Despite coming up short in the ALCS, 2013 was a success for the Motor City Kitties.
For the third consecutive season, the Detroit Tigers made it to the American League Championship Series. For the second time in the same span of three years, they failed to win the American League Pennant. This time they lost to the Boston Red Sox four games to two in what was a close and at times back and forth series.
This season the Tigers were successful on the field, even with issues at the back end of the bullpen, in the line up, and at times the Cleveland Indians being a threat in the rear view mirror. Under the guidance of Jim Leyland, the Tigers finished with a record of 93-69 and captured the American League Central for the third straight year. It truly was a continuation of success for the Tigers, and a build up for continued success in the future, even with a new manager at the helm for 2014.
At the center of what was good, if not great, about the Detroit Tigers this year was the performance of Miguel Cabrera at the plate and Max Scherzer on the mound…along with a whole host of players that performed well this season.
But it was Scherzer and Cabrera that were the brightest stars this season for the Tigers. Cabrera put together another MVP season that looked to be a repeat of his triple crown season from 2012, all while dealing with injury issues. Scherzer was not only one of the best pitchers on the Tigers, but was also the best in the American League this year as well. He led the American League in wins (21) and Tigers pitching in strikeouts (240), but was just one of several pitchers on the Detroit staff that were solid for the Motor City Kitties this season.
Anibal Sanchez led the team and the American League in ERA (2.57). Doug Fister put together a respectable season with a record of 14-9 and an ERA of 3.67. And finally while Justin Verlander‘s 2013 looked up and down at times, but finished solid in the final stretch. Verlander also put to bed questions of him coming down from his peak years especially against the Athletics in the American League Division Series.
In terms of rankings, the Tigers were in the top ten for most pitching categories, and first in the American League in quality starts. In terms of offense, the Tigers were either second in the league or first in offensive rankings this season as they drew on a collection of players to provide runs.
While they faced some brushing with Indians in the American League Central race, the Tigers were in it from day one of the season. Over its course, they never finished a month below .500. The dynamic pitching and offense working hand in hand with each other as the Tigers were able to draw on the best of both worlds during the regular season.
While there is much to be said about the Tigers this season that was good, there is also a fair amount to say that went wrong or was bad.
The first and foremost of the bad side of the Detroit Tigers this season, was the bullpen, especially at closer. They looked to be lost at sea at times during the season. Early on, there was the attempt at trying Jose Valverde at closer, but that blew up. Other players who made saves at points in the season were Bruce Rondon, Drew Smyly, and Phil Coke. It was a hole that needed to be filled, and was eventually by Joaquin Benoit. Benoit finished the regular season with 24 saves. Drew Smyly, was the other bright spot for the Tigers in the pen, leading the team in holds (21), but other than that he and Benoit were truly the best in a bullpen.
Other areas where the Tigers were poor in were defense and base running. At times, the Tigers failed to move runners around the basepaths. That also led to offensive inconsistency, a theme that was prevalent for the Tigers at various points during the season. There were also fewer stolen bases this season as well.
Defense though was an issue and needed to be addressed since day one of the season. They were a talented ball club with middle of the road defense in the field, although they did get a defensive boost at the trade deadline, with the addition of Jose Iglesias.
One final area that was peculiar for the Tigers, was the offense. Sounds strange, but there were gaps in there, most notably from Prince Fielder. At times he struggled at the plate, but those struggles were masked. Those struggles became more noticeable during the playoffs, especially in the American League Championship Series, as did the struggles of the bullpen. Much like Justin Verlander, the Tigers had spots that were bright and others that were dimmer.
Outlook for 2014
The outlook for next season is promising the Tigers. Once again they look poised to capture a fourth consecutive American League Central crown. Even with the retiring of Jim Leyland and the hiring of Brad Ausmus as manager, the Tigers still look to be favorites for the division and once again, in serious contention for the American League pennant. With this in mind, the club does need to still address serious needs in the bullpen.
So far this off season, they’ve already made a splashy move by trading away Fielder to the Texas Rangers for Ian Kinsler. That deal provides a boost in the field. The trade opened up options for the Tigers with signing and re-signing players as well, with the most pressing being that of Max Scherzer and Miguel Cabrera’s looming contract negotiations. Still the Tigers need to address the issue in the bullpen, as it is something that is holding back the team. This could be the final piece for the club, especially at closer.
It should be interesting see what the Tigers do on the field in 2014 with Brad Ausmus in his first Major League managerial position. Fortunately for him, he has a team that has been on the cusp of World Series victory for some time, and it should be interesting to see how Ausmus puts the team together for this upcoming season. As for now, the Tigers need to address those needs and look towards another push for the playoffs once again in 2014.
Special thank to r/motorcitykitties off reddit, for helping to put this article together.