In an off-season where they lost Victor Martinez for the all of 2012, Tigers ownership stepped it up big to make sure that the team is still in a place to contend by signing Prince Fielder to a nine-year, $214 million deal. WOW…that is a lot of money.
Still, there are issues here but can the Tigers grind it out again and continue further than the ALCS in 2012?
Let’s take a look…
Offensively the Tigers will be featuring two of the best hitters in baseball, Miguel Cabrera and the newly signed Prince Fielder, along with Alex Avila and Jhonny Peralta. In my opinion any team with Cabrera on it is a threat, as he can carry a team on his back. He is the best pure hitter in the game today that I have ever seen. Rumor has it that Cabrera came into camp early, a little lighter and more importantly problem free, which is a positive.
The Tigers rotation is led by the AL MVP and CY Young award winner Justin Verlander, and overall the rotation had a decent season in 2011; and I say decent because looking at the rotations overall stats they land in the middle in almost every catagory. The Tigers have the ultimate ace in Verlander, as he won 24 games in 2011 and he is the definition of an innings eater pitcher. Also they are banking on a great full season of Doug Fister, which would help deepen their rotation, but don’t expect a repeat of the 1.79 ERA he posted when he was acquired by the Tigers mid-season in 2011. After Fister comes Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello, who won a combined 29 games in the 2011 season. All five Tiger starters are below the age of 30, which means there is still room to grow here.
The biggest question mark will come on the defensive end, as the Tigers were awful last season, and 2012 might prove to be even worse. Having to move Cabrera over to third base to allow Prince Fielder to play at first could be a potential disaster, but without fail will stink even if successful. Cabrera hasn’t played since 2007 when he was in a lot better shape, and still couldn’t handle the position so it is highly unlikely he can now. This makes the Tigers left infield of Cabrera, Peralta and Delmon Young one of the worst in baseball. You can expect just on the sheer lack of range alone that better teams will expose their defensive weaknesses.
For some reason people don’t realize that the signing of Fielder was a necessity, not a luxury for 2012 after losing Martinez for the year. Fielder, longterm will be a benefit but as for now he fills the hole left by Martinez.
Austin Jackson is entering his third full season and it is time for him to improve his strikeout numbers. Jackson raked up 180 strikeouts last season, after he leading the Majors with 171 in 2010 and as a leadoff hitter that is just unproductive because his job is to get on base. Jackson is fast on the base pads and nothing frazzles opposing pitchers more than a pesky base runner.
PLAYER(s)/GAME-CHANGERS TO WATCH:
1) Before injuring his thumb and missing the last six weeks of the 2011 season and the playoffs, youngster Brennan Boesch was putting together a solid season at the plate. Boesch pre-injury had posted a, 283 batting average, with 16 home-runs, 25 doubles, 35 walks and 54 RBIs. If 26-year-old Boesch can stay healthy and pickup right where he left off, he could prove to be a big help out of the two spot for the Tigers.
2) Miguel Cabrera transition to third base should be enticing and scary at the same time. No one is expecting Cabrera to do any more than the bare minimum, but if that deems impossible than he could move into a fulltime DH role and let Brandon Inge step in as a last resort. Sometimes everyday players don’t hit as well just coming off the bench, and the Tigers cannot afford to lose Martinez for a second and you can be sure that Inge’s defense is not worth losing Cabrera’s hot bat.
To be honest if the Tigers didn’t play in the AL Central their road to October would be a lot harder but the lack of really any competition, unless the Twins can survive, makes them the favorites to win it again. So, pending no catastrophes, Detroit is almost guaranteed to win its second division title since 1987. Many have even gone as far as picking the Tigers as favorites to win the World Series.
The reason the Tigers will not win the World Series is the lack of depth off the bench, along with their terrible defense. In turn, the pitching staff will also have the added pressure of not having a defensive behind them making each start much more significant to the team’s success.
And it would be unwise to depend on Verlander winning 24 games like last season, as it is doubtful that he will repeat that good a year again.
The Tigers look to be the best in the AL Central, so my bet is that getting to the postseason will be easy. The potential issue I see is staying in it once they get there.
- Spring Swing: Prince Fielder is the undisputed center of attention in Tigers camp (sports.yahoo.com)
- MLB Baseball: Best Players in AL Central (bleacherreport.com)
- Tigers plan a lot of driving … balls over fences (mlb.mlb.com)
- Five Bold Predictions for the Detroit Tigers (bleacherreport.com)
- Tigers pay a Prince’s ransom for Fielder (nydailynews.com)
- Fielder joins new Tigers teammates Cabrera, Verlander at camp (cbssports.com)
- AL Central Predictions (welcometothe716.com)