Detroit Tigers: 5 Biggest Weaknesses of the World Series Losers
At this point, there is no shortage of criticism of the Detroit Tigers, as they found themselves ousted from the World Series in four short games.
What became most apparent during the World Series, however, were some of the glaring weaknesses that the Tigers need to address before next season.
Victor Martinez will be returning to the lineup next season, but even he will not be enough to make up for these obvious shortcomings.
The Tigers truly have a great team returning for 2013. If they can shore up these few weak spots during the offseason and spring training, however, they will be a force next season.
Here are five weaknesses that the Tigers need to address for the immediate future:
It's no secret that one of the weaknesses that the Tigers must address during the free agency period is their outfield.
During the 2012 regular season (as well as the postseason), the Tigers' outfield was manned by a committee of different players.That committee included Brennan Boesch, Delmon Young, Andy Dirks, Austin Jackson, Quintin Berry, and Avisail Garcia, as well as a few contributions from various bench players.
Outside of Austin Jackson, however, the Tigers are lacking true answers for their corner outfield positions.
While many—including myself—believe that Andy Dirks will be in the starting lineup for the left field position in 2013, the other remaining members are truly a mystery.
First of all, the Tigers obviously see something in Brennan Boesch, as they will be bringing him back for next season, as reported by the Detroit News. What they see in him, though, is a mystery to most Tigers fans.
Boesch's overall WAR statistic, which is wins above replacement, was a horrid minus-1.4 during 2012. This means that the average Triple A player would have given Detroit at least 1.4 more wins than Boesch did. He hit .240 in 470 at-bats, with a career high 104 strikeouts.
Another player that Tigers fans are hoping will be back in the old English D next season is Avisail Garcia.
In 47 at-bats, Garcia hit an impressive .319 and showed off his strong arm while playing right field. His chances of appearing in Detroit for opening day remain slim, however, as he still has some work to do to become an everyday player.
There is a better chance of seeing him in a Mud Hens jersey next April.
All in all, the Tigers will likely find a new right fielder in free agency, which will relegate Brennan Boesch to the bench. Either way, Detroit needs to shore up these positions and find some offensive and defensive consistency if they wish to make it back to the World Series.
While there will be no changes to the Detroit infield for the 2013 season because Jhonny Peralta's option was picked up, one thing that needs to improve is the infield defense.
We saw flashes of how good they can be during the ALCS, but their lack of range was put under the spotlight during the World Series.
The Tigers ranked seventh in the American League with a total of 99 errors. Miguel Cabrera committed 13, Jhonny Peralta contributed seven, Omar Infante committed 10 (and had a career-high 17 on the season) and Prince Fielder committed 11 total errors.
Out of all four of these players, the one with the worst dWAR, or defensive wins above replacement, is Prince Fielder. His dWAR is a minus-1.4. He more than makes up for his defense with his offensive abilities, however, as his oWAR is a 5.0.
What became obvious during the World Series is the Tigers' need for these players to contribute offensively.
For example, the Tigers may have been able to survive their lack of defense against the San Francisco Giants if Fielder had hit better than his .071 batting average, four strikeouts, and one hit.
At the same time, Jhonny Peralta hit only .067 during the World Series, with three strikeouts and one hit.
Therefore, it's obvious that the Tigers have some infield defensive deficiencies. They have chosen to overlook those shortcomings, though, because of the offense that these players provide.
When this offense is non-existent, they become a team that can be easily beaten.
There is no doubt that the Tigers will be working during the offseason to improve the range and abilities of all their infielders.
The Tigers' bullpen ranked 18th out of 30 teams during the 2012 regular season.
Detroit relievers appeared in 458.2 innings during the season. In that time, they accumulated an ERA of 3.79, 433 strikeouts (ranked 22nd) and an opponent's batting average of .249 (ranked 21st).
The Tigers recently picked up an option on Octavio Dotel, but some other members of the bullpen, especially the closer, remain a mystery.
Phil Coke solidified his place in the bullpen for next season with a stellar postseason where he saw action as both a reliever and a closer. During the postseason, Coke had a 0.84 ERA, .075 WHIP, 13 strikeouts and two saves.
Al Alburquerque also had a great regular season, which was shortened by an injury. In 13.1 innings, he accumulated an ERA of 0.68 and a WHIP of 1.05.
Joaquin Benoit will need to provide better numbers during 2013, as he appeared in 71 innings and finished with an ERA of 3.68 with 30 total holds. These aren't bad numbers, but he will be leaned upon heavily next season.
While there are other members of this Detroit bullpen, the true weakness is the closer. The Tigers have chosen not to bring back Jose Valverde, and rightfully so. In 2.2 innings during the postseason, he accumulated a horrible 30.38 ERA with a WHIP of 4.50.
Even though he provided Detroit with some great memories—and with some incredibly tense moments—his time in Detroit was done after he blew the four-run lead in Game 1 of the ALCS.
Who will be Detroit's closer in 2013?
Will Bruce Rondon get a shot? Will they use a closer-by-committee tactic? Will they sign Rafael Soriano for the role?
This remains to be seen, but there is no doubt that Detroit will need to find an effective closer to shore up their bullpen of mystery for 2013.
For the 2013 season, the Tigers' bench is truly a mystery.
Right now, it is difficult to imagine who will actually be on that bench when the season starts next April.
One player who will most likely be relegated to a bench role will be Brennan Boesch.
While he has shown flashes of power, he simply could not handle the pressure of hitting in front of Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder.
Another player who has a legitimate chance to contribute off of the bench is Quintin Berry.
While it is unlikely he'll earn a starting role, he could definitely help the team in other ways. It would be important for him to accept that role, as many players need to play each day to stay consistent. Even though Berry started hot, he struggled down the stretch and only hit .258.
Detroit could obviously use his speed off the bench, as he was 21-for-21 in stolen base attempts during the regular season.
The Tigers still have Ramon Santiago signed through the 2013 season, and it became obvious that they do not feel confident in his ability, as he had only one at-bat during the entire postseason.
It will be critical for Detroit to find suitable utility players to come off of the bench for the 2013 season. The Tigers may look to work with who they have, but it is more likely for Detroit to open up opportunities for their minor league players and see if they can step up and win a spot on the team.
It will be exciting to see these position battles during spring training.
While it is already been determined that all of the coaches will return during the 2013 season, it has also been said that some of their duties may change.
In a recent article from the Detroit Free Press, Jim Leyland made a comment in reference to this change:
"We're rearranging one piece of our furniture..."
It is unfair to place all of the blame on the coaches, as the players obviously deserve a great deal of blame themselves.
One coach under a great deal of scrutiny is Lloyd Mcclendon, the Tigers' hitting coach.
No one can blame him for the lack of offense during the World Series, however, he plays an integral role in the players' ability to remain consistent. When the players are hitting like they're riding a roller coaster, finding no consistency whatsoever, a coach should step in and help them find their way.
Gene Lamont, the Tigers' third base coach, was criticized heavily after sending Prince Fielder home during Game 2 of the World Series, a decision even he regrets. He made some iffy calls during the regular season as well, and he may find himself replaced with Rafael Belliard, the Tigers' infield coach.
Either way, the coaching on this team needs to improve if the the Tigers wish to make their dreams a reality and win the World Series in 2013.