5 Reasons the Tigers Have to Watch out for the Royals in 2013
In 2013 the Kansas City Royals will be for real.
The Detroit Tigers have won the American League Central the last two consecutive seasons, and after winning the AL crown and earning a trip to the World Series last season, the Tigers will undoubtedly be favorites to repeat as division champs.
But Detroit's biggest hurdle in its quest for a division three-peat may be one of the least expected candidates.
Unlike the reputation they have built over the last couple decades, the Royals have made several bold moves this offseason, acquiring big-name talent, and bolstering their roster with players who will make an impact now, as opposed to with prospects who will help down the road.
According to ESPN.com's Jayson Stark, the Royals are the third-most improved team in the Major Leagues between the end of the 2012 season and now, and because of their on-paper resurgence, the Royals could challenge the Tigers for AL Central supremacy.
Here are the five reasons the Tigers have to watch out for the Royals in 2013.
Shields, who spent his first seven Major League seasons with Tampa Bay, went 15-10 last season with a 3.52 ERA, and helped lead the Rays to a 90-72 record.
Despite missing out on the 2012 postseason, Shields was a solid No. 2 pitcher for one of the best teams in baseball last year, and will assume the role of Kansas City's ace in 2013.
To get Shields, the Royals gave up four minor leaguers, including outfielder Wil Myers, who was named 2012's Baseball America Minor League Player of the Year.
In his career, Shields amassed an 87-73 record and has earned a lifetime ERA of 3.89.
The positive for the Tigers having to face Shields several times next season is that a handful of Tigers have dominated him in their careers.
The Tigers' MVP third baseman Miguel Cabrera has done the most damage against Shields, going 13-for-26 off the right-hander with five doubles and a home run in his career. Shortstop Jhonny Peralta has also done some damage, going 10-for-22 off Shields with three homers, while Victor Martinez is 7-for-19, lifetime against Shields.
With those three averaging a combined .448 off Shields, things don't look too grim against the Royals' new ace, but those individual numbers don't take away what Shields has done in the best division in baseball his entire career.
Shields has been in the AL East since joining the Major Leagues and has faced some of the most daunting lineups in baseball. With the Royals he will continue to thrive, and will look to improve his numbers against this division's best team.
James Shields was the marquee piece of the blockbuster trade between the Kansas City Royals and the Tampa Bay Rays, but another huge addition for the Royals that will pay dividends is reliever Wade Davis.
Davis has also spent his entire career in Tampa Bay, and after spending his first three Major League seasons from 2009 to 2011 as a starter, Davis became a reliever last season for the Rays, which paid off mightily for both parties.
After earning a mediocre 4.45 ERA and 11-10 record in 29 starts in 2011, Rays Manager Joe Maddon elected to move Davis to the bullpen, which re-invigorated his career.
In his first season coming out of the bullpen, Davis earned a 2.43 ERA, throwing 87 strikeouts compared to only 27 walks in 70.1 innings and 54 total appearances last year. The 27-year-old had a 3-0 record, had seven holds and only blew one save.
Another thing that bodes well for Davis' move to the Royals is, as good as some Detroit Tigers have been in their careers against Shields, they are equally as bad against Davis. Miguel Cabrera is 2-for-10, Jhonny Peralta is 2-for-11 and Victor Martinez 1-for-9 against the Royals new reliever.
Last season against the Tigers, Davis surrendered a .188 opponent average, and in the last three seasons against Detroit, opposing batters have only averaged .214.
Davis, who has a good arm, has seemed to find himself coming out of the bullpen.
He'll continue to learn how to hone his relieving skills for the Royals this season, and could be a pain in the Tigers' sides.
Some players just have an ability to catch fire against certain teams.
For Billy Butler, that team he dominates is the Detroit Tigers.
In 68 at-bats last season against Detroit, the 26-year-old hit .382 with a .432 on-base percentage, one home run and nine RBI's.
Since 2010, Butler, who's a career .300 hitter, has averaged .341, which is his best average against any team he's faced over 100 times, and the second-best average, overall, against AL teams.
Besides 42 home runs against the Chicago White Sox since 2010, Butler's 31 homers in the last three seasons against Detroit is the highest number of long balls he's hit against any team in the Major Leagues.
Butler's eyes just always seem to light up when he faces the Tigers, and with an improved supporting cast around him, Butler's numbers will almost assuredly continue to thrive against Detroit.
Maturation of Moustakas and Hosmer
Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer could both become feature players for the Kansas City Royals next season.
Moustakas, who is 24 and will enter his third MLB season next year, only hit .243 last season, but the third baseman hit 20 home runs and earned 73 RBI's in 149 games.
During his rookie year in 2011, Moustakas showed signs of brilliance, blasting five home runs and 30 RBI's, to go with a .263 average in 89 games.
On the other side of the diamond, Hosmer also looks to take the next step in his career next season.
Also a third-year player, Hosmer showed his potential his rookie year, batting .293 with a .334 OBP, 19 home runs, 78 RBI's and 11 stolen bases.
He regressed a bit last year, averaging just .232 with 14 homers and 60 RBI's, but he still managed a .304 OBP, and improved his stolen base efficiency from 11 steals, with five failed attempts in 2011, to 16 steals and only one failed attempt last season.
With Moustakas and Hosmer at the corners, the Royals have two solid players to build around. Both young players have several tools, and look to be going in the right direction in their respective careers.
Rest of the Rotation
James Shields and Wade Davis have dominated headlines so much lately that it's been easy to forget the other pieces the Kansas City Royals boast in their rotation.
The Royals also acquired Ervin Santana earlier this year, acquiring him in a trade for minor league left-hander Brandon Sisk.
Kansas City acquired Santana's $13 million contract and his 96-80 record and 4.33 ERA since 2005.
Because Santana struggled for most of last season, going 9-13 with a 5.16 ERA, the Los Angeles Angels were willing to part ways, but the eighth-year player still has a lot left in the tank.
The best part of the acquisition for the Royals is that unlike most All-Star players in the past, Santana wants to be in Kansas City.
"It's like I'm a rookie now. It's a new team," Santana said in November. "I'm happy to be here. Everything's healthy. Everything is ready to go."
The new-look rotation also features Jeremy Guthrie, who the Royals traded for after the All-Star break last season.
After struggling with the Baltimore Orioles for much of last year, Guthrie went 5-3 with a 3.16 ERA in 14 starts for the Royals, and Kansas City went 10-4 in his starts, winning 10 of his final 11 starts.
Guthrie was 4-0 with a 2.17 ERA in his final 11 appearances.
With Guthrie and Santana joining Shields, the Royals have one of the best rotations in the AL Central, and with an emerging offense and strengthened bullpen, Kansas City will be dangerous all-around for the first time in several years.