By Spencer Impellizzeri @Spence_I on May 9, 2014
This season was the start of a new chapter for the Detroit Tigers. Brad Ausmus has taken over as the manager after Jim Leyland retired and a number of key players exited during the offseason. So far, everything has gone according to plan, as Ausmus has the Tigers in first place in the AL Central at 20-10. Here's a look at five things we've learned about the Ausmus coached Tigers.
The Tigers rotation has led the way during the team's strong start. Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander and Rick Porcello are a combined 13-3 with ERA's of 1.72, 2.68 and 3.49 respectively. With Anibal Sanchez on the DL, the Tigers promoted prospect Robbie Ray and he was impressive in his debut. Ray and Drew Smyly have both done well for a rotation that has been arguably the best in baseball so far this season.
The Tigers' rookie third baseman is off to a great start to his career. He has followed up a great Spring Training with four home runs and 19 RBIs through the team's first 30 games. Castellanos' average is down, .237, and he has struck out a lot, 21 times to be exact, but the future is very bright and he should find himself in the mix for AL Rookie of the Year.
The Tigers have a new look team in the field and it has shown on the base paths. Last season, the Tigers stole a total of 35 bases, but they have already stolen 28 this year, good for second in the AL. Leading the way are a trio of newcomers; Rajai Davis, with 12, Andrew Romine, 4 and Ian Kinsler, 3. Austin Jackson has also stolen four bases, and it looks like the Tigers have added a new dimension to their game.
With Prince Fielder's departure this offseason, the Tigers turned to Victor Martinez to hit clean-up. He has shown that he is the man for the job. Martinez is currently hitting .333 on the season with seven home runs and 19 RBIs. He has provided protection for Miguel Cabrera in the lineup and has struck out just five times in 111 at bats. What is even more impressive is that those numbers are all better than Fielder's so far this season.
Just like in recent years, the bullpen has been the Tigers' Achilles heel. The bullpen currently has a 5.07 ERA, good for the third worst in the MLB and Joe Nathan has struggled in the closer's role. Good news is that help is on the way. The Tigers recently signed former All-Star Joel Hanrahan, who should be healthy by June after Tommy John surgery, and prospect Corey Knebel is knocking on the door for a call-up.
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