It’s that time of year again: Spring is here and so is Detroit Tiger baseball. There is just as much hype and excitement surrounding this team as the last two years. But here are our thoughts for the awards around the MLB for this season.
A.L. MVP: Josh Hamilton (Curtis); Adrian Beltre (Rob)
N.L. MVP: Matt Kemp (Curtis); Joey Votto (Rob)
A.L. Cy Young: Felix Hernandez (Curtis); Justin Verlander (Rob)
N.L. Cy Young: Stephen Strasburg (Curtis); Strasburg (Rob)
A.L. Playoff Teams: Blue Jays, Tigers, Angels, Yankees, Indians (Curtis); Rays, Tigers, Angels, Blue Jays, Rangers (Rob)
N.L. Playoff Teams: Nationals, Cardinals, Dodgers, Braves, Giants (Curtis); Nationals, Reds, Giants, Dodgers, Cardinals (Rob)
World Series: Tigers vs Nationals (Curtis); Tigers vs. Nationals (Rob)
Now looking more specifically at our Tigers, it’s time to break down the three big keys to the game: hitting, fielding and pitching.
Hitting: This lineup could be one of the best in baseball with the addition of Torii Hunter. Austin Jackson could be a dark-horse MVP candidate if he continues to improve on his .300 average with 16 home runs, 66 RBI’s and 103 runs. But the addition of Hunter will solidify the top of the order and the return of V-Mart will make the combo of Miggy and Fielder even that much more dangerous. Hopefully guys like Peralta and Avila can put last year behind them and return to 2011 form to make this lineup balanced from top to bottom. (Rob)
This lineup is absolutely stacked. From one to nine, this lineup can tear the cover off the ball. Having a healthy Victor Martinez back hitting behind MVP Miguel Cabrera and slugger Prince Fielder will no doubt help the attack. The key for the offense will be the bottom third of the order of Peralta, Avila, and Infante. If they can get key hits throughout the year, they will be the best offense in the MLB. (Curtis)
Fielding: Detroit was bad in the field last year, and it might not be much better this year. Having a full season of Omar Infante will help the middle of the defense, but Prince, Miggy and Peralta lack the range to get much more than balls hit right at them. They will make the play if it comes to them, but outside of that it will be in the outfield.
Speaking of the outfield, Hunter should be a welcomed addition as a numerous time Gold Glover. Combined with Jackson and most likely Dirks will give this team a lot of range, but it is still a very spacious outfield to try to work with. This team is better in the field, but still below average as a unit (Rob)
The fielding has improved in the outfield with the addition of Torii Hunter. He is a great defender and will improve the defense greatly. In the infield though, it will not get any better than last year and might cost this team over the course of the season. But hopefully not too many games. Miguel Cabrera will be improved I believe but still all together the team has plenty of room for improvement. (Curtis)
Pitching: With the pitching staff, everything begins with Mr. Verlander. It will be a pleasure to watch him take the ball every five days and do his thing. Fister and Scherzer should be solid behind JV but the combo of Porcello and Sanchez are still question marks. Sanchez struggled when he first came to Detroit adjusting to the AL, but put it together in the playoffs. Porcello has all of the talent to be a solid starting pitcher but he needs to put it together for a full season like he did in Spring Training. Even with the issues on the back-end, the starters will be a strength on this team.
The bullpen is a whole different story. We all looked forward to Bruce Rondon closing games this season, and as of right now that’s not happening. So the Tigers need to hope he works things out quickly or have a bad team be willing to part with a closer for prospects. If the Tigers stay in-house with the closer search I like Albuquerque to get every chance to succeed in the closer role this season for the team. No matter what, they need to get this figured out quickly. (Rob)
The pitching will for sure be a strength again this year for the Tigers. The starting rotation is one of the best in the league and will remain so with ace Justin Verlander at the top. Max Scherzer, Doug Fister and Anibal Sanchez are a very good two, three, and four (not in that order) combination to go with JV. Fifth starter Rick Porcello is an inconsistent starter but he is still very young and has big game in experience.
As for the bullpen, I think that they are fine until they get to the 9th inning. They don’t know right now who their closer will be but I’m guessing Benoit or Coke will get the first chance at it. But the rest of the bullpen, Dotel and Alburquerque will be able to come in and shut down the opposing teams. (Curtis)
What do you think? Let us know on Facebook or via twitter or comment on the story below.