Covering the Bases: Detroit Tigers

In like a Tiger, out like a lamb. The Detroit Tigers took complete advantage when the Kansas City Royals started slipping, and were able to cruise into first place in the AL Central with a 16-10 September. The Tigers got off to a hot start in the first half, but due to a rocky bullpen, tapered off in the second half. Their weaknesses were exploited during the ALDS when they were swept by the Baltimore Orioles.

They do return most of their key players including Miguel Cabrera, David Price, Justin Verlander and Victor Martinez, just to name a few. They look set to lose an ace pitcher in free agent Max Scherzer, while also losing role players such as Torii Hunter and Joba Chamberlain. To repeat the success they had this coming season, a few things, like finding a guy to replace Scherzer, need to happen.

In the first half, Detroit was a team to be feared. They went into the All-Star Break at 53-38, and were a team that most people imagined being in control of the American League Central for the remainder of the second half.


First half .280 .333 .445 97
Second half .273 .328 .403 58

Average and on-base didn’t have much of a dropoff, but even though they played twenty less games in the second half, they hit thirty-nine less home runs, which was a big contributor to their mediocre second half at 37-34.

The mediocrity carried over into the playoffs. How do I know: Average teams do not last in the playoffs for more than three games, and so they didn’t. By the end of the season, Detroit was a team full of holes, and sweeping them was no problem for the Orioles. This is not to say that they were a train wreck, but they were simply the weakest link.

A big reason for the downfall of the Tigers was their bullpen. It was evident that the bullpen brought them way down. Out of thirty, Detroit ranked twenty-seventh in ERA and gave up 213 runs in 447 innings pitched. Closer, Joe Nathan, also had seven blown saves in 2014, which ranked second in MLB.

Though the bullpen was a weak, there were a few key players that were able to mask their performance, and make 2014 a successful season. Miguel Cabrera, J.D. and Victor Martinez, and Max Scherzer. Cabrera, as usual, was an offensive monster. He slashed .313/.371/.524. The only reason he was not MVP was that he was average on defense, and voters seemed to like the more complete package.

The best story from the Tigers, in my opinion, was J.D. Martinez. Martinez literally started at the bottom, and now he’s here. J.D. went from the last place Astros, and batting .250 with them, to the first place Tigers, and hitting .315 while mashing sixteen more home runs in 2014 than he did in 2013.

The other Martinez, Victor, seemed to find his power stroke in 2014. Victor hit a career high of thirty-two dingers, and also reached career highs in average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage. It was a career year for Victor Martinez, and it will be mighty difficult to repeat that.

On the pitching side of things, Max Scherzer was the unquestionable ace for the Tigers. Coming off of his Cy Young Award winning season, Scherzer seemed to lose a bit of steam, but still managed to compete at an elite level for the Tigers on a consistent basis. Scherzer pitched 220+ innings, and compiled a 3.15 ERA with 252 strikeouts.

Detroit will lose a few big names in free agency this year, with Max Scherzer being the most important. Scherzer made up eighteen Tiger victories, and it’s looking like the Tigers won’t be in the running to bring him back. Joba Chamberlain didn’t really have an effect on the Tigers in 2014. In fact, he may have done more harm than good with his four blown saves in six opportunities, but hey! He’s a free agent. The Tigers really should not sign him though. The other most relevant free agent, that isn’t so free anymore, is Torii Hunter. Hunter signed with the Twins earlier in the offseason, so it’s moot right now. Torii slashed .286/.319/.446 in his final season with Detroit. The other Tiger free agents are/were: Jim Johnson, Danny Worth, Ezequiel Carrera, Kevin Whelan, Evan Reed, Don Kelly, Joel Hanrahan, and Phil Coke.

To repeat success in 2015, the Tigers will need to find a pitcher to fill Max Scherzer’s shoes. From their group of three former Cy Young’s they still have two: David Price and Justin Verlander. However, there has been brief discussion of moving Verlander to the bullpen. The main key to success will always be to keep Miguel Cabrera happy and healthy. A healthy Miggy, more than likely means a healthy lineup. The Martinez boys also need to carryover their success. Because J.D.’s numbers were so abnormal, anything in the range of .270-.290 is what I expect from him. Victor has always had a consistent bat, so he is likely, if he stays healthy, to keep thriving in Detroit.

It will be tough this year for the AL Central Champs. The central looks to be a dogfight with the White Sox making so many moves, and the Royals only losing three major pieces from their pennant winning roster. The Tigers have almost all of the right pieces. Now it’s just a matter of finding that one or two more and making it all fit together.


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