Detroit Tigers- Prediction 91-71
The 2013 edition of the reigning American League Champs has some big shoes to fill. Can the team produce back-to-back-to-back MVP’s (2011 Verlander and 2012 Miguel Cabrera)? Can they return to another World Series? These are some debatable topics for the Motor City boys this year. They lost Delmon Young to the Phillies in free agency, however, much that might have been missed was negated by the signing of nine-time Gold Glove winner Torii Hunter. The rest of the roster is pretty much intact and ready for another run in 2013.
The Tigers boasted a pretty darn quality pitching staff in 2012. As a team they were ninth in ERA, 17th in team WHIP, fifth in strikeouts, and 11th in total runs allowed. While those numbers are good it does not do the roster the justice it deserved. Breaking down the starters reveals a little clearer picture. At the top of the rotation there is the best pitcher in baseball in Justin Verlander (17-8, 2.64 ERA, six complete games and 239 strikeouts in 2012) who has been flat out dominant over the last four years. Consider this, the Tigers ace has gone 78-31 with 977 strikeouts, 17 complete games and an ERA that has been one of the best in baseball over that span. At 30 years old there is no reason a repeat of his 2012 numbers shouldn’t be expected as he shows once again why he is so dominant. The anticipated number two in this rotation is Doug Fister (10-10, 3.45 ERA in 2012) who didn’t have a stellar numbers season as a whole but from July through September he was 9-4 with an ERA around 3.15. Those are numbers worthy of a number two in any rotation. To expect him to win 16 games and keep his ERA around 3.50 is no stretch. In the three spot in the rotation is resigned Miami import Anibal Sanchez (9-13, 3.86 ERA in 2012). Once he started to wrap himself around the American League he finished September with five quality starts out of his past six appearances. He should easily win 10-15 games and be a very effective with a full season in the American League Central. Since coming over from Arizona in 2010, Matt Scherzer (16-7, 3.74 ERA in 2012) has been a quality arm for the Detroit Tigers In three seasons he has gone 43-27 for the Tigers and pitching fourth in a rotation will have a calming effect on the youngster. There is no reason why he cannot match the same projections as Sanchez in 2013. Rounding out the rotation is Rick Porcello (10-12, 4.59 ERA in 2012) who is not going to ever give you a 3.00 ERA but if you can trot out a guy who has won at least 10 games in each of the last three seasons in your five spot then life can’t be all that bad. Closer remains a big question for the Tigers. They let go the closer of the past and will most likely be relying on a rookie with no Major League experience, in fact he only has a few games about the AA level. If Rondon can’t handle the job expect Phil Coke to step into the closer role unless the Tigers decide to bring in a veteran to handle their closer duties.
Offensively the Tigers were a top third club in 2012. They managed respectable numbers finishing sixth in team batting average, 11th in runs scored, seventh in slugging and 16th in total team home runs. This team has arguably the best 3-4 spots in any lineup in baseball. Nobody is happier than Miguel Cabrera that the Tigers signed Prince Fielder to provide protection for him in the lineup. These results could not have been more immediate and impactful. Cabrera had the first Triple Crown season since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967. He managed to hit .330 while swatting 44 home runs and driving in 139 runs. While another Triple Crown should not be expected, Cabrera should hit over .300, 35+ home runs and 120+ RBI’s. Fielder is no slouch himself which is why Cabrera saw an increase in hittable pitches in 2012. With his first season in the American League, Fielder did not disappoint the Motor City faithful or the executives that signed him to a huge contract. He debut season in a Tigers uniform yielded 30 home runs, 108 runs batted in and a batting average of .313. Think about that for one second. The 3-4 spots in their lineup hit 74 home runs, drove in 247 runs and hit no worse than .313, that is just insane. His slugging numbered should be on par with last season but I would anticipate his batting average would come down to a more reasonable .280-.285 range in 2013. Players like Austin Jackson (.300 BA, 16 HR and 66 RBI’s), Omar Infante (.274 BA, 12 HR and 53 RBI), coupled with the anticipated return of Victor Martinez from injury and the signing of Torii Hunter should ensure this lineup is formidable.
In my opinion the Tigers better work hard to win with the current roster they have at the major league level now because their farm system is nothing to write home to mom about. In fact it is probably in the bottom 25% of MLB. But even the slimmest of farm systems has a jewel or two. Nick Castellanos is a quality OF prospect that should make it to the big boy by 2014 or an outside shot at a September call-up this year. He will prove valuable as I would not consider left and right field as locked in spots for the Tigers. Danny Vasquez, Matt Hoffman and Casey Crosby are others to keep an eye on. Overall, the Tigers will benefit from a quality team and a week division to make another trip to the post-season after posting a record in the neighborhood of 91-71
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