I’m an optimist. I’m not really sure why. I’m a pretty anxious person and am heavily analytical. I know all of the things that can go wrong, but I still expect things to work out for the best. It’s hard-wired in, so we’re all going to have to deal with it.
Things didn’t go well this winter. There’s no way around it. I was disappointed and most of you were too. We lost Fister, Peralta, Infante, and Benoit. Iglesias and Rondon are down for the year. Dirks is out, Fielder is out for Kinsler. It looks like a lesser club, but you know what? They’re going to win it all anyway.
Despite the problems, winning a title is about getting to the playoffs and then playing well once you get there. That’s an obvious statement, but it means that they don’t have to be great during the season – they just need to be good enough to finish ahead of the Royals and Indians. Fortunately, that isn’t a terribly high bar to cross. Without the injuries and the Fister trade, they’d have been a mortal lock. They’re short of that, but they’re the best team. As long as the injury bug doesn’t bite any harder, they’ll make it to the postseason.
And once they’re there, they’re built to win. Even without the exceptional Fister, the Tigers have an extraordinary rotation. Verlander, Scherzer, Sanchez, and Porcello can carry them far. Cabrera and Martinez can drive in Kinsler and Jackson. Davis can run when they need to. You don’t love their chances to outplay the Red Sox over a 162 game season, but they can do it for seven games with this roster.
The Nationals or Dodgers will be a tall order, but the same logic applies. You don’t have to be built for the long haul, you have to be able to turn over the rotation one time. The Tigers aren’t the favorites, but they’re certainly in the conversation.
And that’s all it takes. The Tigers have two main weaknesses. The bullpen and their lack of depth. The depth thing won’t be a huge issue because you stick with your starters in October. Sure they’ll lose a little by not being able to matchup, but they don’t have a ton of guys with serious platoon issues. The bullpen is another story, but bullpens are weird. You can’t really rely on any of them, so all it takes is a bad week from Kenley Jansen. Maybe just one bad outing.
I guess the point of this exercise is that the Tigers aren’t the best bet for the title, but that there’s a very reasonable path for them to get there. I’m an optimist. This isn’t like saying the Twins will win the series just because anyone can technically win. They’re one of the best couple of teams in the AL and the difference between the top teams over a small sprint in October is virtually nothing.
It was a rocky winter, but it’s going to be a good summer and a great fall. Who cares if they probably won’t win it all? Until proven otherwise, I’ll choose to believe that they can. And will.
See you tomorrow, Tigers. We’ve all missed you.