A Brief Look at the Major Story lines to Follow over the Next Half Year, or so.
I read this the other day and thought it was a great idea, so I decided to apply it to the Tigers.
There will be no shocking investment this January. I can’t imagine one, at least. Last year, once Victor Martinez was lost, i wondered what move would be made. Fielder was that answer. This year there are relatively few holes. Will there be a trade involving Rick Porcello? A left fielder? A short stop? A relief pitcher? Based on the value players gain at the trade deadline I don’t expect anything involving Porcello to come to fruition before then. Brennan Boesch could be dealt, but he wouldn’t return much value.
The Closing Experiment
There is no doubt that the Tigers should avoid the expensive and excessive Rafael Soriano. So far so good. However, the flip side of avoiding the services of the “proven” closer is that the Tigers are keen on allowing the maiden arm of Bruce Rondon to compete for the high leverage job. There’s nothing wrong with this, and when the pitchers and catchers report in Lakeland, the biggest story will be centered around the bullpen. The concern surrounding Rondon is his control and I myself will be shocked if he can perform above expectations (I’m shooting for 5 BB/9IP). The remaining candidates all have experience closing, Joaquin Benoit, Octavio Dotel, even Phil Coke, but the next best talent is the dark horse All Albuquerque and his devastating (and concerning) slider/fastball combo. The most interesting part of all of this is that the Tigers could have one of the best bullpen corps in the league if Rondon and Albuquerque find their control and if they don’t, it could immediately turn old and tiresome.
The Return of Victor
The question, after all, is simple. Will he be ready? While it certainly isn’t going to be the end of the world if Martinez needs a few more weeks to strengthen his surgically repaired knee, it will be nice to see his bat in the lineup instead of Delmon Young.
No doubt the first question anyone, from the most critical of analysts to the most casual fan, will be “How will the offense perform?” Last year nothing really seemed to click, and even when they scored runs they were fleeting, sporadic. The season concluded with the most abysmal of playoff performances, highlighted by the AL’s Triple Crown winner, Miguel Cabrera, watching a third and final strike smack into Buster Posey’s Giant glove. 2012 was expected to be led by hitting, and it was. It led the team into the ground. 2013 will have to be different.
At the end of May last year the Tigers were 24-27 and most were selling low on the eventual American League Champs. They did have their reasons. The offense had put a decent month together, hitting .281, in what would prove to be their second best month in that category, but the team still went 11-13, mostly thanks to a bit of bad luck and an even worse bullpen. The lesson learned, is that seasons are not decided in May. The irony in all this is that come October, it was the bullpen that strengthened and the offense than waned.
Treading the Storm
The biggest storyline out of June of last year was how horribly bad the Tigers season had turned. The entered the month in third place in the AL Central and three games under .500. They didn’t get anywhere that month, besides a winning record. When July 1st came, they were still in third place, but two games under.
It wasn’t until July that the team started to put things together. They had the first of their two six game winning streaks (the second one came the first week of August) and they finished the month 16-10, and with an overall record of 54-50. But the real question in July will be, what does Dave Dombrowski do at the trade deadline? Last year in was Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante. Now Sanchez is in Detroit for another 5-6 years, and Infante will man second base for at least another season after both players helped the team reach the highest pinnacle of the baseball world. Is Dombrowski saving Porcello for the deadline?