The Detroit Tigers have a lot to be excited about heading into the 2012 season. Last year, they were the surprise team that nobody picked to win the American League Central. The Tigers made a deep run into the playoffs with impressive pitching and timely hitting.
The Tigers were a surprise team last year for a couple of reasons. Other than Justin Verlander, they did not have another legit starter. Also, they did not have another big bat to go with Miguel Cabrera.
Here are four reasons why the Tigers are going to be even better in 2012.
Last season, the Detroit Tigers had one of the best hitters in baseball in Miguel Cabrera. In 2011, Cabrera hit .344, had 30 home runs, and drove in over 100 runs.
Cabrera is one of the most complete hitters in all of baseball, and now he has one of the most dangerous hitters behind him.
Prince Fielder adds something that Victor Martinez couldn’t last season: fear. In 2011, Martinez hit .330 and drove in over 100 runs. What Martinez lacked was power. He only hit 12 home runs during the regular season.
Martinez was a fine protector for Cabrera. Fielder is going to make pitchers think twice about pitching to Cabrera.
Fielder hit .299, drove in 120 runs, and hit 38 home runs last season. The big difference between Fielder and Martinez can be seen in slugging percentages. Fielder slugged .566 while Martinez slugged just .470.
Having Fielder and Cabrera in the middle of the Tigers' order is going to cause a lot of havoc for starting pitchers. This could be one of the most explosive three-four combos we’ve seen in a long time.
If the Tigers happen to get Martinez back this year, they could have the best three, four, and five hitters heading into the playoffs.
Justin Verlander was so dominant in 2011 that he was named both the MVP and the Cy Young winner. The last time a pitcher from the American League won both awards in the same year was in 1992 (Dennis Eckersley).
Verlander is one of the most consistent pitchers in baseball. Since 2009, Verlander has logged 200-plus innings, 20-plus strikeouts, and at least 18 wins per season.
In 2011, the Tigers went into the season with Verlander and questions with the rest of the rotation.
In 2012, it’s a different story. The Tigers have a really solid pitching rotation this year. They have a good young arm in Rick Porcello. In 2011, Porcello made big strides in becoming a legit Major League pitcher. Porcello finished the year 14-9, with over 100 strikeouts.
The knock on Porcello this year has been his 4.75 ERA from a year ago. People tend to forget that he is only 23 years old. If Porcello continues to make natural improvement, he could be a really good number two by year's end.
Doug Fister was acquired from the Seattle Mariners last summer in a trade. While with Seattle, Fister was 3-12 with a 3.33 ERA. When he arrived in Detroit, something changed in his pitching. He finished the year with Detroit at 8-1 as a starter with an ERA of 1.79.
Verlander, Porcello, and Fister could be a really good one, two, three punch for the Tigers. And you cannot forget about Max Scherzer. Scherzer finished 2011 with a record of 15-9. He also had his highest ERA of his career in 2011. Scherzer is going to improve on his career-high ERA, and that could lead to more than 15 wins.
The starting pitching staff for the Tigers is one of the best in baseball.
Austin Jackson could be the x factor this season. Jackson has the potential to be one of the best center fielders in the game. He had a really solid rookie year in 2010, batting .293 and stealing 27 bases.
In 2011, Jackson’s numbers took a dip. He only batted .249 and stole 22 bases. Jackson has to improve his on-base percentage. In 2011, his on-base percentage was .317. That number has to greatly increase for the Tigers to be dominant.
If Jackson improves his on-base percentage, the big bats behind him will have easier at-bats. Jackson has started hot in 2012, and if he is able to keep his on-base percentage above .425, the Tigers are going to be a hard out.
The Tigers know that now is the time. The American League East is down from its usual dominance. Boston and New York are going to be in a dog fight all year with the entire division. The American League West is going to come down to the Rangers and Angels.
The AL Central is ready for the taking. There’s not really a team in that division that people see as a legit threat to the Tigers. If they can run through the division and get that No. 1 spot, they will be able to control their own destiny.