CHICAGO, October 20, 2013 — Detroit went 88-74 last year, winning the AL Central, and made it to the World Series before being swept by the Giants. The Tigers improved their regular season record to 93-69 in 2013, but did not have the same playoff success. After beating the Oakland Athletics in the ALDS, Detroit lost to the Boston Red Sox in the ALCS. Now it is time to say better luck next year to the Detroit Tigers.
What Went Right: Miguel Cabrera followed up his MVP campaign last year with an even better year statistically including the same number of home runs and a higher average but didn’t win the Triple Crown showing some of the randomness in that achievement. Cabrera led the AL in all of the slash line categories posting a .348/.442/.636 line, good for a 187 OPS+, and provided 7.2 WAR. Cabrera was hampered by injuries throughout September and into the playoffs or the Tigers may very well still be playing.
Victor Martinez missed all of 2012 with a knee injury, and his catching days appear to be behind him as he didn’t catch or play first base this year instead seeing action in 159 games as the designated hitter. Martinez struggled early in the year, but came on strong to post a .301/.355/.470 slash line, good for a 111 OPS+.
Max Scherzer was the center of the debate about how important wins are this year, but regardless of how you view the win statistic Scherzer was just flat out good. Scherzer logged a career high in innings, 214.1, while posting an ERA+ of 145. Scherzer also struck out 28.7% of the batters he faced this year, near the highest of his career, while walking a career low of 6.7% of batters.
Scherzer was not alone in having a great year amongst Tiger starters as both Anibal Sanchez and Doug Fister also had great seasons. Sanchez threw 182.0 innings in 2013 with an ERA+ of 163, while striking out a career high 27.1% of the batters he faced and walking 7.2%. Fister did not post the eye popping totals of Scherzer and Sanchez, but tossed 208.2 innings with an ERA+ of 115, while striking out 18.1% of the batters he faced (close to league average) and walking just 5.0% of hitters he saw.
What Went Wrong: Prince Fielder was still one of the best first baseman in the league this year, but did post his worst season since 2006, his first full year in the majors. Fielder had a slash line of .279/.362/.457, good for an OPS+ of 120, and produced 1.7 WAR. Fielder has a strong enough track record where he can be expected to bounce back but this year was substandard by his lofty standards.
Alex Avila may never approach the level that he produced at in 2011, but that season seems to indicate he is capable of better than the .227/.317/.376 line that he posted this year.
Justin Verlander dipped to the levels he had shown in 2009 and 2010 after being the best pitcher in baseball the last two years. Verlander threw 218.1 innings this year with an ERA+ of 121. Verlander’s strikeout rate of 23.5% was slightly below the 25%’s he had posted the last couple of years, but his walk rate of 8.1% and line drive rate of 24% were both well above the levels he held hitters to the last couple years.
The struggles of Phil Coke and Al Alburquerque strained the Tigers’ bullpen, which was largely bailed out by their starters logging a MLB high 1023 innings. Coke threw 38.1 innings and posted a career worst 78 ERA+, which could be largely due to his walk rate ticking up to 11.9% from his career level of 8.7%.
Al Alburquerque appeared in 53 games, but was no where near his previous levels when he was viewed as a potential closer. Alburquerque had an ERA+ of 92, and although his walk and strikeout rates were near his career levels he allowed a 27% line drive rate. Finally, the Tigers farm system entered the year ranked 27th according to Baseball America, but does not have the high end prospects that the Tigers can, and have in the past, trade for more players to help the big club as they did in acquiring Miguel Cabrera and Anibal Sanchez.
What to Look for in 2014: The Tigers are in win now mode, and have been for a few years. With Max Scherzer becoming a free agent after the year the Tigers may look to add another high profile free agent, as they did with Prince Fielder, like Robinson Cano in an effort to push them over the top. If they do, their offense and starting pitching would likely have them competing for another AL Pennant.
Free Agents/Options: Jhonny Peralta, Joaquin Benoit, Omar Infante, Octavio Dotel, Ramon Santiago, Jose Veras, Brayan Pena
This article is the copyrighted property of the writer and Communities @ WashingtonTimes.com. Written permission must be obtained before reprint in online or print media. REPRINTING TWTC CONTENT WITHOUT PERMISSION AND/OR PAYMENT IS THEFT AND PUNISHABLE BY LAW.