Now I know the Lions and Red Wings seasons have started already and the Pistons start up their season at the end of the month, but let’s talk some Tigers baseball. The Tigers as we all know won their fourth straight Central Division title this season and made it to the playoffs for the fourth straight season. At one point during the season, we had the best record in baseball and we were prime to make it back to the American League Championship series and compete for a World Series this year. At the trade deadline we acquired former Cy-Young award winner David Price that gave the Tigers the last three Cy-Young award winners (Justin Verlander-2011 and Max Scherzer- 2013). So all looked well for the Tigers to finally get over the hump and win their first World Series Title since 1984 right?
Well sadly mistaken, the Tigers disappointed us again by not only coming up short again, but also getting swept in the first round by the Baltimore Orioles. The Tigers sent out all three former Cy-Young winners in games 1-3 but despite their best efforts, the biggest problem for the Tigers this season and for the past few seasons has been their bullpen. It’s been a long time since the 2006 team where both the starting pitching and bullpen dominated the league. However, this season was marked by the disappointing performance of closer Joe Nathan (who they have for another year) and Joakim Soria whom they’ve traded for during the season. To sum their performances this season can be described in one word…HORRIBLE!
Not only did they not live up to their expectations, they did so in a way where fans gave Nathan the nickname “Sloppy Joe” and Soria was about to start a riot for how bad he pitched in game two of the ALDS against Baltimore. As much I would like to say they were the reasons behind our downfall this season, of course that’s not entirely true. Let’s look at some players who didn’t live up to their capabilities, such as Justin Verlander. Since his Cy-Young season, Verlander has been on the downfall every season after that, this season is what we would like to call his breaking point. While he did record 15 wins this season, his ERA was over four and he did not reach the 200 strikeout or 200 innings pitched plateau that we are used to see from him all these years. He seems to be one of those players who got the mega extension (7-year $186 million) and has lost his edge (i.e. Albert Pujols 10-year $240 million and Josh Hamilton 5-year $125 million). But again it’s not about just one person or one aspect of the team, it’s about the team performing at a high level. The Tigers are known to be a first half team where they play well before the All-Star break and then fall apart towards the end of the season. Again that is the case again as we barely won the division from Kansas City (who are still in the playoffs of course).
Going into next season, the Tigers have to figure out a way to perform consistently throughout the season and not struggle at the most crucial times of the season. With Max Scherzer, Victor Martinez, and Torii Hunter becoming free-agents after the World Series, it’s going to be important on who to bring back and who to let go to try and save money on a pay-roll that’s top five in the league. Of course they’ll have to figure their positional player roles as well since we no longer have a centerfielder with the trade of Austin Jackson to get Price and while Nick Castellanos perform admirably at third base, they need a true third baseman to sure up the defense. Lastly I know the Tigers were short at the shortstop position last year with Jose Iglesias missing the year but he will be back and the tandem of him and Ian Kinsler at second base will be exciting to watch. Until then, see you all next spring.