Five reasons the Tigers will be a better team in 2013

21-year old Avisail Garcia gained valuable experience last season in a short stint with the Detroit Tigers.

The Detroit Tigers won their 11th American League pennant in 2012, and even though they were swept aside in four games in the World Series, there were 28 other teams in baseball who would have liked to have gotten as far. Can they be an even better team in 2013? Most definitely.

Expectations will be high in Detroit this spring when the Tigers open the season. They have baseball’s most dominant pitcher, the first triple crown winner in 45 years, and a rotation filled with hard-throwing workhorses. Their lineup could be even better, and the experience of having played in the last two post-seasons will help. This is a team that knows they can win and knows how to get late into October. Manager Jim Leyland is a master at handling his club and GM Dave Dombrowski is one of the best in the game. Owner Mike Ilitch wants a World Series ring badly and will do just about anything to get one. The stars are lining up in Detroit for a winner, and 2013 could be the year. Here are five reasons the Tigers will be better in 2013.

1. VMart is back

Last year at this time we were getting the bad news that Victor Martinez had injured himself during his off-season training regimen. The injury prompted Ilitch to plunk down more than $200 million to get Prince Fielder in a Tiger uniform. That’s a good thing, and an even better thing is that VMart is back healthy and apparently 100% after a year away from the game. The DH/catcher will be a huge plus to the middle of the Detroit lineup. Expect him to put up a .300/25/100 line in 2013 with Miguel Cabrera and Fielder batting around him.

2. Verlander and Cabrera are in their primes

The Tigers have the last two Most Valuable Player Award winners on their roster. Justin Verlander is the best pitcher in baseball, period. He’ll turn 3o during spring training, is in excellent shape, and is still in the prime of his amazing career. Expect nothing less than another brilliant season from JV. Cabrera is actually two months younger than Verlander, though he’s been in the major leagues for a decade. The big slugger is freakishly gifted with baseball instincts and those things last a long time. Don’t count on him leading the league in every triple crown category, but he’ll probably win one of them – he has in four of his five years as a Tiger. VMart’s presence will allow Cabby to see even more great pitches in 2013. It’s scary how much better he could get. In Cabrera, Detroit fans are watching a first-ballot Hall of Famer in his prime.

3. Leyland is not afraid to use young players

If there’s one thing manager Jim Leyland isn’t afraid to do, it’s give young talent a chance to play. In 2006 he handed the ball to Verlander as a rookie and he leaned heavily on Joel Zumaya out of his bullpen. Why? Because they both had immense talent. Bruce Rondon is a 22-year old Venezuelan with a 100 MPH fastball. He’s never pitched in the big leagues, but if the right-hander can help the Tigers win in 2013, Leyland will use him. He has a chance to replace Jose Valverde as the team’s closer, if not right away, sat some point in ’13. For all the hoopla over Quintin Berry, it was Drew Smyly who was the best Tiger rookie in 2012. The slim lefty showed poise on the mound, out-pitching Rick Porcello and defying his own lack of experience at the big league level. Leyland will turn to Smyly in his rotation if he needs to (especially considering the rest of the rotation are right-handed). His willingness to rely on young players with talent (throw young outfielder Avisail Garcia in the mix too) is one of Leyland’s greatest strengths, and it will make the Tigers even better in the coming season.

4. Starting rotation is deeper and more mature

The Tigers decided to re-sign righty Anibal Sanchez, who was a free agent after coming over in a trade from the Marlins in mid-season last year. With him in tow, the Tigers have four strong starting pitchers for the full season: Verlander, Max Scherzer, Doug Fister, and Sanchez. Fister will be healthy after battling nagging injuries for much of the ’12 campaign. Scherzer took a huge step forward last year, elevating his game and maturing into one of the best pitchers in the league. He gives the Tigers their strongest duo since Denny McLain and Mickey Lolich in the late 1960s. Having all four right-handers at the start of the season will allow the Tigers to get off to a better start than last year, when they limped along at a mediocre pace for several months. Don’t expect any long losing streaks with that quartet running out to the mound. Rick Porcello and Smyly give the Tigers a pair of choices at the #5 starter spot, as well.

5. Defense and bench depth are improved

The acquisition of free agent outfielder Torii Hunter is a big plus for the Tigers. Only by watching him play every day can you recognize how talented and valuable Hunter is to his team. Even at the age of 37, Hunter is one of the best defensive outfielders in the game. He keeps himself in excellent condition, can still hit the ball in the gaps, and is a team leader and great presence in the clubhouse. His arrival automatically makes the team deeper too: Berry, Garcia, Andy Dirks, and Brennan Boesch are no longer required to play every day (in fact one of them may be traded). One of the weaknesses of last year’s team was the bench – there was never a good left-hande dbat coming off the bench and few pinch-hitting options at all. Dirks and Boesch, and possibly Garcia, provide better options off the bench. Garcia is a better defender than either Dirks and Boesch, so if his playing time increases, that will improve the team defense. A full-season from Omar Infante at second base will also help boost the infield defense.

What are your thoughts on the 2013 Tigers? Let me know in the comments section below.

16 replies on “Five reasons the Tigers will be a better team in 2013

  • tiggs1

    Nice article. I agree about Leyland using young talent. However,it has been reported that Garcia isn’t doing that well this winter in Venezuela.The Tigers have also said they would like him play everyday so he can continue to develop. I would rather see them make Dirks an everyday player. If he strugles, then worry about platooning. To quote Jim Price, “that young man is A BALLPLAYER”.

  • Mike

    Great description of half of the story. One plus missed is the fact we only have one West coast trip early in the year and we play horribly on those trips, almost never even at .500. The other half of the story is what can go wrong? Start with the bullpen with some injury prone youngsters and unproven closer as of this time. Then the inability of the hitters to take walks, hopefully Tori and V-Mart can help. Third, probably the most double plays that will be hit into (including Tori) due to lack of speed (Trout stole so many bases, Tori couldn’t hit into a DP). Then, if not more importantly is infield defense, while decent, they allow too many hits due to lack of range, and are amongst the fewest in turning the DP. Lastly, the inability to generate runs without power, particularly from the bench, as witnessed all too much last year. Fister, Sanchez, should have won so many more games, especially in the post season. They know they need to find ways to generate runs (ala Berry for a short while last year), without him during a month or so, we wouldn’t have got into the playoffs. Don’t know that he is the answer, but we need more of this type of play to get through the playoffs against good pitching. The most frustrating aspect of the team last year was an inability to hit at all on the road.
    So do plusses overcome minuses?

  • torino006

    Well written article and confirms my feelings for the upcoming season. Keeping my fingers crossed that everyone stays healthy. Can’t wait for spring training to begin!

  • J. Conrad Guest

    I’m glad to have Martinez back in the lineup; but let’s keep his return in perspective. He hasn’t seen live pitching for more than a year, and it might be unrealistic to expect the numbers he put up in 2011, at least early on. We can only hope he’ll improve game by game.

    And I wonder, with his knees, how much time he’ll spend behind the plate, or how many games he’ll play at first base. Barring injury, Fielder has proven he doesn’t need time off.

  • Dan Holmes

    tiggs1 – I would like to see Garcia get a month or two at AAA and then come to Detroit and play a lot.

    J. Conrad – I think Martinez will DH about 130 games, I don’t expect him to play first base much, maybe just to spell Fielder for 2-3 games, while Prince gets a day off at DH. I expect VMart to have a great season, I don’t think the year away will be a problem.

  • Richard Frohm

    I could not agree more with your observations. The Tigers have a lot of potential and will be picked by many sports writers to win the World Series. Let’s hope they stay healthy and bring the fans what we have all been waiting 29 years for, a World Series championship!

    Go Tigers!

  • Dan Holmes

    Thanks for reading Richard, I appreciate your comment. Also appreciate your loyalty to the blog.

    I have a feeling 2013 will be a very interesting year for the Tigers. In some ways, this really is a Golden Era of baseball in Detroit.

  • Kate Christopher

    Go Tigers!! We will see you at Spring Training. I have been a Tiger’s fan since I was a pre-teen. I am 63 now and have not lost my respect and love for the team. I believe the Tigers will win the World Series this year because we have a lot of strong players. There is so much talant with this team that they will be hard to beat. In my book they are already winners.

  • Joe Turner

    Let Dirks get his shot.Having Garcia & Boesch on the bench gives us a R/L choice with some power. If they don’t produce bring back Berry. I also like Castellanos as the backup infielder.

  • Joe Turner

    One or two of these lefty’s will have to answer the call this year: Below, Downs,Loberstein,Crosby or Rogers OR ?

  • Joe Turner

    I played some D-1 ball,hit with power & for avg. Injury ended all that. My point is this, why are these Tiger hitters taking full cuts with 2 strikes on them? What happened to the choke up & make contact theory?

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