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Detroit Tigers 2014 Season Preview

31 Mar

Standing O Sports is previewing all 30 Major League teams seasons, division by division, team by team. Up next in the American League Central is the Detroit Tigers. What Happened Last Season The Detroit Tigers were once again so close, yet so far from winning the World Series in 2013. The Tigers appeared to be well on their way to taking a commanding 2 games to none lead over the Red Sox in the ALCS. Then David Ortiz came up to the plate with the bases loaded and the Tigers leading 5-1. Ortiz drilled a first pitch fastball into the Boston bullpen and it was all down hill from there as the Sox took the series in six games. Aside from the finish, the Tigers had a lot to be proud of last season. The team won 93 games, the 3rd most in the American League. Miguel Cabrera took home the AL MVP, and Max Scherzer took home the AL Cy Young award marking the first time since 2006 that the same team had an MVP and Cy Young award winner. Most Tigers fans will probably tell you those individual numbers mean nothing and anything short of a World Series championship will not be tolerated in 2014. Offseason Headlines

  • Brad Ausmus takes over for Jim Leyland as manager
  • Traded Prince Fielder to the Texas Rangers in exchange for Ian Kinsler
  • Traded Doug Fister to the Nationals in exchange for Steve Lombardozzi, Ian Krol, and Robbie Ray
  • Signed Miguel Cabrera to a 8-year $248 million dollar extension
  • Signed closer Joe Nathan to a 2-year $20 million dollar contract
  • Signed Joba Chamberlain to a one-year $2.5 million dollar deal

Take: Tigers General Manager Dave Dombrowski made some questionable moves this offseason.  Trading Fielder for Kinsler has its positives and negatives, but one negative that can’t be overlooked was that Miguel Cabrera had his two most productive seasons with Fielder hitting behind him.  Cabrera won’t have that same luxury in 2014.  Trading Doug Fister was another head scratching move.  Fister was a solid contributor for the Tigers.  Last season, he finished 14-9 with a 3.67 ERA and he allowed 0.6 home-runs per nine innings, the 2nd fewest mark in the American League.  The bottom line is Fister was a valuable piece of a championship contender and the Tigers just let him go for little in return.  From a bullpen standpoint, the Tigers look to be improved.  Joe Nathan stabilizes the closer role, even though he’s getting up there in age.  A change of scenery could be just what the doctor ordered for Joba Chamberlain.  As for what just happened, giving Miguel Cabrera that extension was a no-brainer.  Max Scherzer rejecting an extension and then the team ripping him for it does not bode well either side. Projected Lineup Ian Kinsler (2B) Torii Hunter (RF) Miguel Cabrera (1B) Victor Martinez (DH) Austin Jackson (CF) Alex Avila (C) Nick Castellanos (3B) Don Kelly (LF) Andrew Romine (SS) **The Tigers were planning on having Jose Iglesias be the starting shortstop. Iglesias however, suffered fractures to both of his shins in mid-March and will likely miss all of the 2014 season.

Breakdown: The Tigers were clearly reluctant to have Austin Jackson as the teams leadoff hitter, so they went out and got Ian Kinsler.  Kinsler is more of what you want out of the leadoff spot as a guy that will work the count and you know what you’re going to get with him.  The ageless Torii Hunter bats second.  Last season, Hunter set a career high with 184 hits and his .304 average was the 2nd highest of his career.  The reigning two-time AL MVP Miguel Cabrera follows Hunter and he just signed a mammoth contract extension that will pay him an average of $31 million dollars per season.  Victor Martinez replaces Prince Fielder as the clean-up hitter and the pressure will be on him to give Cabrera the support he needs.  Austin Jackson is now the number 5 hitter, which doesn’t fit his strengths.  After a breakout offensive season in 2011, Alex Avila has come back to Earth the past 2 seasons.  Nick Castellanos was one of the main reasons the Tigers traded Prince Fielder.  The 22-year-old will start the season as the teams everyday 3rd baseman.  Castellanos has “star potential”.  Don Kelly provides little upside in the 8th spot, and the Tigers had to throw Andrew Romine at shortstop due to the injury to Jose Iglesias. Projected Pitching Rotation Justin Verlander Max Scherzer Anibal Sanchez Rick Porcello Drew Smyly Justin Verlander once again sits atop the Detroit Tigers rotation, and after having one of the greatest seasons ever for a pitcher in 2011, Verlander took another step back in 2013.  Verlander finished with his lowest win total and highest ERA since 2008.  Max Scherzer took home the AL Cy Young award last season.  Scherzer came out of nowhere to finish with a 21-3 record and a 2.90 ERA.  He then rejected a reported 6-year $144 million dollar contract extension prior to the season, which may turn out to be the biggest mistake of his career.  But only time will tell with that.  Like Scherzer, Anibal Sanchez was outstanding for the Tigers leading the AL in ERA.  Rick Porcello has had an up and down career to this point, and he’s hoping things finally fall into place for him in 2014.  Drew Smyly returns to the starting rotation after spending last year as the teams set-up man.  While Smyly has the stuff to make it as a starter, whenever a team isn’t sure how to utilize a pitcher, it usually doesn’t end well (Think Joba Chamberlain). X-Factor: Protection for Miguel Cabrera

Prior to Prince Fielder’s arrival in Detroit, Miguel Cabrera had never hit more than 40 home-runs, and never drove in more than 130 runs.  In his 2 seasons with Fielder, Cabrera averaged 44 home-runs and 138 RBIs per season and even won baseball’s first triple crown since 1967.  General Manager Dave Dombrowski took a huge risk by trading Fielder and if the Tigers are going to make another deep run into October, Cabrera must retain his dominant form.  That means Victor Martinez has to step his game up big-time. Season Outlook The Tigers aren’t as strong on paper this season as they were prior to last season, but this team is still more than capable of winning the American League central.  Even without Fielder, Miguel Cabrera is the best offensive player in baseball, and there may not better be a one-two punch than Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer.  The addition of Joe Nathan in the bullpen was key. Prediction Frankel: 92-70 (1st in AL Central)

 
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Posted by on 03/31/2014 in MLB

 

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