This is one of a series of posts in which I will be breaking down every team in baseball. I am by no means a credible source—merely a casual fan who knows a little about baseball and would like to share my observations.
Today we look at the Tigers, who are looking to improve their luck in the postseason, after three straight unsuccessful Octobers. There are high hopes that a healthy Miguel Cabrera can lead the charge this year, and bring that long-awaited championship to Detroit.
Projected Lineup: 2B Ian Kinsler, RF Torii Hunter, 1B Miguel Cabrera, DH Victor Martinez, CF Austin Jackson, C Alex Avila, 3B Nick Castellanos, LF Don Kelly, SS Andrew Romine
Many well-respected baseball blogs out there have the Tigers as a shoo-in to win the AL Central.
Then there’s my blog, where respect went out the window a long time ago.
The Tigers are far from a sure thing. Let me remind you that they only won the division by one game last year. They’ll be hard-pressed to repeat that performance after losing Prince Fielder, Jhonny Peralta, Omar Infante, Doug Fister and Joaquin Benoit. That’s a fifth of the team. That’s like asking Guns N’ Roses to play “Sweet Child O’ Mine” without Slash.
But it’s not all bad news. Just as Guns N’ Roses attempted to replace Slash with that Buckethead guy (who you can’t deny was pretty awesome for a while), the Tigers added some new guys too. Most notably, they brought Ian Kinsler over from the Rangers.
Kinsler has an important thing working for him: he’s angry. He recently went on record calling Texas GM Jon Daniels a “sleazeball” and basically a big poophead for trading away a franchise player who was an integral part of two pennant-winning squads. That anger will lead to a strong drive to outperform his former team, so look for Kinsler to push hard for a championship this year, something Texas never got to enjoy.
The Tigers also added Joe Nathan, who is now 39 years old, but seems to have plenty left in the tank: last year, his 1.39 ERA and 0.897 WHIP were among the best in baseball. And now he’s back in the AL Central, in the freezing cold of Detroit every night, conditions where he seems to thrive (If you’re curious, Nathan has a career 1.52 ERA at Comerica Park).
My main concern is the Tigers’ offense. With the departed Fielder no longer holding the lineup together, there is a sharp decline in production after the first four hitters. The five hole looks to be occupied by either Torii Hunter or Austin Jackson, neither of whom are viewed as especially intimidating power threats. And from there, it gets worse: Alex Avila put up career lows in nearly every offensive category last season, and then you’ve got rookie Nick Castellanos, a Rajai Davis/Don Kelly platoon, and fringe major leaguer Andrew Romine. Not quite Murderer’s Row.
With Victor Martinez and Max Scherzer each in contract years, the fuse is short for the Tigers as they are currently configured. We could easily see the Tigers’ front office making a big push around midseason, acquiring a few big names in an effort to help the cause. Because there’s no holding back this year in Detroit—after three straight years of postseason runs which were cut short, it’s championship or bust.
Projected Finish: 87-75, Second place in AL Central