Previewing the AL Central: Detroit Tigers
May 18, 2012; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera (24) pats starting pitcher Justin Verlander (35) after Pittsburgh Pirates third baseman Josh Harrison (not pictured) gets a hit to spoil a no hitter during the ninth inning at Comerica Park. Detroit won 6-0. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
As Opening Day gets closer, I’ve been taking a look at the teams in the AL Central. You can see my write up of the White Sox here, and the Indians here. Next up: Detroit Tigers.
2012 Record: 88-74
Standing: 1st in the AL Central
Playoff Performance: AL Champions; Lost the World Series in 4 games to the Giants
Tori Hunter, OF; Brayan Peña, C; Don Kelly, OF, IF; Matt Tuiasosopo, OF, IF
Anibal Sanchez, RHP; Octavio Dotel, RHP; Jhonny Peralta, SS
Gerald Laird (Braves), Delmon Young (Phillies), Andy Oliver (Pirates)
The 2013 Tigers should be able to make another run at the World Series as they are rolling out one of baseball’s best rotations with 2011 MVP and CY Young winner Justin Verlander again leading the charge. He is followed by Anibal Sancez, Doug Fister, Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello. If Porcello struggles, Drew Smyly will be ready to make the transition from the bullpen. Detroit also features a nearly identical lineup as 2012 except for Delmon Young. Torii Hunter, Young’s replacement, is an upgrade both offensively and defensively, fitting nicely into the 2-hole. Miguel Cabrera won the Triple Crown last season, and is a threat for an encore. Victor Martinez also returns to the lineup hitting behind slugger Price Fielder. The Tigers are without elite relievers, and Jim Leyland will depend heavily on new closer Bruce Rondon and set up man Joaquin Benoit to close games. **(see update below)**
Who to watch for:
Cabrera is a monster at the plate, winning the Triple Crown a year ago hitting .330 with 44 HR and 139 RBI. Look for him to stay at the top of his game and be in the MVP talk again by July.
Verlander is the best pitcher in baseball, hands down. After winning both the MVP and CY Young in 2011, Verlander followed up with another successful campaign last season going 17-8 with a 2.64 and an MLB leading 239 strikeouts. He also led MLB in complete games pitched at 6. He’ll easily be a CY Young favorite for 2013.
March 01, 2013; Port St Lucie, FL, USA; Detroit Tigers designated hitter Victor Martinez (41) bats against the New York Mets in the spring training game at Tradition Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Barr-USA TODAY Sports
Martinez finally returns to the lineup after a year away due to a torn ACL. In his last full season, Martinez finished with a respectable .330 avg with 12 HR and 103 RBI. With his career numbers of .303/.370/.469 Martinez figures to be in the discussion for comeback player of the year.
Rondon has a big responsibility in front of him to close out games for the Tigers. He’ll have plenty of opportunities. He’s posted 2.53 ERA with a 9.8 K/9 through 5 minor league seasons. Will these numbers transition well to the big leagues? He’ll likely have his share of ups and downs, but should find success.
Rondon was optioned to AAA Toledo this morning, 3/28, and the Tigers are expected to go with a closer-by-committee approach. However, expect Rondon to be back at some point this season.
Scherzer is slotted 2nd in this rotation, but considered by some an ace every where else. Last year, he finished the season with 231 strikeouts, good for 2nd best in all of baseball behind teammate Justin Verlander.
March 26, 2013; Lakeland, FL, USA; Detroit Tigers right fielder Torii Hunter (48) singles during the fourth inning against the Atlanta Braves at Joker Marchant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
He makes this list as a former Twin. Hunter signed with Detroit with a World Series ring in mind. He had a great year in 2012, batting .313/.365/.451 with 16 HR. We’ll see Torii familiar smile back at Target Field a lot this summer and at age 37, he’s still one of the most charismatic and exciting players to watch in baseball.
Can the Twins beat them?
In order to take games from Detroit, the pitching needs to shut down one of the best lineups in the game and Twins hitters need to work counts, put the ball in play and score runs. The Tigers won’t beat the Twins every game they play each other this season, but the season series will probably be ugly for Minnesota.
2013 Predicted Finish: 1st Place, AL Central