The Detroit Tigers were finally dethroned last season after years of dominance atop the American League Central. And this year they will try to re-gain that title.
The only thing that should stand in their way is father time. This team was derailed by injuries last year, and with heavy contracts for older players still hanging over this team, I am wondering if history will repeat itself again this season. In the offseason Detroit and newish G.M. Al Avila has made some big moves in the offseason, not the least of which was letting his son go to Chicago. The addition of players like Justin Upton and Jordan Zimmerman are key and it will be interesting to watch to see what impact they will have on this aging team.
When healthy this team is second-to-none on offense! With the best hitter in the game playing first, Miguel Cabrera anchors an already strong group of hitters. Pair that with the power of newly acquired Justin Upton, the all around ability of J.D. Martinez, and a possibly healthy Victor Martinez and you have four power hitters that no other line-up in the League can match up against. The true test will come in June however once the drag of the season starts to hit the veterans in this line-up. Pair that with J.D. Martinez huge extension this year, and you once again have a possiblity of underachieving by the Tigers. Thaat being said of course, if injuries and complacancy do not take over, then this team should be considered a front runner.
Defense up the middle will also be a point of strength on this team. When you get out of the middle it is a different story, but Anthony Gose patroling center, Jose Iglesius at short, Ian Kinsler at second and James McCann behind the dish provides 4 gold-glove candidates. In my eyes Iglesius is the best Shortstop in the A.L. and with the exception of maybe Andralton Simmons, maybe the best in the game. His diving underhanded flip throw against the Royals in 2013 is still the stuff of nightmares. Gose in Center is as fast as they come. He covers more ground than should be possible, and with the expanses of center in Comerica Park you need a speedster to run down balls. Though the rest of the defense may be a little suspect on this team, you will want to keep the ball out of the middle of the diamond if you want to have success.
Though the Tigers bolstered their rotation with work horse Jordan Zimmerman, they still have a few holes in the pitching staff. Anibal Sanchez is as good as they come (when he isn't dealing with arm issues), and will still hold down the rotation if healthy, but after that it gets a little shaky. Recently coming back down to earth, Justin Verlander had a human season last year. Some say it is age sucking a few miles an hour out of his fastballs, some say it was Kate Upton, whatever it is, Verlander is not the same pitcher he was in years past.
That being said, Verlander did seem to make some adjustments late in the season, and turned what was a terrible season into an average season. He also admitted to looking at scouting reports more, which is something he never did prior to 2015. Throw in young gun Daniel Norris, and resurrection project Mike Pelfrey and you have an uncertain 3,4,5 in the rotation. This could lead to some problems with the Tigers, and a possibility of a trade, or call-up mid-season.
The bullpen is another area that Detroit is looking to improve. Losing former Royal Joakim Soria back to the Royals in free agency did not help this cause. While Soria was an expensive addition for the Royals, the cost may have been worth it two fold in weakening the Tigers pen while at the same time strengthening ours. Fransico Rodriguez was brought in to see if he could keep his rejuvenation that occured last season going. He will be brought in as this years closer. Mark Lowe was also brought in this year, but as it was a problem last year, the pen did not get significantly improve, and that is a problem again this year.
This team is getting older, and as we all know Age is undefeated in the game of baseball. So with that said the Verlanders, Cabreras and Martinez on this team are skating on a razor thin edge for injuries. Previous experience tells us that one (probably all) of them will spend some time on the DL this year. With the vamped up Central this year. Those few days could spell disastor. And if it is significant time for them, it could be a repeat of last years 74 win campaign.
Bruce Rondon– This kid is ELECTRIC. He can straight shove. But that being said he is a "me" guy that is going to have to learn what it takes to be a pro. Brad Ausmus shut him down last year (well he pretty much kicked him off the team), but if he can find a way to guide and mold this young talent you have one of the best arms in the Pros at your side. And that is a scary thought for anyone that plans on hitting against this team.
1. Ian Kinsler 2nd
2. Justin Upton LF
3. Miguel Cabrera 1st
4. J.D. Martinez RF
5. Victor Martinez DH
6. Nick Castellanos 3rd
7. James McCann C
8. Jose Iglesius SS
9. Anthony Gose CF
1. Anibal Sanchez
2. Jordan Zimmerman
3. Justin Upton
4. Daniel Norris
5. Mike Pelfrey
I really think this pitching staff mixed with the bullpen is not going to be good enough to overcome the injuries on the offense. I really think this team could be a contender if they stay healthy, but otherwise they may find themselves with the White Sox in the cellar of the A.L. Central. I would imagine they are 4-6 games better than last year, so 78-86 and fourth place in the Central.
Stay tuned next week for my look at the Clevland Indians.
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