Perspective After a Tough Series

With a Sergio Romo fastball down the middle and with the bat in Miguel Cabrera’s hands, the 2012 MLB season came to a close last night, ending 29 teams’ hopes at a championship and making the San Francisco Giants and their fans very happy.

First off, congratulations to the Giants. They had a great year and played well in October. Well-earned title for a city that loves its team.

For Tigers fans like myself, hold your heads up high. You might have a bad taste in your mouths after a rough series, but allow me to remind you the Tigers had a successful season. I’ve heard a lot of negative talk about the team in the last day or so from national and local personalities, but they are wrong. The Tigers should be proud, but not satisfied.

It’s easy to put too much focus of the World Series because it’s the biggest stage, but any team can slump. The offense only scored six runs in four games, but the pitching (short of Verlander) was great.

The Tigers swept the AL’s best team (by record) in the ALCS and beat the AL’s best story in the ALDS. This was a good season. Big changes are not necessary. The World Series is a small sample. Victor Martinez is coming back. Young players will improve. Other could bounce back. Relax and look back with fondness.

So some parting thoughts on the 2012 Tigers (full 2012 recaps of all 30 teams to come).

The Tigers have a starting rotation worthy of envy. Verlander is the game’s best. Fister is quietly becoming a top 25 starter. Scherzer is somewhat inconsistent but showed some serious improvement this season and has always had take-over-a-game stuff. I’m still a huge believer in Rick Porcello as well. He’s a groundballer with a poor defense so some of his numbers are inflated, but the guy has never been hurt and has four major league seasons under his belt at 23 (23!!!). He’s still three or four years south of his peak. Smyly showed he can easily be a #5 starter in the show this year and could maybe even be more. All of these guys are under team control for at least two more seasons. Not bad, even if they don’t resign Anibal Sanchez, the Tigers will return baseball’s best staff by WAR.

Cabrera and Fielder are a great middle of the order and will be for years to come. Next year, they’ll get backup from Victor Martinez. Jackson took a big step forward this season. Dirks looks like a fourth outfielder or better. Infante can certainly hold down 2B.

Avila, despite what you might think, is actually a very good catcher. He’s a gold glove finalist this year and his OBP was great even if his batting average wasn’t. (Hint: Walks count as much as singles!) The power was down a little, but he had some injuries and still has a year or two til his peak age.

Peralta is also a pretty solid MLB SS. He’s solid on defense (advanced metrics love him), even if he’s unremarkable. At the plate he’s been up and down but is certainly capable of getting hits at the bottom of your lineup.

That only leaves a corner outfield spot and some bullpen spots open for next year. A lot of teams would kill to be in this position.

Refine the bullpen. Sign Torii Hunter. Get back to the playoffs. That’s my simple recommendation if you’re looking toward the next step.

This is a well-built team if you don’t care about defense. But if Dirks and (hopefully) Hunter are manning the corners next season, things get a lot better.

Don’t let anyone get you down. The Tigers have a wide open window toward a title in the near future. In fact, in the first round of World Series odds out today, the Tigers are the favorite to win in 2013.

2012 is over and I’m sad to see it go, but 2013 could be just as bright or brighter. 154 days until Opening Day.

Let’s start counting.

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