Picking two of the four horsemen for the Tigers isn't difficult at all. The lineup boasts the reigning two-time AL MVP. The starting rotation features an AL Cy Young Award winner. Actually, there are two Cy Young Award winners among Detroit's starting five, including last year's honoree. But one is more important to the Tigers' fortunes this season, as I'll attempt to argue. This foursome doesn't necessarily represent the Tigers' four best players, but rather the four who could most influence their success or failure this season.no comments
We covered the Tigers' question marks — or weaknesses — in left field and the bullpen in an earlier post, and thus won't repeat them here. (What kind of blogging would that be?) But despite an overall roster that appears relatively solid, there are some underlying questions that Detroit will have to answer affirmatively if the team is to hold off the Indians and Royals in the AL Central, return to the postseason and compete for another trip to the World Series.no comments
Since 2006, two of the consistent trouble spots on the Tigers roster have been left field and the bullpen. Who could've guessed that Craig Monroe would be so difficult to replace? While Todd Jones wasn't a dominant closer (and was often frustrating to watch), Detroit hasn't been able to find a setup tandem close to Fernando Rodney and Joel Zumaya either.
Second base had also been problematic since Placido Polanco left after the 2009 season, but Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski solved that issue by trading for Omar Infante in 2012 and Ian Kinsler during this most recent offseason. Yet consistency in left field and the bullpen continue to elude the Tigers and loom as the team's two biggest weaknesses going into this season.no comments
The Tigers were close to a second consecutive trip to the World Series, but couldn't overcome their subpar bullpen and a deep Red Sox lineup and relief corps. That led to rather significant changes, Manager Jim Leyland retired, Prince Fielder and Doug Fister were traded and more strikeout arms were added to the bullpen. Additionally, a lineup previously dependent on big home runs aspires to be more aggressive on the basepaths.
All of the moves make for a different Tigers team than the one we've seen over the past two seasons. There could be some developmental bumps along the way, especially with a first-time manager learning on the job and a rookie breaking in at third base. But the cornerstone pieces are still in place, which should keep the Tigers among the best teams in the AL this season.
Depth Chart (as of 3/7)
C: Alex Avila
1B: Miguel Cabrera
2B: Ian Kinsler
3B: Nick Castellanos
SS: Jose Iglesias
LF: Rajai Davis
CF: Austin Jackson
RF: Torii Hunter
SP: Justin Verlander
SP: Max Scherzer
SP: Anibal Sanchez
SP: Rick Porcello
SP: Drew Smyly
CL: Joe Nathan
Today, we're going to wrap up the AL Central by looking at the three-time defending division champion Detroit Tigers. The Tigers dumped stars Doug Fister and Prince FIelder this winter, but added Ian Kinsler and Joe Nathan - will that overhaul catapult them to a fourth straight divisional crown?
And here's your schedule of televised games with pitching matchups for Friday, assuming most of the Grapefruit League doesn't get wiped out by rain again.
-Marlins vs Cardinals (1:05 PM, Alvarez vs Wainwright)
-Phillies vs Orioles (1:05 PM, Burnett vs Jimenez)
-Rays vs Blue Jays (1:05 PM, Cobb vs Buehrle)
-Cardinals vs Mets (1:10 PM, Martinez vs Matsuzaka)
-Cubs vs Angels (3:05 PM, McDonald vs Santiago)
-Padres vs Brewers (3:05 PM, Ross vs Garza)
-Rangers vs Dodgers (3:05 PM, Perez vs Lee)
Welcome to Tigers Day, and enjoy Spring Training, everyone.
|Like TOC on Facebook||Follow TOC on Twitter|
The Indians scored the fourth-most runs in the AL last season. For the Tribe's offense to be as productive as it was last year, and keep them competitive in the AL Central and wild-card races, the lineup's three best sluggers will need to continue swinging big bats. Of course, no club wins without good pitching. So the ace of the starting rotation needs to be listed among the Indians' top foursome as well. If this quartet puts up strong numbers, the Indians should compete for the postseason again.no comments
Who the Indians' fifth starter will be appears to be their biggest question during the spring. But the team has covered itself with five to six options to consider. While the everyday lineup looks solid, it does carry some underlying concerns. Will one of last year's breakouts turn out to be a one-year fluke? Will one of the team's top young players finally fulfill his potential? OK, there's also still a pitching concern — at the back end of the bullpen.no comments
One of the main reasons for the Indians' turnaround from 68 wins in 2012 to 92 victories last season was ownership giving general manager Chris Antonetti the financial resources to improve the roster. Cleveland showed its ambition to challenge the Tigers in the AL Central by signing free agents like Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn. Yet that same drive was missing during this most recent offseason. The Tribe didn't pursue any top free agents and let key contributors like Ubaldo Jimenez and Scott Kazmir go.
Another factor in Cleveland's resurgence was their improved pitching. The Indians' team ERA went from 4.78 in 2012 (finishing second-to-last in MLB) to 3.82 last year (climbing to 15th). That improvement took place despite a less than impressive defense playing behind the Tribe's pitchers. With a weakened starting rotation due to Jimenez and Kazmir leaving, it's even more important for the Indians to provide quality infield and outfield defense for their pitching to aid in run prevention.no comments
The Indians made major investments in their manager and everyday lineup before last season, and those changes paid off with the franchise's first postseason bid since 2007. Terry Francona provided a new voice and direction for a team that was no longer listening to Manny Acta, and his presence in the dugout made a significant difference.
But ownership's willingness to spend some money and increase the talent level on the roster made Francona's job much easier. Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn boosted the lineup with power and speed. They, along with Jason Giambi, also provided some veteran leadership that helped get Francona's message across to the younger players. The Tribe made a significant jump from 68 wins to 92 last season. But can they improve enough to stay in playoff contention this year?
Depth Chart (as of 3/6)
C: Yan Gomes
1B: Nick Swisher
2B: Jason Kipnis
3B: Lonnie Chisenhall
SS: Asdrubal Cabrera
LF: Michael Brantley
CF: Michael Bourn
RF: David Murphy
DH: Carlos Santana
SP: Justin Masterson
SP: Corey Kluber
SP: Zach McAllister
SP: Danny Salazar
SP: Carlos Carrasco
CL: John Axford