Every year, each team in the Major Leagues finds itself with a few surprise players, whether it be a breakout year from a hitter or a pitcher just coming into his own. The Detroit Tigers have found their team loaded with surprises in 2011, with both hitters and pitchers doing more than what was expected of them.
Here's a look at the top five positive surprises on the 2011 Detroit Tigers.
Al Alburquerque has arguably been Detroit's best relief pitcher this year. He seemingly came out of nowhere, as most people hadn't even heard of him before the season started. In fact, he wasn't even on the Tigers' opening day roster.
However, he was eventually called up and had a big impact right away. So far, he's pitched 33 innings this year and has a very impressive 2.43 ERA.
However, he is probably best known for his slider. Scouts have begun to take notice, some even saying it has the most movement they've ever seen. Hitters haven't been able to touch it, and as a result Alburquerque has already compiled 53 strikeouts this year. That's the most of any pitcher in the Tigers bullpen, by far.
In comparison, Brad Penny has pitched almost four times as many innings as Alburquerque, but the two pitchers have the exact same number of strikeouts. Alburquerque has been striking out batters at a blistering pace.
Hopefully, Alburquerque can continue the success he's been having for the rest of the regular season. He could potentially be a key to Detroit's playoff hopes, as he might be responsible for holding onto late leads in September, securing victories that are so vital at that point in the year.
The fact that Justin Verlander is having a great year isn't a surprise. We all knew that he was one of the best pitchers in the American League, and that he was the obvious ace on the Detroit staff. However, no one could have expected just how impressive Verlander would be.
He has already thrown one no-hitter this year, and has come extremely close to throwing a second one on numerous occasions. He leads the major leagues in both strikeouts and WHIP. His 2.24 ERA is incredibly low, given how far it is into the season.
Verlander has arguably been the best pitcher in the game this year, and will have a great shot at winning the Cy Young.
If the Tigers do make the playoffs, they could be extremely dangerous with a weapon like Verlander at the top of the rotation.
I hate to admit it, but I didn't expect much from Brennan Boesch this year. After his performance in the second half of last year, things didn't look promising. It was almost as if his first half of 2010 was a total fluke, and he simply couldn't do anything on offense in the second half of the year. There was even some talk that Boesch wouldn't make the opening-day roster this year.
However, he has been an absolute stud so far. Boesch has easily been one of Detroit's best hitters, hitting for both average and power.
After a midseason slump that dropped his average down into the .250 range, he has picked up his game tremendously and is currently hitting .293. He also has 15 homeruns and 51 RBI. Boesch has also scored 65 runs this year, and could come close to scoring 100.
The Tigers' offense has been great this year, and Boesch is a big reason why. Hopefully, he can continue the success he's been having at the top of the Detroit lineup, and help his team get into the postseason.
Alex Avila burst onto the scene in late 2009, hitting .279 with five home runs while not even playing in 30 games. He looked like he had a great future ahead of him, but 2010 ended up being a disaster. Splitting time at catcher with Gerald Laird, he hit .228 with only seven home runs. Not a whole lot was expected of him offensively coming into 2011.
However, Avila suddenly looks like the player he was in late 2009. He has been an offensive threat the entire year, hitting .277 with ten homers and 47 RBI. He has also been great behind the plate, playing almost every day at catcher.
He seems like a really smart, young player, and looks to have a great future ahead of him in Detroit.
This one could be debatable, as a lot of people would probably have Alex Avila No.1. However, what Peralta has done for the Tigers this year has been nothing short of amazing.
The Indians got rid of him last year at the trade deadline, as his offensive numbers had been slowly decreasing each year with the team. With both the Indians and Tigers last year, he hit only .249 and had only 15 homers. That trend was expected to continue somewhat this year.
So far, Peralta has exceeded all expectations. Considering how rare high batting averages are these days, Peralta is amazingly hitting .316. He is also hitting for power, with 16 home runs and 62 RBI. He has come up big in the clutch time and time again for the Tigers, and he has been a huge force in the middle of their lineup.
Peralta has even been great defensively. He has played in 96 games this year, and has committed only six errors. He fields every ball that is hit his way, and rarely makes mistakes.
Peralta is only 29 years old, and hopefully can avoid the offensive slump that he went through in his final years in Cleveland. If he can do that, the Tigers will have a big threat in the middle of their lineup for years to come.