Let's Go Tribe's American League Central Preview: Detroit Tigers

Hannah Foslien

Our look at the Tribe's competition around the American League Central concludes with the Tigers, who are once again the team to beat, but are also missing some key pieces from last year.



Between now and Opening Day, we'll be taking a look at each of the other American League teams, to see what they've done during the offseason, and examine their outlook for 2014.

Find other entries in the series here

- - - - - -

Detroit Tigers

2013 Record: 93-69 (1st in AL Central), 15-4 vs. Cleveland (ouch)

796 runs scored (2nd of 15 in AL), 624 runs allowed (2nd of 15 in AL)

The Tigers entered 2013 having won two AL Central titles in a row, and heavily favored to win a third. They sort of stumbled through the season's first three months, though they still had a winning record and were tied for the division lead when July 1 rolled around. Near the end of that month they began a 12-game winning streak that culminated with them arriving at Progressive Field and taking four in a row from the Tribe, which seemed to sew up the Central. They didn't finish the regular season very well though, and the Indians' long winning streak to end the year closed the margin all the way to a single game. Detroit beat Oakland in the ALDS, but dropped three 1-run games en route to losing the ALCS to Boston in six games.

Miguel Cabrera turned in another season as baseball's best hitter (.348/.442/.636). He really is a marvel at the plate. He won his second consecutive MVP (even though Mike Trout was baseball's best player for the second year in a row). Beyond Cabrera, no one in the lineup had a standout year, but almost everyone hit well. Catcher and left field were the only positions at which Detroit didn't get above-average hitting.

The Tigers had arguably the two best starting pitchers in the American League; incredibly, neither of them was Justin Verlander. He was very good again, but not to the degree he had been in previous years. Meanwhile, Anibal Sanchez led the league with a 2.57 ERA and Max Scherzer posted a 2.90 ERA, finished second in strikeouts, and had a 21-3 record that helped him coast to the Cy Young Award. Detroit's fourth starter, Doug Fister would have been the best on a few teams, and among the top two for most. Such was Detroit's wealth of arms.

Key offseason additions:

Joe Nathan (RP), Ian Kinsler (2B), Andrew Romine (SS), Alex Gonzalez (SS), Rajai Davis (OF), Joba Chamberlain (RP), Ian Krol (RP)

Key offseason departures:

Prince Fielder (1B), Doug Fister (SP), Jhonny Peralta (SS), Omar Infante (2B), Joaquin Benoit (RP)

2014 Payroll: ~$163 million (nearly double that of any other team in the division)

Projected 2014 Starting Lineup (with ZiPS fWAR projection):

Pos

Player

Projected WAR

C

Alex Avila

3

1B

Miguel Cabrera

5

2B

Ian Kinsler

4

3B

Nick Castellanos

2

SS

Andrew Romine

0

LF

Don Kelly

1

CF

Austin Jackson

3

RF

Torii Hunter

1

DH

Victor Martinez

1

TOTAL

20

Indian who has killed the Tigers:

David Murphy - .305/.367/.553, .920 OPS, 9 HR in 159 PA

Tigers who have killed the Indians:

Miguel Cabrera - .333/.414/.607, 1.020 OPS, 32 HR in 498 PA

Victor Martinez - .367/.423/.574, .997 OPS, 5 HR in 196 PA

Projected 2014 Starting Rotation/Bullpen (with ZiPS fWAR projection):

Pos

Player

Projected WAR

1

Justin Verlander

6

2

Max Scherzer

5

3

Anibal Sanchez

4

4

Rick Porcello

2

5

Drew Smyly

2

RP

Bullpen

2

TOTAL

21

2014 Outlook:

The Tigers had been working on an extension with Scherzer, but they were unable to work one out. Yesterday it was announced that Detroit had found someone to take their hundeds of millions though, as Cabrera was signed to an 8-year extension that will pay him $248 million from 2016 to 2023, an average of $31 million a year, or a total of $292 million over the next ten years. He's the best hitter in baseball, but he turns 31 in 3 weeks, he's already got a bad back, and he'll be 40 by the time the deal ends. Odds are Detroit is going to hate paying him $31 million in each of the last 4 or 5 years of that deal.

That's a ways away though. In the here and now, Detroit still has the most talent in the AL Central, and deserves to be a pretty heavy favorite to win the division again. They have 3 of the 4 or 5 best pitches in the division, and would have the best rotation even if one of those guys was injured. Joe Nathan is a nice upgrade at closer too (though their overall bullpen still doesn't look very good). Moving Fielder means the lineup has less pop, but it also gets Cabrera away from third base, opens a spot for their top prospect, and gives them an upgrade at second base.

Detroit only won the division by one game last year, so of course there's a chance they don't win it at all this season. The Indians and Royals both have enough talent to make a run at the top, if a coupe things break their way. It wouldn't be a surprise though, if the Tigers score more runs than anyone else in the Central, allow fewer runs, and win the division by 9 or 10 games.

PECOTA Projection: 86-76 (1st in AL Central), 728 runs scored, 681 runs allowed

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