Brief 2011 Recap
The Tigers cruised to the AL Central crown in '11, winning the division by 15 games as nary another team in the division finished above .500. Midseason acquisition Doug Fister was dazzling down the stretch, and that basically summed up how the Tigers season went. Certainly, the Tigers were expected to be in the mix in a competitive AL Central, but the club certainly overachieved just a little bit (95-67 real record, 89-73 Pythagorean record). It's probably safe to say that GM Dave Dombrowski took any chance of regression with a grain of salt based on how he proceeded this offseason, though.
Brief 2012 Prediction
There won't be a single publication that will predict anything other than a repeat performance as Central division champs, and it's for good reason. An offense that collective carried a .773 OPS added one of the premier bats in the game in Prince Fielder, totally and completely assuaging any fears that the offense might fall off after Victor Martinez' knee injury. This team should win 95 games with an outside crack at 100, and should clean up on an AL Central which appears much weaker this year than in season's past.
Projected Starting Lineup
Top Bench Options
C- Gerald Laird
IF - Ramon Santiago
IF - Brandon Inge
OF - Clete Thomas
UTIL- Don Kelly
Andrew Oliver/Jacob Turner
Top 101 Prospects (According to Kevin Goldstein, Baseball Prospectus)
P Jacob Turner (15th)
3B Nick Castellanos (71st)
Why the Tigers Will Contend in ‘12
All the Tigers really need to contend in '12 is to not be a complete and total letdown. The rotation is good but not great after Verlander. Fister is due to regress quite a bit, but should still be a capable hurler in the middle of this rotation and especially in Comerica Park. It would be nice if Porcello could join Scherzer in the ranks of remembering how to whiff guys, but his stuff still plays pretty good in his cavernous home digs.
Turner could make the club out of spring training as a middle reliever, but there's also a good chance he could steal that fifth starter spot in the near future as well. He's a young one to watch. Summarily, this team will win the division barring some sort of catastrophe.
Why the Tigers Will Not Contend in ‘12
To be succinct, it would take a total and colossal failure or injury bug to hit the Tigers this season to keep the club out of the playoffs.
Final Prediction: First, AL Central (out of five)
O/U Wins: 94.5