Free MLB Picks: Detroit Tigers Futures Odds and Predictions
by Alan Matthews - 2/19/2014
No team has won the American League Central four years in a row since the Cleveland Indians did it five straight years starting in 1995, the first full year of the division's existence. It would be a huge upset, however, if the Detroit Tigers didn't win a fourth straight this season despite some turnover on the club.
Of course, the Tigers also reached the ALCS for the third straight season in 2013 but lost as the favorites against the Boston Red Sox, largely because the Detroit bullpen couldn't get anyone out when it mattered. In what was no surprise at all, Manager Jim Leyland stepped aside following the playoff loss. The Tigers were never really all that close to winning it all under Leyland. Yes, they reached two World Series under him but won a single game. Leyland, who was 68 last season, had been working on one-year contracts. Leyland is one of only seven managers to win a pennant in both leagues and won his only World Series with the 1997 Marlins.
Clearly Detroit was a coveted opening because this team is built to win now, so it was a minor surprise that the Tigers hired former big-league catcher Brad Ausmus. He had served as a special assistant in the Padres' front office since 2010 but had never been a manager or coach at a big-league level. Ausmus was highly-regarded and considered one of the smartest players in baseball during his playing days behind the plate. He did play briefly for the Tigers. It was thought Leyland recommended Tigers hitting coach Lloyd McClendon, and obviously had Detroit hired him it would have meant more continuity from Leyland's tenure. McClendon is now managing in Seattle.
The Tigers also made two big trades this offseason, both salary driven. They sent slugging first baseman Prince Fielder to Texas along with $30 million for former all-star second baseman Ian Kinsler. Fielder had struggled big time in the past two postseasons but also hit 55 homers and knocked in 214 while protecting Miguel Cabrera in his two regular seasons in Detroit. The Tigers also stumped many experts by seemingly getting a weak return for a very good pitcher in Doug Fister. Detroit did want to get a spot in the rotation for young left-hander Drew Smyly, but more than one GM said anonymously that he would have offered the Tigers more than Washington did for Fister. The Tigers are going to need a lot of money because Max Scherzer and Cabrera are going to need huge extensions, with Scherzer a free agent after this season.
Tigers 2014 Projected Lineup
The Tigers finished second in the majors to the Red Sox in runs scored last season, and Detroit led MLB with a .283 average. I don't see how the lineup improves taking Fielder out and starting rookie Nick Castellanos at third base, with Cabrera moving back to first. I'm not even sure Kinsler is an upgrade on Detroit's 2013 second baseman Omar Infante. He hit .318 with 10 homers and 51 RBIs in 118 games, while Kinsler hit .277 with 13 homers and 72 RBIs in 136 games. OK, slight upgrade. Kinsler also can still run a little, and the Tigers need that after stealing only 35 bases last year. Look for Austin Jackson, who had a disappointing season, to also run a lot more. It's still not clear if Kinsler or Jackson will hit leadoff.
Victor Martinez figures to bat behind Cabrera because he's a switch hitter, and thus the Tigers can go right-left-right in the middle of the order with Torii Hunter behind Martinez. I question how much Martinez has left at age 35, although he is playing for a new contract. Also not sure you can count on another strong season from Hunter (.304, 17 HRs, 84 RBIs) as he will be 39 in July. Don't forget, too, that shortstop Jhonny Peralta was having a nice offensive season in 2013 before his suspension. Jose Iglesias is a defensive dynamo there but not much at the plate. Third base could be a problem with Castellanos being thrown into the fire, and left field doesn't look all that good with a platoon of Andy Dirks and Rajai Davis.
Tigers 2014 Projected Rotation & Closer
The rotation looks again like potentially the American League's best. Scherzer had his long-anticipated breakout season by going 21-3 with a 2.90 ERA and the Cy Young Award. Justin Verlander regressed a bit last season with a 13-12 record and 3.46 ERA. Did all those innings catch up to him? Verlander did look dominant in the postseason. Verlander had offseason surgery on his abdomen but should be ready for the start of the season. Anibal Sanchez (14-8, 2.57) could be the best No. 3 starter in the majors. There are some questions about No. 4 Rick Porcello and Smyly.
Perhaps the biggest offseason addition was closer Joe Nathan as that position was No. 1 in terms of need for the Tigers. Normally you worry about a 39-year-old big-league player, but age doesn't seem to catch up to closers like it does position guys or starters. Nathan had 43 saves and a terrific 1.39 ERA for Texas in 2013. Now the Tigers can use flame-throwing Bruce Rondon, who flopped as a closer early last season, and lefty Ian Krol, part of the Fister trade, to set up Nathan. The bullpen looks improved.
Tigers Futures Odds & 2013 Trends
At Sportsbook.ag, Detroit is -300 to win the American League Central (biggest division favorite in MLB), +350 to win the AL pennant (favorite) and +800 to win the World Series (No. 2 behind Dodgers). The Tigers' "over/under" wins total is set at 89.5 (both -115). They were 81-75-6 O/U last season and 77-85 on the runline. Cabrera is the +700 co-favorite to lead the majors in home runs. He has an over/under of 35.5. Scherzer has a wins total set at 15.
Free MLB Picks: Detroit Tigers Predictions
Will the Tigers score fewer runs this season? I don't think there's a question. Still not sure there's a team that can really challenge Detroit in the AL Central, however. The Indians lost Ubaldo Jimenez and the Royals Ervin Santana. The Twins and White Sox are rebuilding. Thus, I would jump on the Tigers for the division, but this club looks too flawed at the bottom of the lineup to win the pennant. It should top 89.5 wins by beating up on Central foes. Cabrera also had offseason surgery, but he should top 35.5 homers but not win the MLB crown. I think Scherzer tops 15 wins because he is pitching for a mammoth new contract.
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