30 Clubs in 30 Days: Detroit Tigers

Posted: February 22, 2013 in Uncategorized

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Next up on our list of 30 Clubs in 30 Days, the defending American League champion Detroit Tigers. Still licking their wounds from the 4-0 drubbing they received at the hands of the San Francisco Giants, the Tigers were not huge players in the hot stove this offseason. After all, there are not a whole lot of changes that need to be made to a team that is coming off back-to-back playoff berths. Manager Jim Leyland defied the doubters again, proving that his age would not be a problem as he returns in 2013 for his eighth season at the helm.

Much of Detroit’s success will ride on the massive shoulders of RHP Justin Verlander, 3B Miguel Cabrera, and 1B Prince Fielder. GM Dave Dombroski made just two big moves this winter to support those talents, signing free agent OF Torii Hunter from Anaheim and resigning RHP Anibal Sanchez, who was stellar after joining the team from Miami in July. On paper, the Tigers have the best roster in the division. Their rotation is strong enough from top-to-bottom, and of course, they have the “ace-of-aces” in Verlander.

Detroit has won back-to-back Central division crowns, and three in a row seems like a given. Barring injury, we should see this talented unit back in the big dance for a third consecutive season.

Five Year Review:
2012: 88-74
Lost World Series to San Francisco, 4-0
2011: 95-67
Lost ALCS to Texas, 4-2
2010: 81-81
2009: 86-77
2008: 74-88

2012 Team MVP: 3B Miguel Cabrera: With all due respect to Verlander (17-8, 2.64) and Fielder (.313-30-108), Cabrera needs to be the team’s MVP considering he was the American League’s MVP. The first Triple Crown Award winner since 1967, Cabrera once again proved he is the most talented offensive weapon in the game. Going into the season, there were a lot of concerns about whether-or-not Cabrera’s move back to third base would inhibit his production offensively. Clearly, that was not the case as evidenced by his ridiculous .330-44-139 season that brought back memories of the late-90s juiced-ball era.

Amazingly, Cabrera was not a butcher in the field either as evidenced by his .966 fielding percentage (13 errors in 154 games). The Tigers were one of the best fielding teams in baseball in 2012, and that is usually a characteristic of champions. The only drawback to Cabrera’s season is that he struck out to end the World Series. But, one bad at-bat does not erase a season’s worth of success.

2012 Team LVP: 2B/OF Ryan Raburn: It was not easy finding many nominees for this one. DH Delmon Young (.267-18-74) was a possibility, as was RF Brennan Boesch (.240-12-54). But, Raburn gets the nod merely because of how truly worthless he was as a whole. A career .272 hitter prior to ’12, Raburn played in at least 113 games from 2009-11. His OPS during those years was a respectable .802. He even had a strong spring training last March, leading many to believe that he would be a catalyst behind Fielder and Cabrera in the order.

That, of course, did not happen. Raburn was brutal from the very start, at one point batting a ripe .091 (4-44) before being optioned to Toledo at the end of May. He played just 15-games with the Mud Hens before coming back to Detroit in June. But, he never regained his traction and finished the season batting just .171 with 1 HR and 12 RBI. By comparison, Raburn hit 6 HR in spring training to lead the team. The former Florida Gator is now in Cleveland, where he will look to latch on with his former team’s rival.

Key Acquisitions:

RF Torii Hunter

Key Departures:

C Gerald Laird (Atlanta Braves)
OF/DH Delmon Young (Philadelphia Phillies)
RHP Jose Valverde (unsigned)
LHP Daniel Schlereth (Baltimore Orioles)

Projected Lineup/Rotation (w/composite 2013 projections):

1. CF Austin Jackson (.270-13-62, 17 SB)
2. RF Torii Hunter (.279-18-76, 7 SB)
3. 3B Miguel Cabrera (.315-35-114)
4. 1B Prince Fielder (.293-30-103)
5. DH Victor Martinez (.295-13-67)
6. LF Andy Dirks (.278-9-40, 7 SB)
7. SS Jhonny Peralta (.261-14-65)
8. C Alex Avila (.252-13-57)
9. 2B Omar Infante (.285-9-58, 9 SB)

1. RHP Justin Verlander (17-8, 3.08)
2. RHP Doug Fister (13-9, 3.80)
3. RHP Max Scherzer (13-10, 3.76)
4. RHP Anibal Sanchez (12-10, 4.00)
5. RHP Rick Porcello (10-10, 4.50)
CL. RHP Bruce Rondon (2-2, 4.75, 16 SV)
SU. RHP Joaquin Benoit (4-2, 3.29, 5 SV)

2013 Outlook:

The Tigers, as previously mentioned, did not make a lot of moves this offseason. However, they do have some intriguing storylines going into the season.

Of course, Torii Hunter’s offseason signing will only improve an offense that was over-reliant on Fielder and Cabrera. Also aiding that cause will be the return of DH Victor Martinez from a knee injury that forced him to miss the entire 2012 season. The Tigers’ offense, with these additions, looks like the best in the division. Their rotation, whilst entirely reliant on righthanders, is strong. The only question mark is Rick Porcello, who has never lived up to the hype he received as a prep prospect.

The bullpen has to be the biggest concern for Leyland this season. The team opted to not bring back Jose Valverde after his disastrous postseason performance. In his stay will be RHP Bruce Rondon, a 22-year old minor league sensation who has yet to appear in the majors. That is a big gamble for a contending team to take. Although, Rondon’s stats (2-1, 1.53, 66 K in 53.0 IP between three levels) from ’12 are impressive, the walks remain a concern (111 BB in 196 career MILB IP). If Rondon struggles, the Tigers could find themselves in an early hole. After all, the Central is a lot better than it has been in recent years.

Their bullpen scares me. But, the rest of this team is top-notch. Even if Rondon flames out, they should be able to find a replacement or patch together enough of a bullpen to keep them contending. After all, they usually will not even need a bullpen when Verlander is pitching. I have the Tigers winning between 89-95 games, triumphing over the rest of the division for the third consecutive season.

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