Detroit Tigers Roster in 2013: State Of The Union
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Thursday, February. 21/2013
By Ryan Dana (MLB Reports Writer): Follow @ryandana1
I would never say that a team is a lock to win their division, but I will say that the Detroit Tigers shouldn’t make any vacation plans for October of 2013. They’ve won the AL Central Division for the past 2 years, and added an AL Pennant in 2012. The Detroit Tigers franchise is one rich in history winning 4 World Series titles and having legends such as Ty Cobb, Hank Greenberg, Al Kaline, and Charlie Gehringer passing through the “D” just to name a few.
This proud franchise did suffer a lull in success somewhat recently as they had a losing record every season from 1994-2005. This included a dismal 43-119 record in ’03. The Tigers came back from the abyss and turned their team back into a winning ball club since 2006. This was Jim Leyland’s 1st season managing the Tigers, and all he did was lead the team to 95 wins (a 24 win increase from the prior season) and a World Series appearance.
In 2011, the Tigers lost in the ALCS, and in 2012 they lost in the World Series, so could they improve upon the previous seasons ending once again and win the 2013 World Series? Well, their roster is certainly improved from last year, but it’s all about keeping up with the “Jones” in the MLB nowadays. Every team with money is trying to make a serious World Series run this year. While the Tigers are in the weakest division in the AL, if and when they reach the playoffs, it will be a gruesome battle to endure.
The Tigers have all the makings of a World Series contender. They have Superstars in their lineup like Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder. They have a true Ace leading their deep, seemingly all in and around their prime, starting rotation in Justin Verlander. They also have good depth on their 25 man roster, and even more in their Minor League system. I’ll start with their rotation. Here’s what it will most likely look like…
Detroit Tigers 2012 ALCS Highlights:
The Detroit Tigers starting rotation had a 3.76 ERA in 2012, good for 8th in the MLB. They are returning the same 5 starters they spent the 2nd half of 2012 with. However, they also have Drew Smyly a great 6th option who started, with success, for the club until the team traded for Anibal Sanchez at the deadline. Smyly figures to start the year in the bullpen, but could be an invaluable spot starter and good long arm out of the pen should the Tigers need one at any point. Justin Verlander is one of, if not the most dominant pitcher in the game. Add in the sour note in which the 2012 season ended for him and you have the makings of another Cy Young type season from the hurler.
Verlander logged 238 IP (Most in MLB) last season with 17 Wins, 239 Ks (Most in MLB), and a stingy 2.64 ERA (3rd best in MLB). Since his rookie campaign in ’06, Verlander has been dominant in every year excluding ’08. He always logs a lot of quality innings, strikes out a lot of batter, and wins a lot of games. Click on the link to his baseball reference page and be amazed by the statistics he puts up. He’s the Ace teams try to find to build a World Series contender.
There is a considerable drop off behind Verlander in the rotation, but considering he’s on another level than nearly all pitchers in baseball, I guess that is to be expected. Next in the rotation is the big Doug Fister. Fister might not be the hardest thrower, but his 2-seamer may be the best in the game right now. Fister was 2nd out of the starters in ERA in 2012 at 3.45, over a half a run higher than he managed splitting time between Seattle and Detroit in 2011. After being traded to Detroit mid-season in 2011 he was downright incredible for the Tigers after being just good in his 59 career starts with Seattle since ’09. Fister figures to surpass his 160 IP from last season and keep opponents bats quiet following Verlander every 5th day. He may not be the flashiest pitcher, but he has the numbers to back up a #2 spot in the rotation.
Anibal Sanchez was traded for at the deadline in 2012 to attempt to add a proven, veteran arm for the stretch run and into the playoffs. I would say Sanchez did his part to validate the trade. He pitched well in the regular season, playoffs, and even his 1 start of the World Series. He had a 3.74 ERA in 12 regular season starts with the Tigers – which is .01 lower than his career average, so that might be something you can expect from him going forward in 2013. He’s logged just under 200 IP in each of the last 3 seasons having a mid-3 ERA. The consistent pitcher that Sanchez has grown into is why the Tigers were willing to give him a 5YR/80 Million Dollar Contract to re-sign him.
Max Scherzer, like Sanchez, had a solid 3.74 ERA with the Tigers in 2012. He was 2nd only to his teammate Verlander in Ks in the MLB in 2012 with 231. His K/9 was 11.08, tops in the Majors (Yu Darvish was 2nd at 10.40 and Gio Gonzalez 3rd with 9.35). Scherzer misses a lot of bats, but this also contributes to running up his pitch counts, along with his nearly 2 BBs per game. Personally I wouldn’t mind a pitcher like Scherzer who will pitch very well in the 5-7 inning he will give you, but a good bullpen is important behind Scherzer. He has never pitched a complete game in 133 career starts. I also think it’s a great thing that Scherzer has made 30+ starts every year since ’09, his 1st full season in the MLB. Scherzer is a great option for the middle of the rotation with room to grow into a frontline starter if he can master the art of control.
Rounding out the rotation will be Rick Porcello. Porcello will be entering his 5th full season in the MLB this year at just 24 years of age. One impressive season in Advanced-A ball was all it took after high school to get Porcello to the show. You could argue that he had more development to be accomplished in the minors, but he was impressive as a rookie. In 31 starts he threw 170 Innings, and went 14-9 with a 3.96 ERA. That is still tied for his high in single season Wins, and was his best ERA by over half a run. He is a sinkerballer with an infield much more readily known for their bats than their gloves, so his style of pitching doesn’t lend itself favorably to the environment he pitches in. Make no excuse though, he was touted as a future Ace, in which he has clearly yet to live up to. He is, deservedly so, a #5 starter in a very good rotation with a lot left to prove.
Unlike Detroit’s strong, deep starting rotation, the bullpen lacked both traits in 2012. Detroit relievers had a 3.79 ERA in 2012, 18th in the Majors. One major boost I expect to see to the pen is Drew Smyly. In his rookie campaign Smyly started 18 of his 23 games compiling a 3.99 ERA in nearly 100 IP. He recorded nearly a K/IP and should be a valuable multi-Inning reliever for the club in 2013. The lefty should be very versatile for the Tigers with the ability to start if needed. He seems to have lost his spot to Anibal Sanchez, so for now he is an addition to the bullpen. Another addition to the pen is rookie Bruce Rondon. He will replace former closer Jose Valverde who is still looking for work after crumbling under the pressure of October baseball.
Rondon is a big righty with a fastball that runs into the triple digits with regularity. He has struck out better than a batter per inning in the Minors, but he needs to work on his control and cut down on Walks. He has what scouts would call a “plus-plus” fastball, with a hard slider, and workable change-up. He is only 22 years old and will most likely have some forgettable games, but he has the potential to be as dominant a closer as there is. Joaquin Benoit and Phil Coke will work the righty/lefty setup role again in 2013 where they along with Octavio Dotel provided some stability out of the pen. They achieved a 3.68/4.00/3.57 ERA respectively and combined for 61 Holds, 196 Appearances, logging 183 IP. One final impact arm out of the pen is Al Alburquerque.
He made his debut in ’11 with over 40 IP, striking out over 1.5 batter per IP and a 1.87 ERA. After the season he found out he had a non-displaced stress fracture of his throwing elbow and missed just about the first 4 months of the 2012 season. After rehabbing he pitched in 8 games for the Tigers with a small sample size of statistics equally impressive to his pre-injury stats. I predict the Tigers bullpen to be better than last year, but that is putting a good amount of faith in Rondon and his ability to be a serviceable Closer at this early stage of his career. Alburquerque seems to be back in good health, Benoit and Coke should be solid again, and the ageless wonder Dotel seems to still have some baseball left in him.
The Tigers have assembled a playoff worthy pitching staff without question, but what is a great pitching staff without run support? The Tigers should have no trouble creating runs having created 726 of them in 2012, 11th in the Majors and 6th in the AL. Their team slash line was .268/.335/.422 (6th/3rd/7th in MLB). Here is what their 2013 lineup could look like…
They also have great OF depth with Brennan Boesch, Quentin Berry, Avisail Garcia all as options, and Ramon Santiago as their current INF backup man (INF backup depth clearly not as strong as in OF). They also snagged a Utility player who makes good contact and has excellent speed, Jeff Kobernus, from the Nationals in the Rule 5 Draft. This means the Tigers foresee him being a good bench player that will either stay with the big club or be sent back to the Nationals.
Setting the table for one of the more lethal lineups in the game is the 2012 winner of the Tigers Heart and Hustle Award, Austin Jackson. Jackson made great strides in becoming a prime time Center Fielder and Lead Off hitter in 2012. He hit .300/.377/.856 – with 16 HRs and 66 RBI – which were all career highs. On top of that he increased his BBs and decreased his SOs. Jackson did his job on offense by getting on base, and played a solid CF on defense. The only downside to Jacksons 2012 was that he only stole 12 while being caught 9 times. In 2011, he had 22 SB and 5 CS, and in 2010 he had 27 SB and 6 CS. I’m really nitpicking here as he really had a phenomenal season and did exactly what the Tigers hoped he would do. I expect a repeat performance of 2012 for Jackson; I think 2012 was right around what his potential is.
Stepping to the plate after Jackson will be newly acquired Torii Hunter. Hunter may be passed his prime at 37 years of age, but he is no slouch. Hunter actually hit a career high .313 in 2012 – while knocking out 16 HRs and 92 RBI. If last year was an indication of what Hunter is going to do defensively then he is still pretty darn good there too. He had a DSR of 15 and UZR of 10.4, neither career highs, but neither far off. It’s hard to say if Hunter can turn in another performance like last season, you would think he will start to hit a solid decline in production eventually, but it’s also hard to deny the man who gets it done year after year. My gut tells me he will slowly decline over the 2 years of his contract with the Tigers, but he should still be an asset in RF and the lineup.
Now to the part of the lineup that will cause opposing pitchers to have nightmares prior to facing Detroit. Miguel Cabrera, 2012 MVP, is as good as they come offensively. He plays a sub-par Third Base, but man can he hit. He hit .330/.393/.999 – with 44 HRs and 139 RBI, and yes he won the Triple Crown. Cabrera flat-out rakes and he does it every year, so prepare for him to do it again.
Hitting Cleanup and playing 1B will be Prince Fielder. There isn’t really a whole lot to speculate about Fielder either, he’s really good, and everyone knows it. He hit .313/.412/.528 ,with 30 HRs and 108 RBI – while Walking more than he Struck out. This was a great year, and I really don’t know how he could have done much better, but it is possible that he will in 2013 because he has legitimate protection this year. His protection comes in the form of Victor Martinez. Martinez had the unfortunate experience of missing the entire 2012 season with a torn ACL. Martinez is a career .303/.370/.839 hitter with solid power. Not only is he great protection for Fielder in the lineup, but Martinez is also capable of playing a solid 1B and Catcher, so he is not limited to DH. Martinez’ knee should look good having had more than a year to recover, and considering he is slated to be playing DH for the most part. I expect a good year from Martinez now that he is healthy again.
After Martinez, the lineup experiences less certainty, as can be expected as a team enters the latter part of their order. The projection says Andy Dirks will play left field and bat 6th. I think it’s pretty safe that Dirks will start the season in this capacity. Brennan Boesch was in a similar position last season, and the Tigers were really excited about the season they though he could have, but Boesch failed to live up to expectations. Dirks hit .322/.370/.847, with 8 HRs and 35 RBI – in just 88 games during 2012. Boesch hit .240/.286/.658 , with 12 HRs and 54 RBI in 132 games last year.
Dirks earned the chance to start the season in LF in 2013, but he will need to perform to keep the spot, the Tigers do have other options whether it’s Boesch or Avisail Garcia. Garcia had an unexpected rise to the Majors in 2012. He tore up Advanced-A and AA before continuing his hot play in the Big Leagues for 23 games at the end of the season. He hit .319/.373/.692 in those games – and even got to play in parts of 12 games in the Playoffs, outhitting Dirks )who played in 13 games in the (Post Season.) So basically, Dirks will get the nod to start the year in LF, but Boesch will be waiting for another opportunity to try to get it on track, and Garcia has shown flashes of great baseball that will really force Dirks to be on top of his game in 2013. Also add in Quintin Berry , who will be trying to get time as a 4th/5th Outfielder.
Next we have Jhonny Peralta. He hit for a 2012 3 Slash Line of .239/.305/..689 – all career lows since his 1st full season in the Majors in ’05 with Cleveland. This is a little concerning since Peralta is valued most for his offense. Peralta is just 30 Year of age, so whenever a player who around the age they should be in their prime has a down year, it is reasonable that it could be a fluke. Even if he has a season just like 2012 the Tigers will be fine. He put up workable numbers for a 7th hitter in this lineup. One thing I am interested to see is Peralta on defense. He has never had very good range for a Shortstop, but he has lost over 10lbs this off-season and says he’s still hoping to lose a little more from his new healthier diet and training. He also says he feels quicker, which could really help the Tigers considering they have Miguel Cabrera on the left side of the infield with him.
Batting 8th will be Catcher Alex Avila. The young backstop had a breakout season in 2011 – which earned him an All-Star Appearance and a Silver Slugger Award, but he failed to replicate this level of production again in 2012. Avila just hasn’t played enough Major League seasons to really know what to expect from him in 2013. He didn’t have very high production as a rookie in 2010, but exploded on the scene in his Sophomore campaign, then regressed in his 3rd year. He’s capable of handling the Tigers pitching staff, and puts up solid numbers at the very least for a Catcher. 2013 will be a good indication of what Avila is going to do in future years. He has shown us great, and he has shown us mediocre, now which one will he repeat?
Rounding out the order is Omar Infante (who came over from the Marlins with Anibal Sanchez last season). Infante started his career in Detroit before making stops in Atlanta and Florida/Miami, and now he’s back. He’s haa career 3 Slash Line of .275/.315/.712, and I expect a year like that from him in 2013. He’s about as good a #9 hitter as you’ll find. He puts the ball in play, and is a solid base runner.
With all this being said, the Detroit Tigers seem poised to have another good year, in a very winnable division. The White Sox should be solid again, and the Royals will be better than they have been in a long time, but the Tigers should still be the favorites. Anything can happen in the playoffs, and I can certainly see the Tigers returning to the World Series as one of the possibilities. I could even see them winning a World Series in 2013. It won’t be easy, but it never is.
There are far too many variables to an MLB season to make a firm prediction about where the Tigers will end 2013, but they have put themselves in about as good of a position as possible. The bullpen does not have a defined closer, although the club has a lot of shut-down chuckers coming from the Bullpen. If Rondon works out in the role, lookout MLB! I also think they are better than last year with Martinez and Alburqurque coming back from injury, plus adding Torii Hunter in the OF – which easily makes up for the loss of Delmon Young. They will have Sanchez and Infante for a full season. They have some depth to their team, and return all the major parts of the team that got them to the World Series last year, so Tigers fans should be excited.
*** The views and opinions expressed in this report are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of mlbreports.com and their partners***
A big thank-you goes out to our baseball writer Ryan Dana for preparing today’s featured article. Ryan is junior studying physical education with a concentration in coaching at Bridgewater State University. He has been playing baseball since he was 7 and coaching since he was 14. Ryan wants to be a college baseball coach once he graduates. Ryan is, and always will be, a diehard Boston Red Sox fan. Secondary to baseball, he is a big health and fitness enthusiast. You can find Ryan on Twitter . Follow @ryandana1
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Posted on February 21, 2013, in MLB Payroll and Contracts, MLB Teams: Articles and Analysis, The Rest: Everything Baseball and tagged 2006 World Series, 2012 world series, @Ryandana1 on tiwitter, al albuquerque, al central, AL Cy Young Award Winner, al kaline, al mvp, alex avila, American league, andy dirks, anibal sanchez, austin jackson, avisail garcia, Brennan Boesch, bruce rondon, charlie gehringer, cy young, delmon young, detroit tigers, doug fister, Drew Smyly, gio gonzalez, jeff kobernus, jhonny peralta, Jim Leyland, Joaquin Benoit, justin verlander, max scherzer, miguel cabrera, octavio dotel, omar infante, phil coke, playoffs, prince fielder, quintin Berry, ramon santiago, rick porcello, ryan dana, seattle mariners, State of the Union, Torii Hunter, Triple crown award winner, ty cobb, victor martinez, world series, yu darvish. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.