OT - Tigers season outlook

Submitted by HALOL on April 4th, 2012 at 7:50 PM


Opening day is finally here the Tigers begin their season tomorrow afternoon at Comerica Park against the Redsox on ESPN2 at 1 pm ET. To take my mind off the whole Trey Burke saga that is unfolding before us, I thought I would do a season preview/storylines to watch for as the season progresses for the Tigers.

Can Rick Porcello finally become the pitcher everyone thought he would be?

Porcello made his MLB debut way back in 2009, when he was 20 years old; he was the top prospect in the organization at the time. A lot of people thought he was way too young and being rushed, he had a decent rookie season and a memorable game 163 against the Twins to try and get the Tigers into the Playoffs. Even though the team came up short in that game it was a glimpse of what Rick was capable of. He is 23 now and two mediocre seasons later, he has shown so far this spring that he could finally be approaching the pitcher everyone thought he could be. His stats this spring: 2-0, 1.59 ERA, 17 IP, 16 hits, 5 R, 3 ER, 3BB, 9K's, 1.12 WHIP. He is never going to be a high strikeout guy but if he can start relying on his other pitches and not depend on his sinker as much he could have a breakout season.

Which Austin Jackson will show up?

The tale of two Jacksons, Austin is entering his third season as the Tigers Lead-off man and centerfielder. While there is no question in his ability as a defender, it’s what he will produce at the plate that has everyone wondering. Will he be the AJax of his rookie season who batted .293 or the sophomore AJax who hit .249 and was3rd! in all of baseball with 181 strikeouts. When you strikeout more than Adam Dunn you know there is something wrong. He has made an adjustment in his swing, decreasing his leg kick to try and time his swing better. He is still leading the team in strikeouts this spring but his OBP is up and he is leading the team in BB. I think we won't see either of the two previous Jacksons, he will be somewhere in between and with the guys he has hitting behind him he could and should lead the team in runs scored.

Will the 5th spot be a revolving door or will someone take the job and never look back?

The 5th spot in the rotation last season was a carousel of pitchers, between Phil Coke to Andy Oliver to a guy named Furbush no one ever really took charge and claimed the spot. This year Drew Smyly will get the first chance after beating out a crop of other lefties and current top prospect Jacob Turner. His spring wasn't phenomenal but he did enough to get the job, he is only 22 and last year was his first full year of professional ball, but what a year it was. I really like this kid and being the only lefty in the rotation helps his case, if he can just do enough to give the team a chance to win every 5th day he takes the mound, then he could lock down that spot for a while. But if he does struggle there will be guys waiting to take his place, and there is always the possibility the organization trades or signs a veteran to eat innings on their pursuit of the playoffs.

Will Cabrera be able to defend the hot corner throughout the season?

With the signing of Prince Fielder, Miguel moves back over to third base, the position he started his career at with the Marlins. Upon learning this news he dropped 20 pounds, he is still huge and his durability is going to be questioned through the whole season, and he didn’t help the chatter when he took a bullet off the bat of Hunter Pence to his face, cracking an orbital bone below his right eye.

It was gruesome looking but he is ready for opening day. Miguel’s defense has never been praised as an asset to his game, but he isn’t all that bad and being a third basemen originally should help in the transition back. I think he will be able to make the plays necessary to be reliable at third, just don’t expect him to make the “wow” plays like Inge use to.

Who will challenge the Tigers in the Central?

The easy answer is nobody, looking at the other teams in the Central division none of them look as solid as Detroit. The Twins get Mauer and Morneau back, but their pitching is weak. The Whitesox lose their manager and most reliable pitcher to the new Miami Marlins and they still have Adam Dunn on their team….so…yeah. The Indians, kind of made things interesting for two weeks last season until the Tigers decided to go on a 12 game win streak in September, they have potential this year…but they still play in Cleveland and as long as that is the case they will never win anything. Finally the Kansas City Royals, years of sucking and high draft picks is starting to show up on the field. They have a lot of young talent and I think they could finish second in the division. The Tigers will still probably win the division by 10+ games, and if they don’t then you know something terrible has happened.

Other Tidbits:

Ryan Raburn and Delmon Young have been hot this spring, but they are both historically inconsistent hitters at times. Can they both continue to make contact this season? Brennan Boesch who had his season cut short last year is getting a lot of buzz around the league and many people believe he should have a HUGE season batting in front of Miggy and Prince. When Octavio Dotel takes the mound for the Tigers this season he will become the only player to pitch for 13! different teams in his career. Matt Cain of the San Francisco Giants signed a 6-year 127.5 million dollar contract extension the other day, making him the richest right hander in the game. I mention that because Justin Verlander the reigning AL MVP and Cy Young signed a 5-year 80 Million dollar extension in 2010. Although he is 2 years older than Cain, I won’t be surprised if JV is given another extension making him the richest pitcher in the game, he certainly would deserve it.

Overall I think it is going to be a great season for the Tigers, I don’t want to jinx them or anything but I’m predicting a Detroit vs. Arizona World Series with our boys winning it all in 6 games. I’m interested to hear everyone else’s predictions as well, so leave a comment.




April 4th, 2012 at 8:09 PM ^

Go Tigers. Pumped for the season to start, but I'm bummed I am moving to Madison in July...anyone have any insight on whether or not I should get MLB tv?


April 4th, 2012 at 8:57 PM ^

I've had MLB.tv for five years and love it. HD quality got much better last year, I can hook the computer up to the tv and the picture is very good. One thing to mention - through last year I was able to watch the game while my buddy in Minnesota watched - both logged into my same account. Haven't tested to see if that loophole has been closed, but it's worth trying if you know someone with an account before buying your own subscription.


April 4th, 2012 at 8:14 PM ^

if you guys dont win the division by 10 to 15 games and pretty much go wire to wire I would be shocked. Even a few injuries shouldn't stop you from winning the Central. Good luck to you guys this year we will be fighting the Royals for the cellar.


April 4th, 2012 at 8:18 PM ^

I've been waiting for opening day since the Ohio loss. Cabera will be fine at third base, he won a ring playing the hot corner and his numbers will only get better now that he finally has a power bat protecting him with Prince. Verlander had a slow start last season and i think he could actually improve his numbers in April. If Raburn could stay hot we should have the division wrapped up by May, but if these team holds to form we will come out of the gate slow and everyone will panic and then win the division late in the summer.

One Armed Bandit

April 4th, 2012 at 8:21 PM ^

They could legitimately finish second when you look at it. As far as the Tigs, if Jackson breaks out of his sophomore slump and Boesch picks up where he left off before the injury you're looking at potentially the most lethal 1-5 hitting lineup in baseball.


April 4th, 2012 at 8:29 PM ^

Of the teams in the AL Central, I am pretty confident that the Tigers are far and away the most solid team and they are  in a great position to pretty much dominate the division this year. I will say, I was scared when Victor Martinez went down, but then the Tigers decide to go out and get Prince Fielder. We have a dynamic duo in Verlander and Fister (who I believe will have an excellent year), and despite questions at the fifth spot, it's a rotation that should be taken seriously by opponents.

I like the  idea of Boesch at the #2 spot in the lineup - they'll have to pitch to him, and he might have a superb year offensively, which is great because he can knock the living  sh*t out of the ball when  he's hot. The 3-4-5 spots will be lethal when they are working on all cylinders. I don't foresee much trouble scoring runs  when the Tigers bring their best game to the field.

rob f

April 4th, 2012 at 8:33 PM ^

Few scenarios exist in which the Tigers don't win the division---the talent gap between them and the rest of the division is bigger than in any other division in baseball.  This is a team that, given the pitching talent and power they posess, should win around 102-105 games; I suspect they'll coast at times, though, and end up with 97 wins, still plenty to win the AL Central by a mile.

KC, while better than they've been in decades, should battle it out with Cleveland for 2nd.  The other teams in the division should be well south of .500 when we reach the B1G Football Season.

I can see KC being a thorn (again) in the side of the Tigers this season in head-to-head games, as they have a load of young, speedy,  and eager talent---just the kind of team that might match up well with us.  But still, 2nd place is the ceiling for the Royals.

rob f

April 4th, 2012 at 8:37 PM ^

I'll be there either Saturday or Sunday, as my daughter let the cat out of the bag that she bought me and her brother tickets for one of the 2 weekend games as an Easter "surprise", telling me she was going to keep it a secret but realized she needed to to make sure my schedule was clear.  IT IS!



April 4th, 2012 at 8:45 PM ^

Everyone forgets we have a full season now with Fister and Young. Two underrated pickups. I agree that injury is our worse enemy.

MN Go Blue

April 4th, 2012 at 8:53 PM ^

This is one of those magic times of years.  I am most worried about our 5th starter and a natural regression from players like Peralta, Avila, Verlander and Papa Grande.  It would take more than average seasons from those players for the Tigers to lose the AL Central.   So I anything but the playoffs would be a big dissappointment.


April 4th, 2012 at 9:37 PM ^

I agree that I expect some regression from Papa Grande and Peralta. However, I actually think Avila is going to continue to improve. He was just gassed last year at having to catch so many games. While getting Fielder was obviously huge, I'm thrilled to see Laird back in the D. His offense is terrible, but he's a great defensive catcher who will allow Avila to stay fresh throughout the season.  I expect Young and Boesch to have massive years-I'm just concerned about that glaring hole at second base.


April 4th, 2012 at 8:55 PM ^

For the purposes of full disclosure I will admit up front that I am a White Sox fan. I believe the Tigers will win the division by double digit games and will be the only representative of the AL Central in the playoffs, but there is just no way this team is geared up for a title run with their infield defense. The Yankees for sure have the lineup to shut down the offense and the Rays and Rangers might as well.

Boras is a genius, he went straight to Illitch to negotiate for Fielder and got him to overpay for a player that is a big defensive liability when they already had a big defensive liability. I understand that Tigers fans are excited about the bats, but I just don't see them winning a championship in the near term.

rob f

April 4th, 2012 at 9:02 PM ^

Has anyone caught at least part of tonight's Opening Game, St. Louis @ Florida?  The Marlins' new ballpark in Miami is a thing of beauty!  They kept the retractable roof open for this one (it'll be closed much more often than open over the season)and have a blimp flying overhead for some incredible shots.

That said, I love seeing Ozzie's meltdowns, so it's gonna be fun to root against the Marlins!


April 5th, 2012 at 1:19 AM ^

They are trying to become a moderate to higher payroll team just like the Twins did when they opened Target Field, problem for the Twins is that their highest paid players (main attractions) are both injury prone. The M&M boys need to stay healthy to sell more tickets if the Twins hope to keep a higher payroll, quite a risk.


April 4th, 2012 at 9:08 PM ^

My own responses to your questions.

Porcello needs to master another pitch.  Right now he is fantastic when he's on at getting people to hit ground balls.  There's good news and bad news to that.  He gives up fewer home runs and walks than our other starters, but he also gives up more hits.  The infield will be worse defensively this year which could certainly hurt him.  Another pitch, that could generate more swinging strikes, woul go a long way towards helping him get out of innings and last longer into games.  His average innings per start is under 6.

Jackson will probably be somewhere between the two years.  The smaller leg kick he's worked on in spring training should help him get more hits, but many of them will be singles.  If he can start placing balls a little better he could really do well.  He won't hit as many homers as last year, but I think the Tigers would be happy with 185 hits, 35 doubles, 12 triples, and 8 homers if it meant he also had 75 walks and only 125 strikeouts.  His average would be around .280 but his on-base percentage would be closer to .360 (based on rough estimates given 155 games played and 680-ish plate appearances, not at-bats).

5th spot won't be settled until the trade deadline.  There's too much talent that's on the fringe but not quite there.  They'll either make a deadline deal or commit to someone for the remainder of he season, but until then the roller coaster will continue with a guy at the bigs having a 5.10 ERA over 8 starts while someone in Toledo goes 7-1 wit a 2.08 over the same stretch.

Cabrera will have a fielding percentage of .940 at 3B.  That's not good, but there will be at least a half dozen starting 3B in the league who are worse.

You're right that they should win the division by 10+ games.  The Royals are oddly the sexy pick to finish 2nd, but I'm going to shock people by saying the White Sox, who many are predicting to finish last in the division, will be 2nd.  Dunn and Rios can't possibly be that bad.  I think replacing Guillen with Ventura is going to be very good for them.

As for guys like Raburn, Young, and Boesch.  I have huge expectations for Young and Boesch.  Both are still fairly young (both born in 85) and Young has already had a season with 110+ RBI under his belt.  Boesch was amazing whenhe was first called up and then slumped horribly, but came back better before his injury last year.  He could have had 25 HR, 80 RBI if not for the injury and a terrible May.  Raburn, on the other hand, hasn't impressed me as much.  He's 4 years older and yet people are still waiting for him to have a breakout year.  I just don't see it happening.  If he can get 500 AB and hit .270 with 20+ HR I'll believe he's serviceable.  With the rest of the lineup, he certainly doesn't need to do much more.  He just needs to field at 2B with range and accuracy and I'll be fine with him.  Put an end to Inge.

Steve Lorenz

April 4th, 2012 at 10:23 PM ^

There are no "two" Jacksons. His first year was pushed by one of the highest BABIPs in baseball history. There's no way that a player who strikes out as much as him should be a leadoff hitter, especially when his speed has never been utilized properly by Leyland. Not to mention if you watched him last year, he was in an 0-2 count more than any player I could possibly think of. He never puts himself in a good position to get on base. 

I've always been an advocate of putting Avila in the leadoff spot. There's power galore in this lineup now with a healthy Boesch, Fielder, Cab and Young (Peralta and Raburn even) so you don't need him in the six or seven spot. Avila has a legit eye at the plate too. You can pretty much mark him down for a .375+ OBP and he doesn't strike out nearly as much as Jackson. Put Jackson at the bottom of the lineup until he learns how to either draw a walk or make more contact. 


April 4th, 2012 at 11:05 PM ^

I haven't had the opportunity to see many spring games this year so I'm not sure if Avila batting leadoff has been experimented with or talked about, but that wouldn't be a bad idea. I think leyland only keeps Jackson in that spot because he likes his speed, but that speed is kind of useless if he isn't getting on. Avila batting first would give them the best 1-5 maybe even 6 when peralta is hitting in the game.


April 4th, 2012 at 11:34 PM ^

Look as his line drive rates. Abnormally high as a rookie, abnormally low last year. I'm gonna guess that rate comes out someone normal this year and people finally stop over-reacting to Jackson as a leadoff man


April 5th, 2012 at 12:59 AM ^

Excited is an understatement for this teams expectations. I'm expecting some regression with Peralta, Avila, and FIster but at the same time we can see progression from Boesch, Raburn, and Jackson.

The key is and always has been A-Jax, it's no secret that during that 12 game winning streak he was on fire and getting on base like clockwork, if he can hit somewhere above .270 with a few more walks I'll be happy.

Smyly remains a question mark so hopefully he can build some solid footing in the bigs and remain on the 25 man roster all year. It's exciting to be a Tigers fan right now. Here's to a summer of Mario/Rod or Dickerson/Price if you prefer!


April 5th, 2012 at 8:38 AM ^

Some things I'll be looking for:

  • Consistency from Scherzer. He had a totally up and down season last year, and when he was up, he was top-of-the-rotation good. But when he was down, he was awful. One thing I noticed a lot with him last year was that he would get behind a lot of batters. It seemed to me that he was working from behind more often than not, and in the long run, you just can't have success like that. They say the best pitch is strike one, and I fully believe that. If Scherzer can consistently work ahead, showing good command of his fastball, he's got some nasty secondary pitches. FWIW, I saw him pitch against the Mets this spring, and he wasn't doing a good job of staying ahead of batters. He fell behind a lot. I heard he was working on a new pitch though, so you've got to take spring results with a grain of salt.
  • How will Fister do when he crashes back down to earth? The success he enjoyed with us last year is unsustainable. There's no way he pitches as well as he did for an entire season. He certainly won't be terrible, but I'll be surprised to see an ERA under 3.00 for him. I would be more than happy if his ERA ends up between 3.00-3.50, but I feel like a lot of people expect him to continue his momentum from last year (and the way he's pitched this spring isn't helping), and it's not just going to happen.
  • How much Porcello has matured. To the answer the OP's question about Porcello: no, I don't think Porcello will ever be who we thought he could be. When he made his debut in '09, everyone thought he had top-of-the-rotation talent. That's obviously not the case, and never will be; unless he magically develops a killer strikeout pitch. But I think he's turning into a solid mid-rotation pitcher. I'm expecting 200+ innings and a sub-4.00 ERA; and with the offense we have, that should be more than adequate for the #4 spot in our rotation.
  • Jacob Turner. I will be following him very closely. I've said it before, but I won't be upset if he doesn't go to Detroit at all this year. But if he's tearing it up in the minors, it will be interesting to see what Leyland/Dombrowski do, especially if Smyly proves he can be a legit big-league starter.
  • Also, if Smyly does produce well in the #5 spot AND guys like Turner, Oliver, Below, etc. are doing well in the Minors, I'd be interested to see if DD could get some teams interested in Smyly in return for an actual second-baseman.

It's exciting to have these kinds of expectations heading into the season though! I really don't think there's been a year in my lifetime (I was born in the late '80s) when I felt as confident about the Tigers heading into a year as I do now. Bless you boys!


April 5th, 2012 at 9:30 AM ^

Just please let the Tigers stay healthy this year. I thoroughly believe we would have been in the World Series last year if our team didn't get hit with the injury bug. Not having Boesch was killer and then V Mart and Delmon Young get banged up? Your team just isn't the same as what got you there.