When those four include the previous night's second, third, fifth and sixth hitters, it's really not a good sign. When they all show signs of progress in their next game, it's encouraging.
But manager Jim Leyland had been giving those signs for most of the week after the Tigers scored three runs or less in four of their previous five games, including Wednesday's 2-1 loss at Seattle.
"We'll be fine," Leyland said Thursday afternoon after the early hitting, "but we won't be fine just talking about it."
Thus, Miguel Cabrera, Delmon Young, Brennan Boesch and Ryan Raburn were all out early to take their swings. All of them had base hits in Thursday's 10-6 win over the Athletics, including a season high of four hits from Cabrera.
"It's only one game," Cabrera cautioned. "It's all about results. It doesn't matter [about the mechanics]. If you get a hit, you're good, you know?"
Cabrera is no stranger to early work, having spent much of Spring Training at the ballpark soon after the crack of dawn to get in extra defensive work at third base and prepare for his transition. This was different, as are his recent numbers.
Cabrera went through an 0-for-22 stretch -- the second-longest hitless streak in his career -- last month before finding something that clicked while taking extra swings in the batting cage with hitting coach Lloyd McClendon. Cabrera entered Thursday in an 0-for-14 funk.
The two skids weighed down his average to .263, his lowest average through 30 games since he was a 20-year-old rookie in 2003. Thursday's four-hit performance bumped his average to .285.
Leyland believes Cabrera found his flaw this time through his early hitting. Supposedly, he was carrying his hands too high as he readied to swing. As Leyland describes it, Cabrera compares it to a boxer trying to land a body blow.
"That's what you do all this for," Leyland said, "but sometimes slumps, that's an element of the game. That's the human element. We get spoiled. Cabrera's supposed to get two hits and knock in three runs every night. Every time he doesn't, well, that's a red flag.
"Miguel Cabrera is going to hit. Mark it down. Look at the book. Take it to the bank."