Detroit Tigers: Top 5 Hitters in 2013 Are Modern Day Murderer's Row

Josh Berenter@JBerenterCorrespondent IJanuary 31, 2013

Detroit Tigers: Top 5 Hitters in 2013 Are Modern Day Murderer's Row

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    The 1927 New York Yankees are synonymous with one of the most famous nicknames in all of sports.

    Because of their absolute dominance, the Yankees' top of the order—Earle Combs, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Bob Meusel and Tony Lazzeri—were dubbed Murderer's Row.

    The five best hitters for the 1927 World Champions combined for 139 home runs and 608 RBI's that season and were considered one of the best lineups in the history of the game.

    The Detroit Tigers may not have Ruth and Gehrig, but they do boast two of the best hitters in the game today, along with a rising star and two proven veterans.

    One through five, Detroit has the most dangerous lineup in the major leagues.

    The Tigers' first five hitters have combined to hit 1,051 career home runs and have 3,923 RBI's, resulting in a combined 19 All-Star selections.

    And three of them are still either entering or are in the midst of the prime of their careers.

    Here are the Tigers' top five hitters and how they compare to the Yankees' 1927 lineup:

1) CF Austin Jackson

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    Austin Jackson has greatly improved as an all-around player since joining the Tigers in 2010.

    In his rookie year Jackson posted a .293 average but only hit four home runs and 41 RBI's. He also struck out 170 times compared to only 47 walks in 151 games.

    He struggled from the plate in 2011, averaging just .249 with 10 homers and 45 RBI's, and had 181 strikeouts--good for third worst in the American League.

    After working tirelessly on his approach and swing after the 2011 season, Jackson figured out how to be a complete hitter.

    In 2012, Jackson had a .300 average with a .377 on-base percentage, while also improving his power numbers and strikeouts. In 137 games—16 less than in 2011—Jackson had career high's with 16 home runs and 66 RBI's. He also cut down from 181 strikeouts to 134 and had 67 walks.

    Jackson, who's only 26 years old, has totaled 61 steals in three years and will look to improve on his base-stealing numbers this season.

    He'll benefit greatly from having Torii Hunter hitting behind him in the lineup next season and will look to have the best year of his career.

2) RF Torii Hunter

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    In November, Hunter signed a two-year, $26 million contract with Detroit, joining the Tigers for his 16th major league season.

    Hunter, a career .277 hitter, revamped his career last season with the Los Angeles Angels with a career high .313 average, along with 16 home runs and 92 RBI's.

    The 37-year-old put up one of the best OPS performances of his career (.817) and even though he only hit 16 home runs, the 14-year veteran had hit 20-plus home runs in six consecutive seasons before last year, and accomplished the feat in 10 of the last 11 years.

    Hunter, who had nine steals last season and has 186 for his career, is a true five-tool player who can have a positive effect in so many aspects of the game.

    He's a veteran leader who's well-liked and well-respected by everyone in the league.

    Hunter hasn't won a World Series in his long career and came to Detroit with one goal in mind.

    To win.

    With the talent that he has behind him, Hunter will have another great season, and could have the best year of his career.

3) 3B Miguel Cabrera

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    Miguel Cabrera won't sneak up on anybody's scouting reports anytime for the rest of his career.

    Last year, the Tigers' third baseman won the first AL Triple Crown since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967, and became the second consecutive Tiger—after Justin Verlander in 2011—to be crowned AL MVP.

    The 29-year-old hit .330 with a career high 44 home runs and 139 RBI's last season, leading Detroit to its second straight AL Central Championship and its second trip to the World Series in seven years.

    He edged rookie phenom Mike Trout in average by four points and beat out former MVP Josh Hamilton by one home run and 11 RBI's.

    While Cabrera had the season of his life and has the accolades to show for it, his herculean performance last year was nothing new.

    In 2011, Cabrera's .344 average was 14 points better than last season, and he added an incredible .448 OBP, reaching base safely almost half of the times that he stepped to the plate.

    That's unheard of.

    Cabrera hit his 300th career home run last season, and is averaging 36 long balls per year as a Tiger.

    Ruth hit 714 career home runs which is currently fourth most all-time, but Cabrera's 321 home runs after 10 seasons is ahead of the pace that Ruth set, hitting 284 homers after his first decade in the major leagues.

4) 1B Prince Fielder

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    Prince Fielder signed a nine-year $214 million contract with the Tigers before last season and after spending his entire career with the Milwaukee Brewers in the National League, Fielder didn't skip a beat.

    In his first year with the Tigers, Fielder boasted a career high batting average of .313, with a .412 OBP, 30 home runs and 108 RBI's.

    Despite tipping the scales at 275 pounds—which may be generous at times—Fielder has been an iron man in his career.

    He's played 162 games in three of the last four regular seasons and has only missed 13 games since becoming an everyday player in 2006.

    But the 28-year-old hasn't just been a quiet addition to the lineup. He's produced year-in and year-out.

    In the last two seasons both players who have hit in front of Fielder have won MVP's.

    Fielder hit fourth behind Ryan Braun with the Brewers in 2011 and protected Cabrera in every game last season.

    That's no coincidence.

    Fielder's mere presence in the lineup makes his teammates better, and the amount of energy and fun that Fielder brings to the ballpark every day is refreshing to see and makes him a joy to watch.

5) DH Victor Martinez

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    Victor Martinez missed the entire 2012 season after tearing his ACL during an offseason workout last January.

    After the injury it was inevitable that Martinez would be lost for the season, but because of his work ethic rehabbing his knee the 34-year-old was close to returning for the 2012 postseason.

    But team doctors and trainers determined that in the long run it would be better for Martinez to delay a comeback until 2013.

    Because he took his time to return, Martinez will be primed and ready to pick up from where he left off in 2011, his first year with the Tigers, when he averaged .330 with 12 home runs and 103 RBI's.

    Martinez has averaged over 17 home runs per season during his career and has 741 career RBI's.

    His RBI career high is 108, but with all of the opportunities he'll have to drive in runs next season, that could change.

    With the talent of the four players in front of him, if he stays healthy and shakes off the rust Martinez could have the best season of his life.

Comparison and Breakdown

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    Everyone knows the names of the players in the vaunted Murderer's Row lineup, but at first thought, you wouldn't necessarily consider the Tigers' first five hitters in the same sentence with the 1927 Yankees.

    But the power numbers are relatively similar.

    Using Martinez's numbers from 2011 because he missed all of last season, the five Tigers combined for 120 home runs and 508 RBI's last year. The most famous lineup, with arguably the greatest nickname ever, hit 19 more home runs and 100 more RBI's, collectively, than the Tigers first five did a year ago.

    And you can argue that the 2013 Tigers could be even better as a unit than they were last season.

    If Jackson continues to develop, he is capable of hitting 20 home runs and driving in 100-plus.

    With the added attention to the players behind him, Jackson will also be able to utilize the running game a little more and could steal 30-plus bases, which would, in turn, create more RBI opportunities for the big boys after him.

    Hunter re-invigorated his career last season and with better players around him, including the MVP protecting him in the lineup, Hunter could put up similar numbers to the ones he did a season ago.

    Cabrera and Fielder are going to get their stats. There's no question about it.

    Cabrera is still in the prime of his career and could very easily duplicate his numbers from last season, and Fielder, who was disappointed with his offensive numbers last year, will undoubtedly perform better in his second year with the Tigers.

    The key is Martinez.

    It's hard to predict how a player will perform after such a devastating injury and missing an entire season, but because Martinez took his time to get back, and because of his proven resume in the past, I think it's safe to say he'll return to his former self next season.