2012 Season in Review: Detroit Tigers

88-74, 1st in the AL Central

Lost in the World Series to the Giants

It was a banner year for the Tigers, the hometown team of this website. There was a great deal of fan angst about the club’s performance for much of the summer which fans felt was lackluster (the performance, not the summer). However, the team won the division and the AL pennant and produced the AL MVP and Cy Young runner up. Could the team have played better? Sure, every team could. But the Tigers had a great season on the backs of great performances.

Miguel Cabrera won the MVP and Triple Crown in 2012 and posted an excellent (7.1) WAR. Despite the media narrative, he didn’t carry the team on his own. Austin Jackson, who missed time with an injury, tallied 5.5 WAR as well. Prince Fielder (4.9), Jhonny Peralta (2.6), Alex Avila (2.6 in 116 games), and Andy Dirks (1.6 in 88 games) all did their part too. The Tigers were among the best offenses in baseball by any measure even with two of baseball’s worst regulars, Delmon Young and Brennan Boesch getting lots of at bats.

If the offense was good, the pitching was awesome. Led as always by all-universe ace Justin Verlander (6.8), the Tigers staff dominated. Max Scherzer (4.6) broke out and Doug Fister (3.6 in 26 starts) followed up his ridiculous final two months of 2011. Rick Porcello (2.9), despite fan opinion, was among the game’s best backend starters. Drew Smyly (1.7 in 18 starts) was also very good as a rookie fifth starter when he was healthy. For the last two months of the season, Anibal Sanchez (1.4 in 12 starts) wore the Old English D as well and contributed greatly.

The bullpen was volatile. Dotel did his job most nights and Villarreal and Benoit went through very hot and very cold streaks. Valverde had a typical high save, low value season. It wasn’t a lockdown pen, but it was certainly good enough.

The Tigers shot out of the gate in early April before stumbling heavily in May. By the All-Star break they were back near the front of the division, but couldn’t quite take control. It looked like the White Sox were going to hold them off until a late September surge pushed them over the edge. A five game series win against the A’s in the ALDS preceded a quick four game sweep of the Yankees in the ALCS. The World Series didn’t go well, but the Tigers outlasted 28 other teams in 2012.

Some big names had big years while some supporting players had down years off their 2011 highs. In general, the Tigers underperformed their regular season expectations as a whole, but they stood atop the AL when it was over.

The cavalry is coming in 2013, too. A full season of Anibal Sanchez will improve the club and subbing in Torii Hunter for Brennan Boesch is certainly a few win swing as well. Victor Martinez should be back at full strength to replace the Delmon Young shaped whole in the Tigers batting order. Infante spend a full year at second in lieu of a mix and match. It’s also not unreasonable to expect a bit of a bounce back from Avila and Peralta, probably not to their 2011 highs, but somewhere about 2013.

Put that all together, and the Tigers could easily be 10-15 wins better. That would be a huge improvement and certain return to the postseason. But that of course, assumes no one will get hurt and no one will regress from 2012. It’s certainly reasonable to assume a 5-7 win bump for the team in 2013.

So after two straight postseason berths and an AL pennant, the Tigers will enter 2013 with a chance to win the big prize.

2012 Grade: A

Early 2013 Projection: 92-70

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