."

He didn't mean that three wins weren't welcome. He meant that the mental state didn't need to be helped.

"The emotional state of the team is great," Verlander said. "And that's why I was worried."

But even Verlander wasn't as concerned as it sounded.

"On the one side, I love it -- be calm," he said. "But it's kind of getting to that point."

But like everyone else with the Tigers, Verlander believes that this team will score a lot more runs than it has so far (the Tigers began play Tuesday ranking ninth in the 14-team AL).

Fielder and Miguel Cabrera are both hitting better than .300, and Cabrera is on pace to drive in 132 runs. But it's easy for the Tigers to believe that both will do more; Verlander suggested that the two "are just scratching the surface" of what they can and will do.

The Tigers also believe they'll get Victor Martinez back, perhaps for the final six weeks of the season.

They still think they're the team most of us expected them to be.

"When all is said and done, and the leaves start turning, I would think we'll score runs," Leyland said.

I think so, too. I would think they'll still win the division.

A third of the season is behind us, though, and we haven't seen it yet.
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