My Tigers Off-Season and Projected 2013 Opening Day Roster

Free Agency Moves

1. The Tigers exercise Jhonny Peralta’s option. Considering that I’m not a big Jhonny fan, this does not leave me excited. Jhonny’s 2011 season was a career-year anomaly, and we saw a regression to the mean in 2012. I’m also ridiculously tired of people talking about his low error count; it’s a result of his brick-foot range, not some tremendous fielding capabilities. However, the free agent market at shortstop is super thin, and my dreams of trading for Elvis Andrus are unrealistic.

2. The Tigers re-sign Gerald Laird. I laugh every time I see the scoreboard flash “Be Scared of Laird” at Comerica Park, because he’s far from being an intimidating hitter. That being said, he’s a very serviceable backup to Avila and should demand a relatively cheap contract for what he provides.

3. The Tigers DO NOT re-sign Delmon Young. Ninja Turtle Yankee Killer is going to fetch a much higher contract now than he would have if the season ended in September. Regardless of price, I think the Tigers were planning on heading in another direction with the outfield anyway, and V-Mart is going to return to his role as the club’s designated hitter.

4. The Tigers DO NOT re-sign Anibal Sanchez. As much as it pains me to say it, I think the great late-season performance Sanchez put on display for Detroit pushed him out of their price range this offseason. Sanchez would be the fourth starter in the rotation for the Tigers, and I expect Sanchez to sign a big multi-year deal with a team that expects him to take over a role as their number 2 starter.

5. The Tigers exercise Octavio Dotel’s option. Dotel was reliable as the 7th-inning specialist for the Tigers for the majority of the 2012 season, and he brings experience and a wins-driven mentality to the table. Add the fact that his option is relatively affordable, and I think we see him return for another year as the organization’s 7th-inning hurler.

6. The Tigers DO NOT re-sign Jose Valverde. I’m pretty sure that Tigers fans would riot if Dombrowski offered Valverde a contract to stay in Detroit, considering the hell he put them through in the 2012 postseason. Adios, and good riddance, to the fat potato and his chicken bone arms and obscenely torpid delivery to home plate.

7. The Tigers sign Francisco Rodriguez. The man affectionately known as “K-Rod” struggled mightily this year in Milwaukee, logging the highest season ERA and WHIP of his career. This should allow the Tigers to get Rodriguez at a discounted price, and I’m of the belief that this poor showing was the exception in what has otherwise been a stellar career. He’s only 30 years old, he’d join fellow Venezuelans Miguel Cabrera, Brayan Villarreal, and Omar Infante in the clubhouse, and he could take on the role of closer (OR setup man, if Leyland and company believe Benoit would be more well-suited for the 9th inning).

8. The Tigers sign Josh Hamilton. I would much rather see the Tigers go after someone like San Francisco’s Angel Pagan, who could offer a .285 hit clip and 30 stolen bases. However, with fans clamoring for another major offseason signing to push the Tigers over the top, I expect Illitch to open up his pocketbook even further for a (maddeningly inconsistent) power hitter.

Hypothetical Lineup

1. Austin Jackson – CF
2.
Victor Martinez – DH
3.
Miguel Cabrera – 3B
4.
Prince Fielder – 1B
5.
Josh Hamilton – LF
6.
Andy Dirks – RF
7.
Jhonny Peralta – SS
8.
Alex Avila – C
9.
Omar Infante – 2B

Hypothetical Rotation

1. Justin Verlander
2.
Doug Fister
3.
Max Scherzer
4.
Rick Porcello
5.
Drew Smyly

Hypothetical Bullpen

1. Phil Coke, LHP
2.
Brayan Villarreal, MRP – RHP
3.
Al Alburquerque, MRP – RHP
4.
Darin Downs, MRP – LHP
5.
Octavio Dotel, Gap Pitcher/7th inning specialist
6.
Joaquin Benoit, Setup Man
7.
Francisco Rodriguez, Closer

Detroit Tigers 2012 Season Preview – Part 3 (General Season Outlook)

The following is the third and final article in a three-part series that will offer a 2012 season preview for the Detroit Tigers.

March 31st – Projected Lineup and Bench
April 2nd – Projected Starting Rotation and Bullpen
April 3rd – General Season Outlook
April 5th –  Detroit Tigers’ Season Opener vs. Boston Red Sox

Projected Record

97-65, AL Central Champions. I don’t like to count my chickens before their hatched, but that’s exactly what I’m doing here. If the Tiger’s fail to win the AL Central this year, given the quality of the rest of the teams in the division, everyone will consider the season a devastating failure. Hell, anything short of a World Series appearance will be considered a failure given this payroll. Mike Illitch didn’t open up his wallet to pay for a team to win the easiest division in the MLB and bow out in the divisional series.

Projected Team MVP

Miguel Cabrera, 3B. I’m thinking out of the box and really stepping out on a limb on this one, eh? The majority of analysts are picking Miggy to win the AL MVP, so projecting him as the team MVP might seem easy. In the words of the fabled Lee Corso, “Not so fast, my friend!” I took a really long deciding between Miggy and Verlander here, but I think the addition of Prince Fielder and the insurance he offers in the lineup put Miggy over the top in my mind.

3 Players who need to improve on their 2011 results
1. Austin Jackson
2. Max Scherzer
3.
Phil Coke

3 Players who can’t be expected to recreate their 2011 results
1. Justin Verlander
2.
Jhonny Peralta
3.
Doug Fister

 

Detroit Tigers 2012 Season Preview – Part 2 (Projected Starting Rotation and Bullpen)


The following is the second article in a three-part series that will offer a 2012 season preview for the Detroit Tigers.

March 31st – Projected Lineup and Bench
April 2nd – Projected Starting Rotation and Bullpen
April 3rd – General Season Outlook
April 5th –  Detroit Tigers’ Season Opener vs. Boston Red Sox


Projected Starting Rotation

1. Justin Verlander, RHP – I hope people can understand what Justin Verlander did to earn AL MVP as a pitcher; He led the league in starts, wins, innings pitched, strikeouts, ERA, WHIP, and batting average against! The Tigers coasted to the AL Central title in 2011, and J.V. was the main reason. He’s been the Tigers’ ace for quite some time, and I don’t expect that to change anytime soon. Some people forget that he is only 29 years old, but I remind myself of the fact every time I doubt his ability to get to the now modernly inconceivable feat of 300 wins.

2. Doug Fister, RHP
Put him in a ghillie suit, and he could star as the beanstalk in a big screen version with Jack and the giant. All jokes aside, the California native was unstoppable in a Tiger uniform in 2011. Fister has excelled this spring as well, logging a 3-0 record with a 2.03 ERA and 11 K’s in 13 and 1/3 innings pitched. If Scherzer pitches near the ceiling of his capabilities, I could understand Leyland putting Fister third in the rotation. However, as it stands right now, I think Fister has demonstrated enough sustained success as a Tiger to maintain his spot in the #2 slot of the rotation.

3. Max Scherzer, RHP
Have they diagnosed Max Scherzer with bipolar disorder yet? No? Well, I’m going to go ahead and diagnose his pitching (and his eyes) as bipolar. I’m fairly certain Katy Perry wrote the song “Hot n Cold” after she saw Max Scherzer on the pitcher’s mound. It seems like Scherzer can never truly get into a grove from game-to-game; he’ll go out and twirl a 7+ inning gem, then follow it up with a sub-five inning debacle. If he can find a way to have consistent command of his Slider in 2012, he’s capable of being a 20-game winner. I don’t see it happening; I’m just saying that he possesses that sort of talent.

4. Rick Porcello, RHP
Calm down ladies! Now that Brandon Inge is (hopefully) off the roster, every jersey-chasing fan girl will have to resort to their second-favorite dreamboat. I’ve been a fan of Slick Rick ever since he tossed Kevin Youkilis’ fat ass to the ground at Fenway. However, if he wants to continue to maintain possession of my fandom, I expect him to approach his freshman effort from 2009. The fact of the matter is that his ERA the past two seasons has approached 5, and I expect more out of a 1st round pick.

5. Duane Below  Drew Smyly, LHP
Just when I was starting to come around on Jacob Turner, he went and got hurt. Turner was in the running for the final spot in the Tigers’ starting rotation, but he came down with a bit of shoulder tendinitis earlier this month and wasn’t able to recover in time. That made it a three-horse race between Andy Oliver, Drew Smyly, and Duane Below for the fifth spot in the Tigers’ rotation. Oliver’s abysmal spring performance made it easy for Jim Leyland to eliminate him from contention. If the race for the fifth starting spot is based solely on spring training performance, go ahead and give it to Smyly. Smyly has been consistent in his 4 outings, registering a 2.84 ERA with 10 K’s in 12 innings pitched. On the other hand, Below has had frequent command problems this spring, issuing 10 walks in his 15 and 2/3 innings pitched. Regardless of who the Marlboro Man goes with to start the season, I expect Jacob Turner to be the Tigers’ #5 by mid-May, at the latest.
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Projected Bullpen

Collin Balester, MRPPlaying the role of new kid on the block, the Tigers were able to obtain Balester’s services during the offseason by unloading Ryan Perry on the Washington Nationals. I don’t know much about the 6’5” 25-year old, but I’m not exactly impressed looking at his career stats. His career statistics through 2011 include a 5-16 record, with a 5.17 ERA; I can only hope Jeff Jones can get him straightened out. If spring is any indication, he’s headed down the right path – Balester is sporting a 0.75 ERA in 12 innings pitched. Still, I don’t expect Balester to be called out of the pen in close games early in the season; Leyland will probably want proof that he’s capable of pitching in low-stress situations before he throws him into the gauntlet.

Phil Coke, MRP/LRPLast year, Coke was the victim of being forced into the fifth starter position by a coaching staff that was dead set on having a lefty in the rotation; everyone that watches the Tigers remembers how that move worked out. It took until June for Jim, Jeff, and company to permanently move Coke back to the pen. Once they did, he settled back into his role as a middle to long reliever and lefty matchup man. In 2011, Coke’s ERA as a starter was 4.91; his ERA as a reliever was 3.41. I think it’s safe to say he’s found his niche as a Tiger.

Luis Marte, MRP
Who’s that short, fiery Dominican that’s ringing up batters left and right for the Tigers in the Grapefruit League? Wait a minute…I thought Al Alburquerque was out for another 3 months recovering from elbow surgery? Well, actually, that is the case. However, the Tigers have another short, fiery Dominican capable of striking out the side – Luis Marte. Marte briefly came up to pitch for the Tigers in 2011 in the month of September, but his 3 and 2/3 innings pitched didn’t offer much of a sample size. However, he’s been dominate in his 13 innings down in Florida throughout March, rocking a 2.08 ERA and a 16 to 3 strikeout to walk ratio.

Daniel Schlereth, MRP
I must say, I thought the bearded wonder was a pretty reliable out of the pen last year. Let’s put it this way – with Schlereth, I didn’t have that general feeling of unease I experienced when Phil Coke or Ryan Perry jogged in from left field. As a Tiger, Schlereth has been very consistent, yielding earned runs in only 14 of his 67 appearances in the navy, white, and orange. I expect that consistency to continue; Leyland should feel comfortable plugging in Schlereth in the 7th inning when Octavio Dotel needs a day off.

Octavio Dotel, Gap Pitcher/7th Inning Specialist
I can’t decide if I should make a gray hair joke or a joke about using a walker to get to the mound. However, his addition will bring another veteran presence to augment the leadership of his new 8th and 9th inning brethren. The addition of Dotel also should make Leyland much more comfortable putting Porcello and whoever is in the fifth spot in the rotation out on the mound, knowing that they really only have to go 6 innings to get to the usual suspects in the bullpen. It should also be noted that in 2011, Dotel played a vital role on the St. Louis Cardinals’ championship team.

Joaquin Benoit, Setup Man
Has everyone got the image from the playoffs of Benoit with that massive abscess on his face out of their brain? Well, by asking that rhetorical question, I reminded you of it; you’re welcome. The Tigers paid the big bucks to acquire Joaquin Benoit for the 2011 season, and his performance in April and May made Tigers fans wonder if general manager Dave Dombrowski made an expensive mistake. However, Benoit was able to right ship, logging a 1.54 ERA from June through September. I still feel very comfortable when J.V. can only go 7, because he’ll be handing the ball off to two of the best late-inning pitchers in all of baseball.

Jose Valverde, Closer
The man affectionately known as Papa Grande is the most entertaining closer in all off baseball; he also happens to be one of the most effective. Last season, Valverde went a perfect 49 for 49 in save opportunities, as he became only the third pitcher in baseball history to achieve perfection over an entire season with more than 28 saves. He was aptly given the 2011 MLB Delivery Man of the Year Award as the most outstanding relief pitcher of the regular season. Now someone just has to put in a call to get Papa Grande on the next season of Dancing with the Stars.
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Author: Joe Cook

Detroit Tigers 2012 Season Preview – Part 1 (Projected Lineup Card and Bench)


The following is the first article in a three-part series that will offer a 2012 season preview for the Detroit Tigers.

March 31st – Projected Lineup and Bench
April 2nd – Projected Starting Rotation and Bullpen
April 3rd – General Season Outlook
April 5th –  Detroit Tigers’ Season Opener vs. Boston Red Sox

Projected Lineup Card

1. Austin Jackson, CF When Dave Dombrowski traded Curtis Granderson to the Yankees for Action Jackson, he knew he was making a commitment to keep him in the leadoff spot, barring a cataclysmic collapse. It is vital that he get on base and offer functional base-stealing services this year, so it’d be nice to see a reduced strikeout count this season. Having Jackson in centerfield is a no-brainer.

2. Brennan Boesch, LF
I think this is the start of the most dangerous two-hole through five-hole in all of major league baseball (although Curtis, Robinson, Mark, and Alex might have something to say about that). Boesch was having a great 2011 season, until a nagging thumb injury and ensuing surgery sidelined him for the Tigers playoff push. If his performance in Spring Training is any indication, the thumb is fully healed. He’s tied for the team lead at 6 HRs, with 15 RBIs to boot. Putting Boesch in left isn’t a matter of choice; rather, it is by default. I think he looks comfortable out there, and I think Dirks has a stronger arm and comparable footspeed.

3. Miguel Cabrera, 3B
Do I really have to explain to anybody why Fat Cabby is batting third in this lineup? I didn’t think so. As far as positioning, we’ve already heard inadvertent Marlboro spokesman Jim Leyland commit to Miggy being his man at the hot corner.

4. Prince Fielder, 1B
This was generally accepted as the second-best offseason acquisition in all of baseball. I would argue that Fielder’s impact on the Tigers may will be more significant than the impact Pujols has with the Angels. Without going into too much detail, I think Pujols puts up better numbers, but Fielder’s presence augments the Tigers lineup down the board in a greater way. Fielder was acquired as our first baseman, so we have to embrace that positioning and Miggy being pushed over to third.

5. Delmon Young, DH
Before the Tigers acquired Young to become part of their playoff push, he was stuck in Minnesota having the worst season of his career; the change in scenery seemed to ignite his game. In 84 games with the Twins, he was batting .266, with 4 HRs and 32 RBIs. In his 40 games with the Tigers, he logged a .274 BA, with 8 HRs and 32 RBIs. He becomes a pitching nightmare if he can find a way to even come close to recreating his 2010 performance. The designated hitter spot makes sense for Young, especially if you’ve seen him play in the outfield.

6. Alex Avila, C
The breakout young gun from the 2011, Avila is coming off a season where he was voted into the starting lineup for the American League team at the MLB All-Star game. Although he has struggled at the dish a bit this spring, he seems to have improved at thwarting base-stealers from behind the plate. With this pitching staff, Avila’s ability to keep runners at first might should allow the Tigers to challenge other teams for the league lead in team ERA. Oh, and for the record – Alex Avila IS Jack Parkman.

7. Jhonny Peralta, SS
Jhonny doesn’t have the best range at short…okay, that’s an understatement; he makes Derek Jeter look like Troy Tulowitzki. However, fans saw last year that he is more than capable of making up for it with his ability at the plate. I’d be lying if I said it doesn’t big me that Peralta is about the only shortstop in baseball that lacks the footspeed to steal bases on a regular basis; he and J.J. Hardy of Baltimore were the only qualifying starting shortstops that failed to log a single stolen base in the 2011 season. However, he was second in RBIs among AL shortstops, so I’m willing to take the good with the bad.

8. Ryan Raburn, 2B
Ask anybody I know and they’ll tell you that I’ve never been a huge fan of Raburn, and the first half of the 2011 season did nothing to change my mind. However, I really want to lead anybody that is willing to follow me onto this guy’s bandwagon now. Raburn hit .213 prior to the All-Star break in 2011, but he hit .341 after the break and has been one of the top hitters in all of baseball in Grapefruit League play this spring. I worry that he had 10 errors in only 55 starts at second base last season, but if he can get comfortable at the position instead of having to constantly adapt as a utility man, perhaps he can bring the error count down.

9. Andy Dirks, RF
Dirks has spent the last two seasons in the Dominican Winter League and has come out a winner both times. He won a title with the Toros del Este in 2010-11 and had the game-winning hit in the championship with the Leones del Escogido in 2011-2012. His passion and love for the game of baseball is unparalleled on this iteration of the Tigers roster (Considering I expect Brandon Inge to finally ride off into the sunset – good riddance). If his spring performance is any indication it looks like his time in the Dominican Republic has paid off. He’s batting average is at .422, and his on-base percentage is a whopping .481. I think it makes sense to put Dirks out in right with his arm strength.
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Projected Bench

Gerald Laird, C I laugh every time I’m at Comerica and Laird comes to the plate, because the scoreboard animation reads, “Be Scared of Laird!” As an opposing pitcher, am I really supposed to be afraid of a lifetime .241 hitter, whose career homerun total was surpassed by Curtis Granderson’s single-season output in 2011? Who are we kidding, though? Laird’s on the squad to give Avila days off and lay one down to advance runners. I guess we can say he has a serviceable arm as well.

Don Kelly, Utility
 – A true utility guy, Kelly has played in at least 1 game at all nine positions in his career. Hell, the Tigers even threw him out to toe the rubber in 2011; he closed the season as the Tigers ERA leader, logging a 0.00 ERA with one-third of an inning pitched. I laugh reminiscing about that one out, as it came on a hanging breaking ball that Met’s temporary DH Scott Hairston got under and lifted out to Austin Jackson at the warning track in left center. That’s neither here nor there, though, as Kelly is really a coach’s ballplayer; he’s good for some clutch hits and you can put him where you need him on the field late in the game as a defensive substitute.

Ramon Santiago, 2B/SS If Jim Leyland plays Ramon at second more often than he plays Raburn there, I wouldn’t be surprised or unhappy. I would prefer Raburn starting there, but Ramon has paid his dues as a Tiger and is very reliable at the plate and in the field. If I had to guess, I’d say Santiago is the least polarizing Tiger on the entire roster – I don’t know anybody that hates him, and I don’t know anybody that loves him. He’s just there; he does his job as a backup, hitting at a .263 clip since the start of 2009 and minimizing mistakes in the field.


Danny Worth, 2B/SS/3B
Fellow PAW author Dan Stone wrote a fantastic article on Danny Worth earlier this week; I’d like to echo his sentiments. For that last positional spot on the bench, let’s compare Worth and Brandon Inge. Worth has demonstrated his ability to play 3 positions on the infield; Inge can definitely play third base, and he threw his token hat in the ring to try and play second – a hopefully futile attempt to keep his roster spot. Advantage: Worth. This spring, Worth is hitting .286 in 35 at-bats; he hit .270 in 37 at-bats in 2011. This spring, Inge is hitting .180 in 50 at-bats; he hit .197 in 269 at-bats in 2011. Advantage: Worth. In terms of age, Danny Worth is 26; Brandon Inge is 34. Advantage: Worth. You can see where this is headed, right? I have to end on a pun – putting Worth on the 25-man roster will prove Worthwhile. Boom.
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Author: Joe Cook

Trust Me, It’s WORTH It!

Brandon Inge remains one of the most controversial topic’s in Detroit sports, and it seems like everyone has an opinion on whether Inge should be a part of the Tigers or not. To me it’s time for the Brandon Inge saga to finally end, and it’s best for both sides to move on. The guy is a career .235 hitter, and his struggles have continued this spring, posting a .174 average. Manager Jim Leyland has made it clear that Cabrera won’t be replaced late in games for defensive purposes. With that being said, Inge’s value drops dramatically because his defense has probably been the one thing that has kept him on the roster. Inge finally saw the writing on the wall, and decided to throw his hat in the ring at 2nd base. This gives him more value, but Ryan Raburn has been one of the hottest hitters in spring training and doesn’t seem to be giving up his spot. Ramon Santiago is going to be on this roster without question because of his ability to play 3 infield positions and ability to handle the bat from both sides of the plate. The guy who I see emerging as the candidate to replace Inge on the final 25 man roster is Danny Worth.

Danny Worth has been on the Tigers MLB roster a few times in the past and has seen his fair share of big league pitching. Worth has proven this spring by batting .313 with five doubles and one homer in 32 at-bats.Worth is a guy who can play 3 infield positions and might have best hands on the team. Danny Worth could be valuable piece in the long 162 game season for the Tigers.    This spring Danny Worth has proven that he has earned the job over Inge and Inge has done nothing to say otherwise.

Brandon Inge is the longest tenured Tiger, he has been here when the team was dreadful, losing 106 games, and he was here when the team went to the World Series. Jim Leyland has shown his loyalty Inge by giving him as many chances as he can to earn the job outright this spring. He has given Inge 46 at-bats, and also has batted him up in the lineup to get more chances to swing the bat and get back on track. For a team that is not only competing for the Central division, but a World Series, the ultimate goal is to assemble the best 25 man roster to get the job done. This decision will be a tough one for Jim Leyland personally, but Danny Worth has flat out earned the spot over Inge and has proven to me, he truly is WORTH a spot on the 25 man roster.

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Author: Dan Stone