Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Tigers Take the Central Division

Well, at least they should this year. The White Sox have fallen off their perch and the rest just don’t stack up to the Tigers. Last season the Tigers went 95-67 and lost in the ALCS. With the additions they have made and their depth of pitching, they not only could improve on last year’s wins but play through to the World Series. However, the very improved Angels will have a lot to say about that.

The Position Players:
The Tigers have done well with hitting and fielding over the past few years. Prince Fielder is the new kid on the block and came with a $214 million dollar price tag and maybe five year’s worth of quality hits. But for now, he is the man at first and brings a tremendous amount of pop to the equation. He could add another 3 wins by himself. Have they overpaid? If the Tigers win the WS during Fielder’s tenure, then it was worth it, big time. At 3rd is Miguel Cabrera (switched from 1st) and his career .317 BA. He hit 197 hits last year and is a horse by playing 161 games in 2011. At SS is Jhonny Peralta and his .299 BA and 21 HR and 86 RBI. Alex Avila is catching and hitting well with 19 HR and a .295 BA for 2011. For 2nd base we have Ryan Rayburn who is better by far than Brandon Inge, who no longer has the stuff to be a starter (has not for a while) and hits well below the Mendoza line.

In RF we have Brennon Boesch, the quick fielding second year man, that is doing great in spring training. He is taking the position of the much worn out Magglio Ordonez (38) who has not been signed for this year. Ordonez had an OBP of .634 and Boesch had .798. Hopefully Boesch will add to his 115 starts last year by staying healthy. His BA was .285 with 10 HR and 25 2Bs. He had surgery on his thumb in September, but appears to be healthy now. He is an improvement over Ordonez. It has been rumored that Magglio Ordonez is ready to retire. In LF, we have Austin Jackson, who had 147 hits last year and a BA of .271. He is similar to Curtis Granderson, with his fleet footed fielding. Delmon Young is in LF. He appears to be getting stronger. He went to the Tigers in August to shore up a much-used up outfield and to add some pop with the bat. He now seems to have settled with the Tigers. Last year he hit .302 and is .413 in spring training. He is just 25 years old and has a lot of years left to add to Tiger goals (if he stays healthy), but still might wind up as a DH.

In summation, the position players must stay healthy. Only Andy Dirks and Brandon Inge are the utility guys and are not nearly enough backup, if needed.

The Pitching Staff: With the seemingly indomitable Justin Verlander in the lead, the staff is very strong. You need pitching to win and the Tigers have most of what they need.
Following Verlander are Doug Fister (ERA 1.79), Max Scherzer e (WHIP 1.35) and Rick Procello (14/9) . This makes a very nice one thru four starters. Jim Leyland wants a fifth starter and has several to choose from that are both young and raw at the same time. They may just not be ready yet for a full time position. They are Andy Oliver, Duane Below, Drew Smyly and Adam Wilk. Leyland will probably have to look outside the Tigers to find a fifth starter.

Relief is also strong at the top with Jose Valverde still showing good form this spring. The Tigers also have Joaquin Benoit for long relief with Phil Coke and the lefty, Daniel Schelereth, taking the seventh and eight innings. Also on the list is the much traveled Oliver Dotel who appears with the Tigers for his, what, 16th team? He will take short relief. Dotel is a one or two out short-term guy. But he can go in anywhere, like he did in the WS in the fifth inning and got an out. Leyland wants a flexible player and Dotel may just fit the bill again. With Al Alburquerque out for at least half the season, Dotel is what they need now.

There have been many positive comments made this year about both the Tigers who are 15/6 and especially the Jays who are a league leading 21/4. Spring training is that time when specialized work needs to be done in game situations. It means nothing in the real scheme of things. Pitchers work on what they need to throw and hitters get used to hitting it. Delmon Young said this about the subject; "You can get hits in Spring Training, especially early," Young said. "You could see with [David] Price and [Jeremy] Hellickson, they're just working on fastball location right now. They weren't mixing in breaking balls or anything. Spring stats can be misleading when you have guys that can come up in the first week against a lot of fastballs and hit the cover off the ball. Then when the season comes around, when they mix it up and the lights come on, then you see the real hitters." I could not agree more. However, I do hope that the work done in spring training does translate to the season.

The Tigers are poised to take the Central Division. They must handle the Angels and whatever the East may bring to get through to the World Series, but they have a fair chance.


Rick Blechta said...

Gee, John, did Texas just bow out of the American League? What about them? If you’re going to mention the Angels, you’ve got to mention them. I hear they might have an outside chance this year...

John the Tomahawk Trembath said...

Well... I think the Rangers are wild card team. The Angles and the Rangers are the only ones in it out West, so the Angles take the division. The Central is Detroit and in the East, well, again. It's a real mix up but to prognosticate out loud, I'd say Yanks and Jays with Boston and Rays following. Baltimore??? I am not sure the Sox are a Bobby Valentine type of club. It's going to be rough over there.

Larry Toman said...

Hi John, solid read, good article. I agree with Rick though..don't put the Rangers on the back burner.Tigers are indeed looking strong. The chemistry evolving in the Jays clubhouse has not existed like this for a long, long time. They are going to make a lot of noise this season. Cheers!!

John the Tomahawk Trembath said...

Hi Larry, I should have included my real positive read on the Jays too, after such a positive spring and I do not mean just the wins. I do agreed you that the club house sprit is great. Its presence after so long a time of absence is readily apparent. It feel good even from the outside.
btw, Rick, what league are the Astros in???? Something feels very uneven here. Again the comish waffles and blows it. Thanks guys for your comments.

Rick Blechta said...

Astros? A league of their own?

John the Tomahawk Trembath said...

Yes, Rick, the Astros are in a league of their own. For their poor fans this year, remember, "there is no crying in baseball".