With Detroit’s 3rd division title in as many years, now the real question looms:
Can the Tigers win their first World Series since 1984? They lost in 2006 and again last year, so this won’t be easy, but the Tigers have a chance because this roster is talented and capable of beating any team between them and a championship.
Starters: The Tigers’ chances begin with their five starting pitchers. The staff ace is returning Cy Young winner, though he isn’t repeating, Justin Verlander (13-12, 3.56 ERA), who is having a down year by his incredibly high standards. Max Scherzer (21-3, 2.90) is the favorite to win the 2013 Cy Young award. Anibal Sanchez (14-8, 2.64) is in the Cy Young argument, and has actually out-pitched Scherzer at times this season. Doug Fister (14-9, 3.69) hasn’t been as solid as the past two years, but is reliable nonetheless. Rick Porcello (13-8, 4.38) has been up and down most of his career, but has been better this year. Will likely throw out of the bullpen again this year.
Bullpen: Joaquin Benoit (4-1, 1.91 ERA 25/26 saves) has locked down the closer role. Jose Veras (0-1, 3.38 ERA, 2 saves) has helped solidify the previously shaky bullpen since the Tigers acquired the former Houston closer. Lefty converted starter Drew Smyly (6-0, 2.40) and Al Alburquerque (4-3, 4.72 ERA) have also filled in. Rookie Bruce Rondon (1-2, 3.45) has fought injuries, and lefty Phil Coke (0-5, 5.40) has battled injuries and ineffectiveness. All in all, the weakest link on the team.
Batting Order: CF Austin Jackson (.273 average, 12 HR, 48 RBIs, 99 runs scored), RF Torii Hunter (.304/17/84/90), defending AL MVP 3B Miguel Cabrera (.345/44/137/103), 1B Prince Fielder (.281/25/106/81), DH Victor Martinez (.302/14/83/68), C Alex Avila (.225/11/46/68), 2B Omar Infante (.318/10/51/54), LF Andy Dirks (.259/9/37/60), and rookie SS Jose Iglesias (.276/2/10/12 since being acquired) comprise one of the most dangerous lineups in baseball, though they’ve been battling injuries this year and Avila hasn’t been as effective this year hitting.
Bench: former starting shortstop Johnny Peralta (.305/11/54/50) will likely platoon in left with Dirks, and pinch hit. Utility player Don Kelly (.231/6/23/33) backs up at several positions. OF Matt Tuaisosopo (.250/7/30/25) struggled down the stretch and lost his starting job. C Brayan Pena (.302/4/22/19) backs up Avila. Infielder Ramon Santiago (.229/1/14/27) backs up Infante, Iglesias, and Cabrera. The bench is somewhat of a question mark, as they can’t fill in for too long.
Defense: Torii Hunter is a 9 time Gold Glove winner and Iglesias has the skill to win one this year. Infante has solid range. Jackson has the speed and range to cover the vast center field of Comerica Park. The remainder of the defense is questionable at best, and teams have run on Detroit this year at will.
Summary: This lineup can hit anyone, and the starters are capable of dominating hitters. However, the bullpen and bench could hinder their chances. With that said, if the lineup can stay healthy, and the starting pitchers pitch like they’re capable of, they should win the whole thing.
I’ve been a Detroit Tigers fan since 1984, when as a kid, I saw my first World Series.
Stats are provided by www.baseball-reference.com