Detroit Tigers 2012 Preview

Projected Record: 84-78

Player WAR Player WAR
C Alex Avila 3.5 SP1 Justin Verlander 6
1B Prince Fielder 5.4 SP2 Doug Fister 3.1
2B Ramon Santiago 1 SP3 Max Scherzer 2.7
SS Jhonny Peralta 3.1 SP4 Rick Porcello 2
3B Miguel Cabrera 6.4 SP5 Jacob Turner 1.3
LF Ryan Raburn 1.1 CP Jose Valverde 1.1
CF Austin Jackson 2.7 RP Joaquin Benoit 1
RF Brennan Boesch 2 RP Phil Coke 0.8
DH Delmon Young 0.9 RP Octavio Dotel 0.6
Bench Gerald Laird 0.5 RP David Pauley 0.4
Bench Don Kelly 0.5 RP Daniel Schlereth 0.2
Bench Andy Dirks 0.3 RP Duane Below 0.2
Bench Danny Worth 0
Bench Brandon Inge 0.5
27.9 19.4

The Tigers made a huge splash in the offseason by signing Prince Fielder, but even after adding a player of his value I still don’t think Detroit has all that great of a team. First off, he’s replacing Victor Martinez, who is no slouch, and he’s also had a couple of off years in the last 5 seasons. I do project them to win the AL Central, but it’s not as big of a gap as some might think. The combination of several players having career years as well as a late season hot streak allowed the Tigers to out-perform their skill level last year, and that’s unlikely to happen again.

The first player unlikely to repeat his excellent 2011 player is catcher Alex Avila, whose power and average came out of nowhere last year. Avila should be well above average in 2012, but I don’t think he will repeat his nearly 6-win performance. $214-millon-man Prince Fielder slots in at first, at least to start the season. Like many, I don’t think the Tigers will keep Cabrera at third for the whole season, so it’s likely that Fielder and Cabrera split time at first for most of the season. Either way those two slot in, they’ll drive the Tiger’s offense and should both be worth 5 wins or more. I tend to think that Ramon Santiago will get more time at second base than Ryan Raburn, simply because he can field there, but Leyland may not feel the same. Santiago’s bat is poor, but his glove makes him only slightly below average. Peralta’s at short, and like Avila, had a career year last year in many ways. He’s more likely to repeat than Avila, but he’ll probably still regress a bit. Once the Cabrera experiment ends, I foresee Peralta moving to third, Santiago sliding over to short, and Raburn going in at 2nd. Inge could see some time at third as well, but he doesn’t seem to really have too much left.

The Tigers’ outfield is the weakest part of the team, with Ryan Raburn (to start) in left, Austin Jackson in center and Brennan Boesch in right. Delmon Young will probably play quite a bit in left as well, even though he’s absolutely awful in the field, especially once Cabrera and Fielder start platooning at 1st/DH. Austin Jackson took a step back in his sophomore season, but was still good enough defensively to be above average. Boesch is below average defensively on the other hand, but with better offense. An average performance is probably his upper limit though. Delmon Young figures to be just above replacement level, wherever he ends up playing. The bench consists of Gerald Laird, Don Kelly, Andy Dirks and Inge; so there’s a bit of depth there if someone is lost to injury.

The Tigers have a solid rotation, starting out with Verlander, who won’t repeat his great 2011 campaign, but could easily still be a 6 win pitcher. Doug Fister is the #2, and he too had a career year last season. His strikeout rate improved after coming to Detroit, and his walk rate decreased; both better than his career norms, so I project him to regress a bit. Scherzer on the other hand at #3 is likely to get a bit better results in 2012 than he did in 2011. Rick Porcello and Jacob Turner close out the rotation in the four and five slots. Porcello’s ERA has been less than stellar the last 2 years, but he’s still provided some value, and I project Turner to be a bit below average in his rookie season. Jose Valverde and Joaquin Benoit head up the bullpen again in 2012, and should provide a couple wins there. Phil Coke, Octavio Dotel and David Pauley are also in the pen, and are all average or better. Coke could also slot into the #5 slot in the rotation, where he started out in 2011 and pitched quite well up until his last couple of starts.

Detroit should still win the division in 2012 fairly easily, unless one of the other teams makes a big move or gets some unexpected performances. I don’t think they’ll get anywhere near their 95 wins in 2011, but then again, I’ve been wrong before.

Offseason Acquisitions: Prince Fielder, Gerald Laird, Octavio Dotel

Offseason Losses: Magglio Ordonez, Wilson Betemit, Carlos Guillen, Will Rhymes, Brad Thomas, Brad Penny, Joel Zumaya

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