An Offseason Primer

In which we use 1261 words to look at the end of the 2012 season, what the expectations were in reference to what they actually accomplished, what the crystal ball of 2013 looks like and then we take a minute to explain what the heck we (as a site) are going to do this offseason.

Many people consider the 2012 season to be a disappointment given the failure of the Tigers to win the last game. Many people will overanalyze the season and point to key specific situations that eventually led to their demise at the hands of the San Francisco Giants. I’m not going to do that simply because A) this is baseball where your goal is to get into the postseason set up your pitching staff and hope for the best and B) I personally didn’t think the Tigers should (or could) have made it out of the ALDS against the Oakland Athletics and figured everything else to be gravy. The sweep of the Yankees was a dream…the sweep from the Giants was a nightmare. But back at the onset of the 2012 season I pegged 2013-2014 as the years where they should expect to dominate taking into account that, sure, 2012 should be a division title given the soft AL Central, but given the questions regarding the bullpen and secondary players on this team all of which were considered to be replacement level or worse, was an 88 win season that shocking?

On April 4th, you know, the day before the season started I posted the Walkoff Woodward Staff predictions for the 2012 season. In short, all four original members of the staff, myself, Grey, Erin, and Packey, picked the Tigers to win their division, Packey and myself put the Tigers at winning under 94 games (my actual number was 90), and none of us had them winning the Pennant (though I had the Giants winning the NL Flag so…go me).

In the end the Tigers had an incredibly successful season and even though it ended in disappointment no one can say that the team failed expectations.

Going forward the 2013 season looks even brighter. Now that the team has a solid foundation of three spectacular starting pitchers, two thick corner infielders, and a solid body each at catcher and in centerfield, Dave Dombrowski has the ability to construct a building free of the dilapidated weights known as Delmon Young and Jose Valverde

Consider this for a minute. The following players are all signed or under control for the next two years and will still (with the exception of DH Victor Martinez) be 31years old or under by the end of that timespan:

Justin Verlander, 7.0 WAR average over the last four years, signed thru 2014.

Miguel Cabrera, 6.5 WAR average over the last four years, signed thru 2015.

Prince Fielder, 5.0 WAR average over the last four years, signed thru 2020.

Austin Jackson, 4.1 WAR average over the last three years, earliest Free Agent 2016.

Doug Fister, 3.9 WAR average over the last three years, earliest Free Agent 2016.

Max Scherzer, 3.5 WAR average over the last four years, earliest Free Agent 2015.

Victor Martinez, 3.5 WAR average over the last three years, signed thru 2014. (He will be 33-34 in 2013-2014.)

Alex Avila, 3.7 WAR average over the last two years, earliest Free Agent 2016.

The Tigers have eight key players who are all worth, according to Fangraph’s, roughly (at least) $12m per year, if you take their player value formula of one win above replacement being worth between $4-$5 million in any given year. I’m not going to break their talents or skills down here, that’s for another project, simply because they would be top eight talent on any team in the league right now and I challenge anyone to argue that.

If you were to add Rick Porcello the 24 year old sinkerballer, he has averaged 2.4 WAR in his four big league seasons, which is what many teams hope to get out of a third starter. Porcello wasn’t even a glitch on the Tigers postseason radar in 2012.

So what are the decisions that the Tigers Think Tank need to make this offseason?

Second base has a solid org guy in Omar Infante for the next two years year and it appears that Jhonny Peralta is staying at short stop through 2013, although I personally think they need to take a look at a defensive minded answer since Peralta’s offense is sketchy at best. Elvis Andrus is an option that I would stay away from. Despite a nice glove and a decent contact bat and on base rate, Andrus will become far too expensive for what he will give a team within the next year or two. Instead I’d suggest a Brendan Ryan of Seattle who would be cheap and easily attainable given the pitching talent the Tigers have at Triple-A.

Right and Left field are empty holes right now. Right Fielder Brennan Boesch will be tendered a contract this offseason and given his age and cost he should be given every chance to breakout (within reason, of course). Andy Dirks is another org guy who has a decent glove and a decent bat I doubt he can turn into an everyday player. Neither player should stop the Tigers from pursuing a player or two in Free Agency, nor should they block Avisail Garcia and Nick Castellanos from breaking camp with the team in the Spring (though I highly doubt either player make the roster out of Spring Training).  

If they don’t want to part with another $80 million and sign Anibal Sanchez (which they shouldn’t) they have a solid fifth starter option in Drew Smyly whose makeup and talent support a solid three or four type starter.

That leaves the bullpen. With Duane Below, Octavio Dotel and Joaquin Benoit anchoring a relief corps led by…gulp…Philip Coke????…the Tigers have a stockade of talented (any young) arms in Al Albuquerque, Bryan Villarreal, Darin Downs, and Bruce Rondon. Actually, if you don’t believe me, take a look at these 2012 stats for a second:

Below, 5.6 K/9, 1.6 BB/9, 189 batters faced.

Dotel, 9.6 K/9, 1.9 BB/9, 234 batters faced.

Benoit, 10.65 K/9, 2.79 BB/9, 288 batters faced.

Coke, 8.5 K/9, 3.0 BB/9, 245 batters faced.

Albuquerque, 12.2 K/9, 5.4 BB/9, 53 batters faced.

Villarreal, 10.9 K/9, 4.6 BB/9, 226 batters faced.

Downs, 8.7 K/9, 3.7 BB/9, 86 batters faced.

Rondon, 11.2 K/9, 4.4 BB/9, 219 batters faced. (minor league stats)

Give me 162 games of these guys firing missiles at the opposing team from the seventh inning on and I’ll be a happy guy.

From looking at the strengths this team has they will be looking at (or should be) upgrades on the following positions this winter: Short Stop, Left Field, and Right Field. I would be disappointed if one of those positions isn’t upgraded by the end of the winter, and disappointed if two aren’t solved by the time the season starts, the third probably being a job battle of Right Field between Boesch and Dirks.

Over the next two months I will be taking each player and evaluating their 2012 season, and then in January and February I will be taking those same players (and perhaps some new additions) and predicting their 2013 season, ending with a final prediction like this aforementioned one above.

As always, thanks for reading guys and I look forward to talking in the comments and over email and twitter as usual.  


  • Tom

    I thought Infante was a free agent after 2013?

    • Josh Worn

      He is. Thanks for the catch.

  • Larry Melton

    Why is Andy Dirks dismissed so readily as an everyday player, not just by you but by the organization? His numbers in 2012 were very good across the board, including a respectable .274 vs lefties, and Leyland trusted him defensively in both right field and left. I was impressed by his resurgence in September after his average dropped 20 points in the first two weeks of the month. It would be nice if he were right-handed, but overall I think he’d be a solid .280/20/80 outfielder with 10-15 steals in 500 AB.

    • Josh Worn

      He did have a nice season and performed well both before and after the injury. Personally, I see those stats you assigned him as his ceiling which is not what you want out of a corner outfielder in today’s game. That’s what you want out of a player who plays an up the middle position, not a defensively challenged position.

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