The champagne has been dried from the visitor’s clubhouse at Comerica Park, the equipment has been packed and stored away for the winter, and the large jumbotron in left field has gone dark. The World Series is over (almost before it got started it seemed), and members of the Detroit Tigers have scattered to the four corners of the United States and beyond the borders.
As baseball Hall of Famer Rogers Hornsby once said when asked what he did in the winter: “I look out my window and wait for spring.”
No need to be that passive, Tigers fans. It’s time for us to look back at the 2012 season, a successful one for our team. We’ll give a grade to every key member of the team. When we’re finished, leave your reactions in the comments section.
Austin Jackson A-
Jackson took a major step forward in his progress as a big leaguer in 2012, he rebounded from a sophomore slump, he continued to excel in center field with the glove, and he cut down on his strikeouts quite a bit. If there’s one thing we’d like him to work on next spring it’s base stealing. Jackson has the quickness to swipe 30+ bases and he gets on base enough, but he is not an instinctual base stealer. He’s often leaning back to first when the pitcher is delivering the ball, even on a mediocre move. Overall though, AJax is a rising star who should have a Gold Glove and All-Star selection in his future.
Quintin Berry C+
When Jackson went down with an injury early in the season, the unknown Berry was plucked out of the minor league system and inserted as a fill-in. He sparked the team for a brief stretch, and his one defining skill (speed) is something few others have on this team, so he earned a spot on the roster. Who would have thought the 27-year old lifelong minor leaguer would be sdtarting in the World Series? He can fill in adequately in left or right field, but Berry is not a very good defensive outfielder. He fields the ball using improper form, often takes the wrong route, and his arm is below average. He can swipe bases and he has a pretty good knowledge of the strike zone, so if he can post an OBP of about .350 he’s a valuable player – from the bench.
Andy Dirks A
After playing a second straight successful season in winter ball in the Dominican, Dirks just kept right on hitting after coming north to Detroit. Dirks has proven that he can hit both right-handers and lefties. He lacks power that you usually want from a corner outfielder however, and h is prone to slumps, such as the one he experienced in the post-season. After hitting over .320 his value may never be higher, and it might be in Detroit’s interest to shop him around to a team where Dirks can play every day. If he comes back to the Tigers he’s a good part-time or 4th outfielder, or a nice left-handed bat off the bench.
Brennan Boesch F
After showing promise in 2011, Boesch imploded this past season. He couldn’t hit any kind of pitching and eventually he was benched and left off the post-season roster. Some of that apparently had to do with a bad attitude. Boesch probably won’t be back in 2013, so he’ll have to latch on with a new team where a change of scenery may help.
Ryan Raburn F
The only thing different between Raburn and Boesch is that Raburn has at least always been coachable and a good teammate. Still, his offensive production was abysmal in 2012, and the experiment to have him be a second baseman was not only a failure, it was a silly idea. Raburn can (possibly) hit for power against left-handed pitching. But if he’s able to do that again, it will be with another team. It should be noted that it was the complete failures of Boesch and Raburn that contributed most to the Tigers offensive woes in 2012.
Delmon Young B-
It’s cool in some circles to criticize Young, but the man did his job for the most part in 2012. After early season struggles, DY settled in and produced behind Cabrera and Fielder. Most importantly, in the post-season he was the one hot consistent bat the Tigers had (again – he did the same in 2011). Critics groaned every time DY swung at a first pitch, but did you know he batted .362 swinging at the initial offering, with six home runs? Sure, he’s a pretty bad outfielder, but the Tigers knew that when they acquired him – he was coveted for his bat. Few players in baseball hit the ball as hard as Young does on a consistent basis. He’ll sign a fat contract somewhere to DH for an AL team.
Don Kelly C+
What can you say about Kelly? He’s not a very talented big league ballplayer, but he’s a professional, a good guy, and one of Jim Leyland’s favorite toys. He didn’t hit at all in 2012, but he was capable of playing any of six positions if needed, and that has some value. We give him a grade this high because of his epic sacrifice fly that won Game Two of the ALDS. Without that fly ball, the Tigers may have never gotten to the Fall Classic.
Danny Worth C-
At this point in his career, at a still relatively young age, Worth is a utility player and will probably be nothing more. He can make all of the routine big league plays, but he’s not a very good hitter and he’s never going to win a starting job.
Ramon Santiago C
A veteran infielder, Santiago knows his role and he’s pretty good at it. In 2012 he had a down year for him with the stick, but otherwise he was his usual solid self. As a switch-hitter who can bunt well and play either of the middle infield spots, he should be back with Detroit.
Gerald Laird A-
There are few backup catchers in baseball who are as solid and skilled as Laird. He hit well for Detroit in his second stint with the team, and even delivered some clutch hits here and there. For a stretch in the middle of the season he was a more welcome sight behind the dish than Alex Avila who struggled with the bat and glove. Laird needs to work at throwing out a higher percentage of base stealers, but that’s his only defensive weakness.
Avisail Garcia B+
The young rookie who looks like Miguel Cabrera afforded himself very well in his first taste of the big leagues. He had just 15 hits and three RBI in a short September trial with the team, but he looked so poised and had such obvious raw potential that Detroit put him on their post-season roster. In the ALCS he had three RBI against the Yankees in limited playing time. Overall, “Mini-Miggy” had four RBI in the playoffs and he swiped a base too. He has a bright future in the outfield with the Tigers.
Alex Avila C+
At first glance, it seems that Avila had a bad year, but that’s only when measured against his phenomenal 2011 season. It’s not likely that Avila will slug for that high an average again, and even if he doesn’t hit .295, he’s a valuable offensive talent because he walks quite a bit, enough for a .352 OBP in ’12. His body is way too banged up to catch more than 120 games per season, a figure he did not reach this year. Defensively, Avila is not quick enough to get to errant pitches, which is why he was among league leaders in passed balls. He has a strong arm and has thrown out more than 30% of would-be base stealers in his career.
Omar Infante C+
After coming over from the Marlins at the trade deadline, Infante solidified the chaotic second base situation for the Tigers. He hit about as well as could have been expected and his range was as good as advertised, but Omar had problems with routine defensive plays. He made a whopping 10 errors in 60 games after coming to the Tigers, most of them on bobbles or errant throws. His concentration seems to drift at a times. We give him a C+ because in the post-season he got his swing going and was one of the more consistent performers in the lineup.
Jhonny Peralta D+
Before you get too excited about Jhonny’s resurgent play in the post-season, remember that for five months he was a sloth in the field and hit for little power after having a good offensive season in 2011. Yes, Jhonny only made seven errors in 2012, but he also rarely gets anything hit more than 2-3 steps to either side of him. He is good at charging the ball (as he showed in the playoffs), but he doesn’t hit well enough anymore to make up for his mediocre defense.
Miguel Cabrera A+
The man won the triple crown – the first time that’s been done in 35 years – what else do you want? Was his defense shaky? Yes at times, but overall he was solid at third. His range to his left is not good, but he can get the ball down the line and he has a very strong arm. Teams threatened to bunt on him to make him get that big body moving, but they never really did much damage with that strategy. With the bat he’s a master, the best pure hitter in the game, period.
Prince Fielder B+
He had a very good season, especially considering the fact that he was in a new league with new teammates and playing in a new ballpark – one that isn’t as conducive to his longball swing. No, Prince won’t hit 45 homers as a Tiger (the ballpark is just too big), but he has the right idea – beat the shift by driving the ball into the wide gaps. He got on base 41.2% of the time – easily the best figure on the team. He plays every day and his power numbers (doubles especially) will go up. We mark him below an A because his defense still needs some polishing.
Next: Grading the Tigers pitchers