2014 MLB Preview: Detroit Tigers
93-69 (2013, 1st in AL Central)
Offense- Runs(2nd) Batting Average (1st) On-Base%(2nd) Slugging%(2nd)
Pitching- ERA(9th) Quality Starts(1st) WHIP(9th) Batting Average Against(8th)
Notable Additions: Ian Kinsler, Joe Nathan, Stephen Lombardozzi, Joba Chamberlain, Rajai Davis.
They will win if: If Brad Ausmus can fill Jim Leyland's shoes; If Joe Nathan can solve the Tigers bullpen woes; If someone can protect Miguel Cabrera in the lineup; If Justin Verlander regains his confidence; If Rick Porcello trusts his stuff; if Ian Kinsler plays with a chip on his shoulder; If Nick Castellanos can fill the void left by Prince Fielder.
More Likely Result: Detroit is the most talented team in the division by a large margin so barring a disastrous season they will once again be the division winner. They have a very deep rotation and a stacked lineup which should give them a great record against the rest of the division. The gap is shrinking however, as teams like the Royals, Twins and White Sox start to develop young cores of good talent.
Projected Opening Day Lineup:
Austin Jackson, CF
Torii Hunter, RF
Ian Kinsler, 2B
Miguel Cabrera, 1B
Victor Martinez, DH
Andy Dirks, LF
Nick Castellanos, 3B
Alex Avila, C
Jose Iglesias, SS
Manager: Brad Ausmus(1st Season)
Player to Watch:
Ian Kinsler came to the Tigers in the offseason in one of the more blockbuster trades of the winter. His exit from Texas was messy and has left Kinsler with something to prove to all of his doubters. He also is going to have to fill the void left by Prince Fielder; the player he was traded for. Kinsler also has to prove his numbers weren't only the product of an extremely hitter-friendly home ballpark in Texas. My guess is hitting in front of Miguel Cabrera will silence his critics.
Picking a player other than Miguel Cabrera, who happens to be the best hitter in the American League, would be foolish. Cabrera has put up monster numbers over the last couple of years. This season will be no exception, even without the luxury of Prince Fielder to protect him in the lineup. Cabrera is simply too good to be slowed down or dominated by good pitching. Expect nothing less than another MVP caliber season from Cabrera.
Cy Young Candidate:
Max Scherzer's dominance has signaled a changing of the guard in the Tigers rotation. In years past, Justin Verlander would have been the ace of the staff. But Scherzer has started to figure out his stuff, which has added to his increasingly dominant numbers. The scary thing is that Scherzer still has room to grow, which could lead to even better numbers next year and could lead to a second straight Cy Young, or at least a handful of first place votes.
Bold Prediction: 50 plus saves for Joe Nathan. After watching how badly the Tigers struggled protecting leads over the past few seasons, the addition of a proven and dominant closer will do wonders for an already dangerous team. Nathan also dominates every team in the AL Central, and should be considered the best closer in the American League now that Mariano Rivera has retired. Nathan is just what the Tigers needed and will reward them with a monster season as closer.
Playoff Odds: As I said before, barring a disastrous season the Tigers should be a lock to win the AL Central again. They should also be considered a strong contender for home field advantage up to the World Series and potentially throughout. This team does very well at home, so they will take every opportunity they can get to secure home field advantage throughout the playoffs.
Manager Status: While first year skipper Brad Ausmus is not even remotely on the hot seat this year, he does have tremendous shoes to fill in Detroit. Jim Leyland was well respected throughout the league and by the team, which is made up mostly of veterans. If the team struggles it will be even harder for Ausmus to connect with the veteran players, who are hungry for a deep postseason run. Ausmus should be able to last the next few years without any threat of losing his job.
Expected Finish: 1st Place