Okay, so no one thought Detroit's Willie Hernandez ever would repeat a 1984 season in which he saved 32 games, protected every ninth-inning lead he walked into and won both the Cy Young and Most Valuable Player awards.
Still, in this 1986 season when so many of the Tigers' weaknesses have been sliced open for all to see -- shortstop Alan Trammell's seven errors, awful starting pitching and a terrible farm system -- none has been more glaring than Hernandez.
He was supposed to be their one constant, and even if outfielder Kirk Gibson went down to injury or starter Jack Morris went through an April slump, the Tigers weren't supposed to blow 3-2 leads.
Now, they're making a habit of it, and scouts are wondering what's up with Hernandez. Through Aug. 5 of last season, he had made good on 53 of 58 save opportunities since joining the Tigers and compiled a 15-7 record and a 1.91 ERA.
Since then, he had blown seven of 22 save chances, lost seven of 10 decisions and come up with a 5.01 ERA through Thursday.
Worse, the one constant in his game -- getting right-handed hitters out -- has gone south, too. In 1984, right-handers batted only .201 off him. Last season, that crept up to .224. This year, they were hitting .351 through Thursday, and his screwball, the pitch he routinely used to get them out, has been rolling more than snapping.
With Bill Campbell injured, the Tigers' bullpen has gone from the best in the game to very average in two years. That bullpen had a 1-3 record through Thursday and, worse, had allowed nine of 16 inherited runners to score.
The moral is: It's going to be a long season in Motown . . .
More on the Tigers: Through Thursday, Manager Sparky Anderson had used 19 lineups in 19 games and had tried three leadoff hitters, three No. 4 hitters and three No. 6 hitters. "It has nothing to do with nothing," Anderson said in his best Stengelese. "A hamstring here, a day off there. There is no such thing as a set lineup this season." . . .
Add Anderson: He was asked if he hesitated about using Frank Tanana against Kansas City Tuesday because Tanana has a 7-20 career record against the Royals.
No, that didn't bother him, Anderson said, adding, "What was was was and what is is is." Sure . . . Clemens' Striking Performance
Leftovers from Boston's Roger Clemens 20-strikeout game Tuesday:
*In the Seattle Mariners' first nine years, they struck out 16 times in a game once. This season, they've done it four times; twice against Boston and twice against Oakland's Jose Rijo.
*Their current pace would have them striking out more than 1,500 times, which would shatter the record of 1,203 by the 1968 New York Mets.
*If Clemens strikes out 13 today versus the A's, he'll establish a two-game record, breaking the mark of 32 shared by Luis Tiant, Nolan Ryan and Dwight Gooden.
*In consecutive starts, Clemens' walks have decreased from five to three to two to zero and his strikeouts have risen from one to five to 10 to 20.
*Clemens' game came exactly eight months after his shoulder operation.
*This was the third time in his three-year big league career he has struck out 15 or more batters without walking anyone . . . For Rangers, a Question of Priorities
Texas Manager Bobby Valentine told his young pitching staff to concentrate on getting hitters out and not to worry about base runners. They haven't. Texas catchers entered Friday's game having thrown out only two of 23 . . .
The New York Yankees' 14 April victories are their most ever, and the biggest surprise has been their starting pitchers, who went 11-3 with a 3.23 ERA. And they won 11 times despite Dave Righetti blowing three saves. Which does not make their principal owner happy.
"Sammy Ellis better get the bullpen going," George Steinbrenner said of the pitching coach. "He'd better get it straightened out." . . . A's Providing Haas Lots of Help Moose Haas is off to a 5-0 start with his new team, the A's, which is not a total surprise. In his five starts, the A's have scored 32 runs for him, an average of 6.4 per game. In his 42 starts with Milwaukee in which he pitched at least five innings, the Brewers scored an average of only 3.48 runs per game . . .