As it comes to a close, in Miami of all places, it’s time to celebrate what was good about the 2013 Detroit Tigers regular season, before we get into the angst of the playoffs. Here’s what’s worth celebrating.
Miguel Cabrera’s incredible season. At his peak through Aug. 12, he was hitting .366 and slugging .692 with a .459 on-base percentage, with 37 homers and 111 RBIs — having one of the greatest hitting seasons in Tigers history. But a series of nagging injuries finally took him down to human level late in the season. He started a very slow decline in August that accelerated in September. In the first three weeks of this month, while sitting out numerous games, he hit only one homer and had six RBI, and his average fell to .349. Even with his fall-off, though, Miggy’s 2013 season currently ranks sixth in franchise history all-time in offensive WAR (9.0, outranked only by five Ty Cobb years), sixth in slugging (behind Hank Greenberg’s three top years, Norm Cash in 1961, and Rudy York in 1937), sixth in OPS, sixth in RBI, and fifth in total bases (377, topped only by four Greenberg years). His 44 homers tied his 2012 season for fourth-best all-time by a Tiger (behind Greenberg’s 58, Cecil Fielder’s 51, and Rocky Colavito’s 45).
The Tigers will finish the season with more than 1,600 hits, second-best in team history since the 1930s.
Victor Martinez, after a year sitting out with an injury, had a very slow start but was torrid in the later months, raising his average above .300. He helped carry the team when Miggy finally wore out.
Torii Hunter, the other major “new addition” in 2013, was a solid contributor all year, inside and outside the clubhouse, hitting around .300, playing nifty defense, and running the bases pretty well for an “old man.”
Prince Fielder, despite a midsummer slump, recovered with a strong September and finishes with a very nice OPS—above .800 against both lefties and righties, He played every game again, never stopped hustling, and provided Cabrera fantastic lineup protection, producing monstrous stats in his at-bats that followed a walk to Miggy.
Surprise .300 or near-.300 hitters included Omar Infante, Jhonny Peralta, and Brayan Pena.
Max Scherzer, with his twenty wins and 230-plus strikeouts, and Anibal Sanchez, with a league-leading ERA, both should finish in the top five in Cy Young voting. Their stalwart performances saved the Tigers despite a puzzling down year from Justin Verlander. And Doug Fister, with a career high in wins, and Rick Porcello also did their share. The starting five started all but five games this season.
After initial turmoil in the bullpen, Joaquin Benoit turned in a pretty nice year with more than 20 saves and a WHIP around 1.00. Drew Smyly also was reliable in the pen, with a WHIP not much higher.
And the acquisition of the youthful defensive whiz Jose Iglesias has to rank as a season highlight. Necessitated by Peralta’s suspension, it was a great move, adding speed to the lineup and solidity to what had been a porous infield.
This was the Tigers’ third straight first-place finish. True, that’s not as impressive as it used to be, since there are now six divisions in MLB. But not many fans remember the last time the Tigers finished first three years in a row — because that was in 1907, 1908, and 1909.
Let’s hope that this Tiger team has a better postseason than that squad did more than a century ago. It’s time for the Tigers to translate their solid regular season performance into a World Series win. After all, it’s been 29 years since a Tigers championship — that’s the longest the franchise has languished without the big prize since its original drought from 1901 through 1934.
But no matter what happens, let’s remember 2013 for its remarkable individual performances, some great comeback wins, a very solid team, and nachos on the go for the Prince.