Five Bold Predictions for the Detroit Tigers
Making predictions is a tricky thing.
Obviously none of us can see into the future, myself included. Strangely, I do imagine that I can sometimes, and I like to fantasize about what exactly I would do if I were so able.
This may in fact be the biggest waste of time in the history of wastes of time, but I digress.
What makes predictions so tricky, especially from a sports writing standpoint, is that we begin to root for our predictions in order to bolster our own credibility.
So last year when I wrote that I thought that Tim Tebow would be the Broncos third-string quarterback by Week 6, I was really rooting against Tebow.
This really is counterproductive as Tebow is a very likeable guy and does nothing but good in his personal life. But nonetheless, there I was rooting against the man for no other reason than I wanted my prediction to come true.
So did I learn my lesson from this?
Here are my five bold predictions for the Detroit Tigers this season.
Doug Fister Will Win at Least 18 Games
I was pleasantly shocked when Dave Dombrowski picked up Doug Fister in a mid-season trade with Seattle.
It further illustrates Seattle's franchise goal of getting rid of any pitcher that is worth a darn not named Felix, and is one of the myriad reasons why that franchise is destined for another decade's worth of uninspiring play.
But enough about the sad Mariners.
Their loss is the Tigers' gain, and Fister is the real deal.
The Tigers were hoping that he would become their fifth starter. He turned into their best pitcher in the second half of the season not named Justin.
With a full year to work with, there is no reason to believe he isn't going to further tear it up with Detroit.
Fister's record last year was 11-13.
However, when he was with Seattle he received next to zero runs in support, a number that went up dramatically once he reached Detroit.
With Seattle, his ERA was a decent 3.33, but his record was a horrendous 3-12.
When he got to Detroit, his ERA dropped down to 1.79 and he won eight of his 10 starts.
Now, I think it is too much to ask of Fister to put up a 1.79 ERA this year, but I don't think it is too much to expect for him to improve on his 3.33 ERA while with Seattle.
If he can put in an ERA around 3.00 with what is likely to be a ton of runs in support, there really is no reason that he can't string together close to 20 wins.
Personally, if I were to set the over under at 18 wins, I would take the over.
Austin Jackson Will Have His Best Season
After a tremendous rookie season that resulted in a second-place finish in the rookie of the year voting, Austin Jackson was poised for another big year.
Too bad strikeouts, and inconsistent swing and timing issues derailed that season.
He ended up having a pretty bad season, with his numbers taking a pretty big hit across the board.
Most importantly, his high strikeout numbers only got worse, and he ended up near the league lead despite not being a power hitter.
But I am betting on Jackson to figure it out this year. He has ditched the leg kick from his swing, and he is sitting atop one of the most potent lineups in baseball.
The Tigers will give him every chance to stay atop the lineup, but if he slips, they will probably drop him down to the ninth spot.
Personally, I think Jackson will really figure it out this year.
I am looking at him to have career-highs in on-base percentage, runs and stolen bases.
I also think that he can cut his strikeouts down to about 120.
He certainly is talented enough to do all of this. The key will be whether he can find the gaps and play smart baseball.
Jose Valverde Will Blow at Least Five Saves This Year
Fact: Jose Valverde had one of the greatest seasons a closer has ever had last year.
Fact: Valverde did not blow a save all season.
Fact: Prior to last year, Valverde had averaged 5.1 blown saves per season.
Now that isn't to say that Valverde wasn't still dominant in those years. He was, with save totals that spanned from 25-47 games per season.
He also improved every year, blowing seven games twice, and then four and then three before his breakout season last year.
But there is no way that the Tigers can expect him to continue to improve.
He is likely to take a step back, and I think it will involve at least five blown saves.
I still think he will have a great year, but he will have more off nights than last year.
Miguel Cabrera Will Be the AL MVP
All of the attention is being focused on Prince Fielder, and with good reason.
He is an elite power hitter joining a team that nearly made the World Series.
All of the attention is a welcomed sight for Tigers fans. We love the fact that our team is in the spotlight.
And the person that is more relieved than anyone that the attention is being heaped on Fielder is one Miguel Cabrera.
If we are talking about Prince, we aren't talking about him, his drinking problem or his fluctuating weight.
We also aren't talking about whether he will have protection in the lineup, and whether he can carry the Tigers offense.
This allows him the perfect spot. He is out from under the media scrutiny, but he is playing for a team in the spotlight.
He also has more protection than he ever has had, and this should translate into fewer intentional walks and more opportunities to hit with runners on base.
As of right now, the plan is for Fielder to bat cleanup and Cabrera to finally move into his ideal spot of third.
As the third batter, he can utilize his stellar OBP in the first inning, and he also has the opportunity to not only extend innings, but bring home those that are hitting ahead of him.
Too often last year, the first three batters got out, leaving Cabrera to hit with the bases empty in the second inning.
That's fine and dandy, Cabrera can hit in any situation. But he hit .379 with runners on base, and .312 with the bases empty.
This will lead to excellent opportunities to hit within the game, and not put too much pressure on himself.
I think Cabrera, barring either Prince or Jose Bautista going off, can be in the running for the triple crown this year, and given how well Detroit is likely to play, should have an easy opportunity for the MVP.
I think a batting average close to last year's .344 is likely, with close to 40 home runs and at least 120 RBI.
If Detroit runs away with their division again, this should put him in the front-runner spot as the MVP.
The Tigers Will Win Their Division by at Least 15 Games Again
The Tigers had an amazing season last year that coincided with a weakened AL Central.
This year, that division will likely be weaker.
None of the Tigers' competition has really improved over last year, and there is reason to believe that Chicago and Cleveland in particular will take a step back.
I am scared stiff of Minnesota every year, and I won't breathe a sigh of relief until we drive a stake through their heart in October.
But nobody knows if Justin Morneau will ever be the same again, and Joe Mauer took a major step back last year.
Kansas City should improve, but they are still years away from contention.
The Tigers, meanwhile, are hungry to win it all this year. They know that their owner isn't getting any younger, and they know how badly he wants to win.
I think that this Tigers team will hit the ground running in April, and should have a sizeable lead by the trading deadline, at which point they likely will deal one or two of their top pitching prospects to fill the inevitable holes that they are likely to have.
This team has enough focused, tough-minded veterans that they will not allow this team to lose focus.
Add to that some players that need to step up this year (Jackson, Porcello, Inge), some players that are looking to break out (Fister, Scherzer, Boesch) and the All-Stars (Avila, Fielder, Peralta, Cabrera), and you have a recipe for a great year.