DETROIT TIGERS (AL Central)
2013 record: 93-69 (first by 1):
Projected 2014: 89.5 wins
World Series odds: 7/1
Key additions: 2B Ian Kinsler; RP Joe Nathan
X factor: Victor Martinez
Projected starting lineup: Infield: C – A. Avila; 1B – M. Cabrera; 2B –I. Kinsler; 3B –N. Castellanos; SS – J. Iglesias Outfield: LF –A. Dirks; CF – A. Jackson; RF – T. Hunter
Designated hitter: V. Martinez
Starting rotation: J. Verlander; M. Scherzer; A. Sanchez; D. Smyly; R. Porcello.
Closer: J. Nathan
When Prince Fielder left Detroit for the Texas Rangers, the first cheers were heard as far away as Cleveland and Kansas City.
The huge question with the Tigers is who will become the protection for Miguel Cabrera? Hey Ian Kinsler is a solid player, but he is no Fielder in terms of raw power.
Still LVH has the Tigers going at 7/1 to win the World Series, lowest among all American League teams including the defending champion Boston Red Sox.
This despite the projected win total of 89.5 four victories short of last year’s 93-69 mark. And the Tigers ended the regular season with three straight losses to barely hold off Cleveland who finished with 10 straight wins.
Negatives aside, the Tigers do have Cabrera off another spectacular season (.348 BA, 44 homers, 137 RBI). If the Tigers ever lost Cabrera to injury, that would be that.
Plus Detroit has that dynamic pitching staff so good that neither last year’s Cy Young winner or the ace Justin Verlander had the best ERA on the staff. That belonged to Anibal Sanchez.
Then Detroit solved that closer problem once and for all with the signing of Joe Nathan, a standout for years with Minnesota before having a cup of coffee with Texas.
So now Nathan and Kinsler join the Tigers and Fielder, who had a rough postseason, can attack that short right field porch in Arlington.
The underlying story is the loss of Jim Leyland as manager. Huge shoes for Brad Ausmus to fill, but fill them he must. And then there is that matter of finding enough protection for Cabrera, which will likely fall upon Torii Hunter and Victor Martinez, both past All Stars. The X factor will be whether there is still enough fuel in those tanks.
The Tigers can also use a big season from Austin Jackson, who made Curtis Granderson expendable a few years back and has the tools, if not the power to be one of the best leadoff hitters in baseball.
Bottom line: No team lost more players in the offseason – 1B Fielder, SS Jhonny Peralta, 2B Omar Infante, SP Doug Fister, closer Joaquin Benoit and Leyland. The Tigers are good, but the best in the AL? They may not even be best in the Central anymore.
On deck: Houston Astros
Mark Mayer has over 35 years covering sports events and is the sports editor at GT. Reach him at [email protected].